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    Oputa issues warrant of arrest on Army Chief

    (Wednesday, 18th July, 2001)

    By Kayode Matthew & Lemmy Ughegbe, Vanguard Newspaper

    LAGOS ó THE Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (HRVIC), sitting in Abuja yesterday issued a warrant of arrest against the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Major-General Alex Ogomudia and one gunner, Hashim Abubakar over the killing of one Prince Emeka Ahumibe.

    The commission issued the warrant of arrest following the non-appearance of the army chief and the colonel before the commission after a witness summons had been served on them.

    Prince Emeka Ahumibe was said to have been shot by gunner Abubakar who was a member of Abia State security outfit called "Operation Bang" on November 3, 1998 at Aba.

    At the hearing of the petition filed by the deceasedís family in Enugu, the commission had made an order directing the COAS to produce before the commission Col. Abubakar. But when the petition came up for hearing yesterday, the commissionís counsel, Mrs. Chinwe Uwandu said two separate summonses were served on the army chief and Col. Abubakar but they failed to appear.

    Commission chairman, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa reacting to this said "it appears some people are doubting the credibility of the commission. The rule of law takes it for granted that court order should be obeyed."

    He added: "In May 2001 the commission ordered that witness summons should be served on these two officers. They were only served but they are not present here. It is therefore ordered that a bench warrant be issued against them."

    Further hearing of the petition has been adjourned till August 3, 2001.

    In the joint petition filed by the deceasedís brother and mother they said: "Prince Emeka Ahumibe was slain about 100 metres to his gate at Number 18 Ekenna Avenue, Aba by a team of soldiers and policemen operating in a 504 station wagon car under the Abia State security outfit called Operation Bang.

    "Investigations showed that the following people were in the team that assassinated Prince Emeka Ahumibe: Inspector Clement Nte, Sgt. Anthony Effiong, Sgt. Anthony Oparaji, all of them policemen. The others were soldiers, namely: Bdr Nelson Nnaji, Gunner Hashim Abubakar and Cashim Ibrahim.

    "It was Gunner Hashim Abubakar who according to police investigations, fired the fatal shots.

    "From the accounts of onlookers, men of Abia State security outfit, Operation Bang had followed Emeka unknown to him and as he turned into the side road leading to his house, these men stopped their car and one of them (later identified as Hashim Abubakar) came down from the booth of their car, took aim and shot Emeka dead. The distance between the Operation Bang team and Emekaís car was less than 50 metres.

    "The Operation Bang team then rushed to Emekaís car and kicked open the car door. They confirmed that Emeka was dead and then dragged out the passenger in Emekaís car who was in shock.

    "The team took the said passenger in their car and drove off at top speed. A number of witnesses saw the assassination and came forward to volunteer information to the police authorities eventually."

    The petitioners further stated that "in view of the interest and agitation of members of the public, the police in Aba had to locate the particular team that shot Emeka and to disarm members of the team who were now taken to the police headquarters at Umuahia, Abia State.

    "The police, being further pressured by the family informed them that they had, since the receipt of the DPPís advice and recommendation written to the said commanding officer to produce the soldier, Hashim Abubakar for trial all to no avail.

    "After waiting for about five months and with nothing apparently being done by the police to bring the perpetrators to book, the family wrote a letter to the police requesting that Emekaís body be released to them for burial."

    The commission also yesterday summoned former Attorney-General of Imo State, Mr. D. C. Dan Wigwe to appear before it and explain discrepancies in an armed robbery case which he prosecuted in 1993.

    A petitioner, Chief F. N. Uwandu had alleged that one Corporal Emanson Okoroafor, a member of a police team shot his son, Pascal Uwandu who was said to be a member of an armed robbery gang.

    Former Imo State Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mr. Joseph Chukwuemeka Duru who testified yesterday told the commission that he wrote a legal opinion on the case for the prosecution of Corporal Emanson Okoroafor for manslaughter while the armed robbery suspects should be charged for being in possession of stolen items.

    Under cross examination by members of the commission, Mr. Duru could not explain why the name of an accused in the case, Emmanuel Egejuru was deleted and replaced with Corporal Emanson Okoroafor.

    Mr. Duru could also not defend himself for ignoring all the evidence against the deceased armed robber and the opinion of the Calabar Police Command that the petition of the deceasedís father was just a face saving exercise.

    Corporal Okoroafor who was said to have shot Pascal Uwandu while cross examining Mr. Duru said he (Mr. Duru) demanded N10,000 bribe from him so that a no case submission could made against him (Okoroafor) and be set free from the charge of manslaughter.

    According to Corporal Okoroafor, he eventually gave Mr. Duru N3,500 but he was surprised when Mr. Duru went ahead with the charge against him.

    Corporal Okoroafor tendered before the commission a protest letter he addressed to the Imo State Ministry of Justice, copies of which were sent to the Inspector-General of Police and the Imo State Police Command.

    Corporal Okoroafor accused Mr. Duru of receiving N20,000 bribe from the petitioner, Chief Uwandu which made him change a no case submission into a charge of manslaughter.

    The commission has therefore summoned the former Attorney-General of Imo State, Mr. D.C. Dan Wigwe to come and clear his name. The commission chairman, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa also directed counsel to prepare written address on whether the petition can be sustained having regard to the totality of the evidence before the commission.

    The petition has therefore been adjourned till August 2, 2001

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