RAPHAEL EDE writes on how the “conspiracy” of GOC, 82 DV, Enugu and state commissioner of police and judicial “recklessness” of the Magistrate led to the death of Enugu magistrate with four months old pregnancy in prison custody
While the death of a serving Magistrate in Enugu State, late Mrs. Ifeoma Nneji and her four months unborn baby in prison custody continue to generate debates across the country, her family and friends are demanding for justice.
According to the family, facts have emerged on how an Enugu magistrate, A.C Mbah and General Officer Commanding 82 Division (GOC), Nigerian Army as well as the State commissioner of Police “connived” remanded the deceased magistrate in prison with her husband.
Narrating the alleged conspiracy of the GOC 82DV and CP Enugu state, the Matriarch of the family Mrs. Comfort Nnaji told Blueprint that her daughter was killed with four months old pregnant.
She said: “There was a tenant who lived in a room apartment on the late Magistrates’ premises. The said tenant, a student of Enugu State University of Science and Technology, was of dubious and shady character. He moved with different gangs of cult members and men of dubious character who often gathered and smoke Indian hemp in the compound of the Late Magistrate.
On Sunday 25th May 2014, while the the late magistrate was dressing up to go to church, her husband saw two young men opening the gate to the premises with a key. The husband, Ifeanyi Nneji challenged them which led to an altercation and the two young men with were of the Nigeria Police Force in Enugu”, the late magistrate’s mother recalled while crying.
She further revealed that: “On hearing the unusual noise, the late magistrate ran out and saw her husband on the ground shouting for help. She run out of the premises shouting for help then she saw a military patrol team which stopped and followed her to the premises.”
A dependable police source told our correspondent that when the security men entered the premises, the two young men who were attacking Mr. Nneji on citing the security agents took to their heels. One jumped over the fence and as the 2nd was trying to jump over the fence, one of the security personnel shot him on the arm and he fell.
The source said: “Immediately, the security patrol team took Mr. Nneji and the assailants to Abakpa Police station for interrogation into the matter, a senior police officer in the station who did not want to be mentioned told our correspondent that when the assailant asked that he make a call to his father, he was allowed about ten minutes later, the Commissioner of Police Adamu Mohammed called the DPO that Mr. Nneji was to be detained.
“He was detained for four days at Abakpa Police Station, before his student tenant came and said that the two young men were his friend and that he gave the key of the premises to them while he was away. Though he confessed that he did not inform his landlord neither did he call him.
Blueprint reliably gathered that while the GOC interfered was because the young man that was shot is a son of a senior military officer who contacted him to use his office to wriggle out or intimidate and cover-up the case through Commissioner of Police who perfected it and directed that Mr. Nneji be detained immediately.
“After four days the CP ordered that the matter be transferred to the State Criminal and Investigation Department (SCID), Police Headquarters.
According to the family, their late daughter returned home and briefed them about what was happening before she went to see her detained husband at the State CID, where she was also arrested and detained.
Mama Comfort told Blueprint that her daughter normally had crisis whenever she was pregnant, notwithstanding that she just had a major operation last November 2013, when she undergone a surgery to correct an earlier operation on goiter. She told the Police at the State CID, when she was detained that she was not okay health wise but the police authories said she was pretending.
Two days later, she was arraigned before A.C. Mbah the Magistrate who remanded her and her husband in prison custody. A staff of the court who pleaded anonymity told Blueprint that she informed the trial Magistrate Mbah Esq, that she was four months pregnant and her health was bad but the Magistrate only went into the chambers, and made phone calls and came back and said his hands were tied and ordered the remand of the late Magistrate and her husband in prison custody.
Interference of the commissioner of police, the GOC 82DV and the connivance of presiding magistrates A.C. Mbah.
Narrating further the Matriarch of the Nnaji family Mama Comfort Nnaji stated that the father of the boy that was shot, a senior military officer used the GOC 82 Division to interfere in the case by demanding of the Commissioner of Police to charge the late Magistrate for attempted murder and also ensure that A.C. Mbah the presiding Magistrate carried out their bidding by remanding the pregnant Magistrate in prison.
The aged mother of the Late Nneji, and the family demand for Justice
The Civil Liberties Organisation has also joined the family of Late Magistrate to demand a thorough investigation into the circumstances leading to the arrest and detention of the Late Magistrates’ and her husband in Prison and the circumstance surrounding the remand order made by A.C.Mbah Esq. the presiding Magistrates’ who remanded the Late Magistrate despite the overwhelming evidence showing the innocence of the Late Magistrates’ and her deteriorating state of health.
In a joint petition by the family and CLO to the, state governor, honourable minister of defence, chief judge of Enugu state and chairman state judicial service commission and the chairman police service commission, tiled: “Re: unlawful killing of magistrate Ifeoma Nneji: How General Officer Commanding 82 Division (GOC), Nigerian Army insisted on her remand in prison” dated 16th June, 2014, and signed by, Zonal director CLO, Olu Omotayo (IVLP), said it is highly condemnable the Interference of the GOC 82, Division who should have concerned himself more with the security challenges facing the nation particularly the challenge posed by Boko Haram, not demanding that an innocent
Magistrates’ be remanded in prison despite her health challenges caused by the four month pregnancy she was carrying.
They however, demand that the interference of the General Officer Commanding 82 Division of the Nigerian Army be investigated, while the said army officer whose son was alleged to have been shot in the arm should come out and tell the whole world how is son got the key to the gate of the Late Magistrates premises, when he was not a tenant on the premises.
Meanwhile the Civil Liberties Organization has petitioned the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman National Judicial Council calling for immediate investigation into judicial recklessness in the state.
The group also called for immediate sack of the magistrate that remanded the late Magistrate, A.C. Mbah Esq from the lower bench as his action is not only disgraceful to the Bar and the Bench but also lawless and reckless.
The CLO made the demand in a petition, titled: ‘Judicial recklessness and lawlessness in magistrates’ court in Enugu killed magistrate Ifeoma Nneji. Demand for justice and appeal for thorough investigation into the circumstances leading to the remand in prison of late His Worship Ifeoma Nneji and her husband Mr. Nneji on a trump up charge of attempted murder by an Enugu magistrates’ court presided over by A.C. Mbah Esq’ and signed by south zonal director, Olu Omotayo (IVLP) dated 9th June, 2014.
According to CLO, “the death of the Magistrates bring to fore the injustice that has pervaded the administration of criminal justice in the Magistrates’ court in Enugu State and this has empowered and encourage the police in Enugu to at will charge anybody for any of the so called serious offences like attempted murder, attempted rape, attempted robbery and offences relating to child abuse or trafficking in persons, even with no evidence whatsoever to sustain the charge.
“The mentality of Magistrates’ in the state that they are only there to preside over remand proceedings, thereby remanding innocent citizens even in view of strong contrary evidence as it happened in Ike Sunday and Chidera Alex case, which later commanded the attention of the governor of the state, is illustrative in this regard. Moreover the decision in Ukanatu V. COP has stated that a Magistrate has the power to grant bail in serious offences like attempted murder.