Seventeen months after a 65-year-old widow, Madam Helen Okoro, was allegedly murdered for refusing to sell her land, the police have failed to prosecute the suspects who were indicted for the killing.
It was learnt that the 13 suspects, who were released after spending four months in detention, have been walking free since then.
Okoro was brutally attacked in Umuchiakuma, Abia State, on December 30, 2017, around 7:15pm by the hoodlums allegedly led by one Tony Ndu. The deceased reportedly sustained serious injuries and subsequently gave up the ghost.
The report of investigation by the Abia State Police Command sighted by our correspondent consequently established a prima facie case of murder, armed robbery and conspiracy against Ndu; Victor Okechi; Obaa Mgbo; Paul Ezeikpe; Peter Ikpo; Eze Bernard; Mba Okoro, Onyemachi Okey, Chimezie Agwu, Uko Nnenna, Ire Moku, Ikpo Okorie and Ikpo Okechi.
The report which also listed the names of witnesses to the crime, recommended the trial of the 13 men for Okiro’s murder.
Following the failure of the police authorities to prosecute the suspects, a non-governmental organisation,Initiative Against Human Rights Abuse and Torture, wrote a letter of complaint to the Abia State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Umeh Kalu, SAN.
On June 27, 2018, Kalu in turn, wrote to the then Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, requesting for the case file to be sent to the Ministry of Justice, Abia State, for further necessary action, but this was not done.
The daughter to the deceased, Mrs. Blessing Ephraim, told Sunday PUNCH on Friday, that the hoodlums attacked her mother for refusing to sell her ancestral land located in Umuchiakuma to Ndu, whom she accused of leading the thugs who also beat up her husband, Ephraim Tietie and damaged his car, while shooting in the air, during the attack.
She said, “On December 30, 2017, I, my husband, my children and my deceased mother were returning from the hospital when we were attacked by unknown hoodlums numbering 14, who were led by Tony Ndu. The hoodlums damaged my husband’s car, and also descended on him and severely injured him.
“On sighting my mother, Ndu grabbed her and gave her several blows to the face, kicked and beat her and blood gushed out of her ears, nose, mouth, eyes and she slumped and died.
“The case of murder was lodged at the Abia state Police Command and some of the suspects were arrested and detained; At the end of investigation, the police recommended a strong case for murder, armed robbery and other sundry offences.”
Ephraim further stated that things took a curious turn when the case file was transferred to the Force headquarters, Abuja, adding that nothing was heard about the issue again while the suspects were set free.
Following the development, the lawyer to the deceased’s family, Maxwell Opara, filed an application for an order of mandamus at the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, on April 16, 2018, to compel the Inspector-General of Police and the Commissioner of Police in charge of legal department to prosecute the murder suspects.
Opara explained that the Initiative Against Human Rights Abuse and Torture, also wrote a letter dated May 30, 2018, to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, seeking his intervention for the prosecution of the suspects, but nothing was done.
He added, “On June 10,2018, we wrote to the Chief Commissioner, Public Complaints Commission and Amnesty International. We also wrote to the IG to appeal for his intervention for the release of the report of the investigation and for the suspects to be charged to court, but no action was taken.”
When contacted for reaction, the principal suspect, Ndu, warned our correspondent against reporting the incident. “My brother, I warn you not to write anything on this case. Please don’t involve yourself in ‘client and attorney relationship,’” he stated and terminated the phone call.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, however, assured that the matter would be revisited, adding that he had mentioned it to the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department