On 14 February, the Acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Mohammed Abubakar, announced that training programmes for police personnel this year have been suspended on account of poor and obsolete facilities.
Addressing officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force on his maiden visit to Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom, since his appointment as Police chief, Abubakar said that while every police officer was entitled to training courses, the training institutions were in shambles. “Our training institutions are bad enough”, he said, “I will not allow my officers to go on courses and use their money to buy water, bread and other needs”.
The Inspector General said: “There is need for national rebirth in the Nigeria Police”. He told his officers and men that: “The era of corruption is over. We must allow competence and merit to take over its place”. He warned that failure at courses after second attempts would no longer be tolerated, that posting in the police would henceforth be based on the individual’s capacity to deliver, while promotion would be based on performance at promotion courses.
The police chief regretted that “So many things have been done unprofessionally” in the organization, and stressed that the time had come to turn a new leaf. He said: “We must redouble our effort in changing the damaging image that we have in the police today. There is need for you to change your attitude to work. There is need for us to go back to the basics of policing in this country”.
Abubakar also disclosed that plans were underway to change the uniform of the nation’s police personnel. He said: “We are making efforts to change the police uniform to a better uniform that will make you to be respected”.
The IGP, who was on a working visit to the Akwa Ibom Command, used the occasion to inaugurate a special crime-fighting squad funded by the state government and code-named Quick Response Squad (QRS). He commended the Akwa Ibom Police Command for reducing the crime rate in the state but urged its officers and men not to rest on their oars.
On 23 August, armed robbers attacked a vehicle that was conveying cash to a branch of Equatorial Trust Bank in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State, killing five people including two policemen, and snatching millions of naira.
Local sources said the incident occurred around 11.50am near Ukana Offot junction on Abak Road, a short distance from the bank’s premises.
They said the robbers waylaid a Peugeot 504 car conveying money to the bank and shot all the occupants of the car dead, including two policemen, a staff of the bank and the driver. As they shot their way to the vehicle, a stray bullet also hit and killed a passer-by.
The robbers then carted away about seven sacks, popularly referred to as ‘Ghana-must-go’ bags, loaded with cash. Some witnesses said they saw a lady wearing a bullet proof vest, who joined other members of the gang in removing money from the Peugeot car, before they escaped without encountering any challenge from security officers.
The raid is the third major armed robbery incident in Uyo, involving the killing of policemen, within the last two months. On 7 July, robbers attacked a bullion van a few meters from the Government House, killing two policemen and escaping with millions of naira. On Friday, 19 August, a gang also pursued a bullion van to the entrance of the State House of Assembly, shot and killed two mobile (anti-riot) policemen and snatched cash.
Rattled by the rising tide of bank robberies and kidnappings in the state, the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly has passed a resolution demanding that the Inspector General of Police redeploy the current Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Felix Uyanna, immediately.
On 2 August, unknown gunmen abducted the Chief Medical Officer of the University of Uyo (UNIUYO) Health Centre, Dr. Ini Enang, in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State.
Reports say Enang, a gynecologist, was kidnapped by six armed men, at his private clinic, Mmenim Abasi Clinic, along Ikot Ekpene road, Uyo.
The men had reportedly come to the clinic under the pretence that they were seeking medical attention. They later pulled out their guns and other dangerous weapons and seized the medical practitioner.
Some reports said the gunmen later contacted the family and demanded N100 million before their captive would be released. The family is said to be totally at a loss on what to do in the face of this bewildering demand.
The abduction of Enang is coming only four days after the 30 July kidnap of the Chairman of Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area, Mr. Godwin Ekpo. The Local Council boss was kidnapped, during a community football tournament in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area of the state. On 1 August, Ekpo’s abductors contacted his family, demanding N300 million ransom.
There is yet no word on the whereabouts of both Ekpo and Enang, but police say they are trying to track down the kidnappers and rescue the men.
Local sources said Ekpo was kidnapped while away to his usual Saturday morning keep-fit exercise; but beyond that, there are conflicting accounts of where and how he was abducted.
One account said Ekpo was kidnapped by five unknown gunmen who disrupted a football tournament in which he was participating, and took him away.
Another account said the abductors accosted Ekpo’s moving vehicle, shooting in the air to force the car to halt, before they seized him. In both accounts, the sources said the gunmen killed his police orderly, apparently when he attempted to stop them from abducting his boss.
Family sources said the kidnappers later called and demanded a ransom of N300 million (about 2 million USD). A family member said the amount was “shocking”.
The Public Relations Officer of the Akwa Ibom State Police Command, ASP Onyeka Orji, confirmed the incident to newsmen, including the fact that Ekpo’s police orderly was killed. He said the police were making all efforts to free the local government chairman and apprehend the kidnappers.
Akwa Ibom State has witnessed an unfair incidence of kidnaps over the last two years. In one of the most recent instances, on 17 July, Obonganwan Imo Isemin, 76, widow of a former governor of the state (late Obong Akpan Isemin), was abducted on her way to church on a Sunday morning. The police found her hours later, tied up and blind-folded, and rescued her.
Just a day before Ekpo was abducted, there were reports that the Councillor representing Ikot Ekpene Ward 7, Mr. Gabriel Itiaba, had been seized by gunmen in Ikot Ekpene town. It is not yet known whether there was any connection between that incident and Ekpo’s abduction the next morning.
On 7 July, unknown gunmen shot and killed two mobile (anti-riot) police officers and made away with a large amount of money, possibly millions of naira, along Wellington Bassey Street in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State.
The police officers were in a bullion van conveying a large sum of money, coming from a bank and headed in the direction of the Government House. The money was believed to have been meant for paying commercial motorcycle service operators who were recently outlawed by the state government. Under an arrangement announced by the government, each operator is required to hand in his motorcycle to the government and collect the sum of N50,000 in exchange.
Local sources said in the incident which occurred around 1.30pm, the assailants had trailed the officers until they caught up with them at a point near the Government House, also about 40 metres away from the Police Area ‘A’ Command. The gunmen, variously reported to have come in a Toyota saloon car or a motorcycle, suddenly pulled up beside the police van, shot the two policemen at close range, and then snatched a large amount of money from the van.
There has been no official statement from the police, but the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Onyekachi Orji, told newsmen he would make details available as soon as preliminary investigations are concluded.
The murder of the police officers heightens the sense of insecurity in the city, particularly following other recent killings and kidnappings. Only recently, the daughter of a senior official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was kidnapped and held captive for several days. Barely seven days ago, a senior government official, Mr Bassey Udoema, was assassinated in the city.
INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Mrs Maria Owi, said security agents responded promptly to the commission’s call, thereby pre-empting the detonation of the device. “There was a bomb in our Oron office”, she said, “but the security agents were able to discover it before it exploded. There was no casualty.”
The Police Public Relations Officer in the State, Mr Onyeka Orji, also confirmed the incident to newsmen. He said: “There was such an incident and our bomb disposal units discovered the bomb. It was planted in one of the offices at the INEC office in Oron.”
On 8 April, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State, Senator John Akpan Udoedehe was granted bail by an Akwa Ibom State High Court sitting in Uyo, and presided over by the Akwa Ibom State Chief Judge, Mrs Idongesit Ntemisua. The bail is for the sum of N5million and a surety who must have landed property within Uyo, being the jurisdiction where the judgement was delivered.
Udoedehe had been arraigned before a Magistrate Court in Uyo on 4 April. On 5 April, he was ordered remanded by the Chief Magistrate, Mr Edet Obot, despite the ruling of a Federal High Court in Abuja, which ordered his unconditional release. On 6 April, Udoedehe’s lawyers filed a bail application for his freedom at the High Court in Uyo.
Udoedehe’s lead counsel, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, had asked the court in Uyo to grant bail to his client based on self recognition, particularly as he had not been charged with any offence except being remanded in prison custody. He drew the court’s attention to the fact that Udoedehe had already been granted bail “unconditionally” by a Federal High Court in Abuja, and urged the court to abide by that order. He also argued that Udoedehe’s health report had shown that he needed medical attention. He further submitted that his client, being a governorship candidate for election scheduled for 26 April, needed his freedom to continue his electoral campaign.
The opposing counsel and attorney-general of the state, Mr. Ntekim Ekpenyong, urged the court to consider not only the interests of an individual, but that of the state and society. Otherwise, he said that “whatever decision the court may arrive at, I am not opposed to it”.
On the strength of the bail now granted by the High Court in Uyo, Udoedehe is free to resume his electoral campaign, seek medical attention and continue with his other normal activities. However, sensing that his freedom could be greeted with intemperate celebration in the state, the Chief Judge demanded Udoedehe’s lead counsel to guarantee that the celebrations would be carried out in a responsible manner, so as not to breach public peace or provoke fresh violence. She urged politicians to always conduct their activities lawfully and not engage in violent rivalries.
In Abuja, the Federal High Court, presided over by Justice Adamu Bello, ordered his unconditional release.The order was sequel to a motion ex-parte dated 5 April, filed by Udoedehe’s lead counsel, Chief Kola Awodein (SAN). In the motion, Awodein had argued that the prosecution defiled the sanctity of the judiciary by not only molesting Udoedehe right inside a courtroom, but by bundling him back to custody in defiance of the court that granted him bail.
Awodein further told the court that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) specifically ordered the arrest of the applicant for the purpose of remanding him in jail, so as to inhibit him from perfecting his bail conditions. He contended that the conduct of the police constituted an abuse of court process as it was designed to frustrate, irritate and annoy the applicant. Awodein concluded that a great injustice would be done to Udoedehe should he remain in detention till 26 April when governorship elections are scheduled to hold nationwide.
Granting the motion exparte, Justice Bello ordered the IGP, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, and the prosecution to give effect to the order of the court made on 31 March, and release Udoedehe from custody, unconditionally.
However, at a Magistrate Court in Uyo, where Udoedehe had been arraigned on a nine-count charge including murder and arson the previous day, efforts by his lawyers led by Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) to secure bail for him, proved abortive. The Chief Magistrate, Mr Edet Obot, declined jurisdiction and ordered that Udoedehe be remanded in prison custody for 24 hours, before arraignment in a court of competent jurisdiction.
In his ruling, Chief Magistrate Obot held that though his court had powers to remand the accused, it had no powers to try him in accordance with Section 74 of the Penal Code. He said the law creating the Magistrate Court did not “give it powers to entertain the case of murder”, and therefore his court could not adjudicate on the matter. He said the case file had been handed over to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) who would in turn forward it to the High Court, which had jurisdiction over such matters. He said Udoedehe’s lawyers could apply for his bail at the High Court, but gave no specific time for them to file the bail application.
Professor Osinbajo pleaded with the court not to remand Udoedehe in the same place he had been held, but the Magistrate ruled that since the matter had been moved to the High Court, it was now up to that court to determine where he should be remanded.
It will be recalled that Senator Udoedehe’s travails began after a violent clash between supporters of ACN and those of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ikot Ekpene and Uyo, on 22 March. The clash resulted in massive destruction of property, including the burning of over 200 new cars and tri-cycles worth about N2 billion, and the death of at least four persons. About 50 ACN supporters in the state were arrested in connection with the mayhem.
Udoedehe was arrested on 24 March and, on 25 March, charged with of levying war against the state, with intent to cause such levying of war as would intimidate or overawe the governor. He was granted bail by a Federal High Court in Abuja on 31 March, on the grounds that there was yet no evidence linking him to the alleged offences. But police re-arrested him within the court premises, giving no reasons for the action.
On 5 April, the Police brought the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Akwa Ibom State, Senator John Akpan Udoedehe before a Magistrates’ Court in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State, and filed a nine-count charge of arson, murder and conspiracy to commit arson and murder against him.
Security was beefed up all over the city from early in the day. Many pick-up vans loaded with armed policemen escorted Senator Udoedehe from the Uyo airport to the Ikot Akpanadia police headquarters where he was taken to, before his arraignment. All persons entering the court room, including lawyers and journalists, were thoroughly screened by the Police.
When Udoedehe was eventually brought to the court late in the day, the charge could not be read to him as his lead lawyer, Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), leading about 30 other lawyers including Professor Yemi Osibanjo (SAN), objected.
According to Akintola, the law under which Udoedehe is being charged is grossly defective and unconstitutional. The law empowers the governor to detain anybody for up to 14 days, for any offence. The detention is also renewable. The House passed the bill same day the governor submitted it to the legislators, leading to a widespred belief that it was passed under intense pressure from the state executive.
In his objection, Akintola wondered why a law passed by the House of Assembly on 31 March, allegedly on the prompting of Governor Godswill Akpabio, will be used for an offence allegedly committed on 22 March. He insisted that the police could not prosecute the ACN candidate on a retroactive law.
Furthermore, Akintola said the state’s law cannot override the 1999 Constitution which guarantees the liberty of the accused person and presumes him innocent until he is proved guilty. He argued that the attempt to amend the State law to try his client was unconstitutional and illegal. He therefore submitted that applying the said law would amount to invoking unconstitutional and illegal provisions specifically to implicate Udoedehe.
Akintola also challenged the competence of the Magistrate’s Court to hear the murder and arson charges against Udoedehe. By virtue of the provisions of the Akwa Ibom State Criminal Law, Akintola argued that the Magistrate’s Court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the charge. Since the court lacks the legal powers to hear the case, it cannot make any consequential order, he submitted.
However, the prosecuting officer, Barrister Raphael Nkem, counter argued that the provisions of the state law were in order and were aimed at bringing the offender to justice.
After listening to the arguments, the Magistrate, Mr. Edet Obot, noted that since the accused was brought to the court at about 2:35pm, he would adjourn the case till the next day (6 April), so he would have enough time to determine whether or not the charge against the accused is defective.
It will be recalled that Senator Udoedehe’s travails began after a violent clash between supporters of his party (ACN) and those of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ikot Ekpene and Uyo, on 22 March. The clash resulted in massive destruction of property, including the burning of over 200 new cars and tri-cycles worth about N2 billion, and the death of at least four persons. About 50 ACN supporters in the state were arrested in connection with the mayhem.
Uduedehe was himself arrested on 24 March and, on 25 March, charged with of levying war against the state, with intent to cause such levying of war as would intimidate or overawe the governor. He was granted bail by a Federal High Court in Abuja on 31 March, on the grounds that there was no evidence linking him to the alleged offences. But police re-arrested him within the court premises, giving no reasons for the action.
Udoedehe, charged with conspiracy and treason, was granted bail by a Federal High Court in Abuja on 31 March but was promptly re-arrested by the police. Initial indications were that he was flown to Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on the same day; but the movement was apparently aborted, with one report citing technical difficulties with the aircraft. His whereabout had been unknown since then.
According to ACN National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Udoedehe was flown out of Abuja, unaccompanied by his lawyers and aides. The ACN has raised an alarm over his safety. In a statement issued in Ilorin, Kwara State, the party said its concern was in view of the glaring partisanship which the police has allegedly demonstrated in handling the Akwa Ibom case, the fact that only ACN supporters were arrested after the violence in the state, and also in view of the fact that 3 of 41 ACN supporters detained are reported to have died. The party said it hopes the idea of flying the candidate to Uyo “is not aimed at subjecting him to the final solution”.
Meanwhile, Senator Udoedehe’s wife, Justin, has appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene in the matter by ordering an immediate release of her husband, so that he does not die in detention.