Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Family members of a professional tailor, Mr Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh, who was arrested by the Imo State Police Command for alleged involvement in the killing of four policemen in Ngor-Okpala area of the state have cried out for justice.
The family in a Save Our Soul (SOS) message, called for the intervention of the international community over the matter “to prevent the killing of an innocent man for a crime he knew nothing about.”
According to the message signed by Journalist, Mr Ikechukwu Amaechi, on behalf of the family, the suspect, Ojokoh, a 53-year-old professional tailor and father of five, was arrested by operatives of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit, Tiger Base, Owerri, Imo State on April 15, 2023 and has been detained incommunicado since that date.
The SOS entitled: “Help Before Innocent Blood is Spilled,” and made available to Ikengaonline, also sought the intervention of the people of Imo State over “the injustice.”
It read in part: “This is an SOS message to all people of goodwill, particularly Imolites to intervene before a great, irreversible injustice is visited on an innocent citizen.
“This is the sad story of citizen Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh from Umugwa Umuokirika, Ahiazu Mbaise.
“He is a tailor and married with five children. In the last two decades, he has been practising his trade at Afor Oru, where he has a shop.
“On April 15, which was an Afor Oru market day, he was at his shop as usual and later in the day went into the market to buy some tailoring materials.
“Armed men, who turned out to be personnel of the Nigeria Police Force swooped on him and whisked him away, on the allegation that he is an IPOB member.
“He has been in police custody at the “Tiger Base” ever since. Then, on April 21, six days after his arrest, hoodlums attacked policemen on patrol at Ngor-Okpala and killed four of them.
“On April 30, Imo State Police Command, issued a statement that the man they arrested earlier was one of those who unconscionably murdered the policemen on national duty.”
The family pleaded with the police authorities not to allow the suspect to be wasted like a common criminal that he is not.
The family punctured the claims by the police that the suspect who was already in police custody before the alleged killing of cops admitted responsibility for the same crime.
“It is curious that a man arrested on April 15 and who has been in police custody ever since is being accused of killing policemen at Ngor-Okpala on April 21.
“Secondly, the said Ikechukwu Ojokoh was arrested at Afor-Oru market and not at any “terrorist hideout.”
“Besides, even if Thaddeus Ojokoh was arrested after the killing of the policemen, I would still vouch, without any fear of contradiction, that he couldn’t have been part of that dastardly act. Why? He is incapable of hurting a fly. And I am saying with every emphasis that he is innocent.
“While the unconscionable killing of security officers or any human being for that matter is condemnable, it is equally wrong to frame innocent, poor folks for crimes they never committed.
“I am putting out this message and appealing to Nigerians to intervene before an innocent soul is wasted for a crime he didn’t commit.
“Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh is my cousin and I insist that he is innocent, even if for no other reason, at least for the fact that he had been in police custody before the four policemen were murdered in cold blood.”
Meanwhille, rights organisation, the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), has petitioned the Inspector General of Police, demanding proper investigation into the case of a tailor, Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh, paraded by the police as a member of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), allegedly involved in the killing of four police personnel in Imo State.
This is as the family of the suspect has cried out for help and the intervention of the international community, saying that the suspect is innocent of the crime being preferred against him.
RULAAC in its petition, signed by the Executive Director, Okechukwu Nwanguma, urged the IGP to “order a prompt and impartial investigation to unravel the mystery surrounding the claim by the Imo State Police Command that a man who had been in police custody was among those who carried out the dastardly killing of police officers in Imo State on a date that the man was still in the custody of the police.”
The Rights organisation contended that it would be injustice to frame up an innocent man to suffer for an offence he had no inclination of, insisting that the matter should be thoroughly investigated.
The petition read in part: “Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh, a well-known Professional Tailor at Afor Oru Market in Ahiazu Mbaise, Imo State was arrested on April 15 on the claim that he is a member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The attack against police officers was launched on April 21. He was still in police custody as at that date.
“On April 30, Imo State Police Command issued a statement that Ojokoh was among the men that murdered the policemen on national duty.
“He was eventually paraded by the Imo State Police Command along with others who were later arrested following the killing of the police officers on April 21 and said to be among the assailants who attacked and killed the police officers in Ngor-Okpala, Imo State on April 21, 2023.”
“Members of Thaddeus Ojokoh’s family of Umugwa Umuokrika, Ahiazu Mbaise LGA Imo State informed us that Thaddeus was still in police custody as at the date of the condemnable attack and killing of the police officers. How then could he have participated in the attack and killing while still in police custody?
“His family members have not had access to him since the day he was arrested. They seriously fear about his life because most people arrested by the police in Imo State and labeled IPOB member have usually been executed extra-judicially or disappeared. There have been instances of people arrested on the claim that they were IPOB members and killed or disappeared and evidence later emerged to disprove the claim.
“Thaddeus Ojokoh’s family members find it both curious and ironic that Ojokoh who was arrested on April 15 and still detained at the Tiger Base Owerri as at April 21 when the attack was carried out and has not been released up to date could be paraded alongside others alleged to have carried out that same attack.
“Ojokoh’s family members were hoping that the police would have finished their investigation and cleared him of any links with IPOB or charged him to court. But on April 21, six days after his arrest, hoodlums attacked policemen on patrol at Ngor-Okpala and killed four of them.
RULAAC, however, in very strong terms, condemned the unprovoked attack on police, saying it’s unjustifiable.
“Attacks on police installations or killing of police officers are totally condemnable and unjustifiable crimes.
“The attack and killing of 4 police officers at Ngor-Okpala junction on April 21, 2023 was unjustifiable and all those responsible should not be spared the maximum penalty permitted by law.
“However, parading a man for a crime committed while in police custody raises serious concerns and questions, and calls for careful investigation to ensure that an innocent person is not accused wrongly or made to pay the price for a crime he did not commit.
“We hereby humbly request the IGP to order a discrete investigation to unravel this mystery.
The Rights group also demanded the investigation of numerous arrests and parading of suspected members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, by the police in South-East to verify the claims by the police.
“It has also become necessary to call the IGP’s attention to the attitude of many police officers in the South-East presuming everyone accused of being an IPOB member of having automatically lost their Constitutionally guaranteed rights to due process, including the presumption of innocence until otherwise proven in a fair trial.
“This is a very dangerous attitude that has led to the murder of many innocent citizens. The Constitution guarantees every person arrested for a recognizable offense the right to fair trial. Summary executions and extrajudicial killings amount to murder and can have ugly repercussions including creating a cycle of violence.”
RULAAC said that the detained tailor should be charged to court instead of being kept to rot in police custody.
“We request the IGP to order an investigation into the continued detention of Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh and the circumstances surrounding his being accused of being among those who carried out an attack on police officers on a date he was still in police custody.
“He should be released or charged to court if he has any case to answer. His family and legal representatives should also be allowed access to him.”