In this report, Arinze Chijioke tells the story of how the police in Enugu arrested nine innocent people and accused them of murder, including a 14-year-old boy whose age was changed to 18 years so that he could be tried and imprisoned.
BY December 9, Chigozie Nebo will be 15 years old, according to a birth certificate obtained from his parents and confirmation from Mother of Christ Specialist Hospital, Ogui-Enugu hospital where he was born on the 9th December, 2006.
But for over 1 month and 13 days, he was held in the clinic inside the Enugu prison (Corrections Facility) after he was arrested on allegation of murder and had his age changed from 14 to 18 years by the Police to enable them charge him to court.
He had earlier spent 3 days inside the cell at the Enugu State criminal Investigation Department, (CID).
Chigozie was one of the nine people arrested on Monday May 31, on allegations that they murdered three police officers and damaged one Hilux Van belonging the Nigeria Police Force.
According to the charge sheet on the matter obtained by The ICIR, Chigozie Nebo, alongside; Gospel Ebitomeren, Odike Somto, Ubong Sunday, Ani Chikwado, Anselem Okoro, Asai John, Chinedu Agbo, Chidubem Eje and others at large, on the 31 day of May at Mbgemene Roundabout, Ogui Enugu within the Enugu North Magisterial District “unlawfully killed inspectors Ibiang Okoi, Sunday Eze and Sergeant Omaiye M and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 274 of the criminal code Cap 30 Vol II Revised law of Enugu State of Nigeria 2004”.
The sheet also had it that the suspects “unlawfully and maliciously damaged one Toyota Hilux van with registration number NPF3755D property of the Nigerian Police Force and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 415 (1) of the criminal code Cap 30 Vol II Revised law of Enugu State of Nigeria 2004”.
However, contrary to allegations by the police that they conspired among themselves and unlawfully killed the officers at Mgbemene Roundabout, Ogui Enugu, investigation shows that the victims were rounded up at a different location- near the Artisan Quarters where one of the police officers was allegedly killed.
While eight of the suspects were finally acquitted and the case dismissed on Friday, July 16 with no case to answer as there was no sufficient evidence to establish that they committed the crime, one of them- Gospel Ebitomeren, was held because he was said to have maliciously damage the Toyota Hilux van belonging to the police. He was later released on bail.
Those who shared their experience with The ICIR describe their journey from the point of arrest to detention in police cell and to the prison as horrible. The victims continue to count their losses.
Chigozie’s Journey from detention to Enugu prison
“It was around 8:00 am on May 31.
I had woken up and was inside my room when a group of boys came and told my wife that my son had been arrested, Mr. Nebo Godfrey, Chigozie’s father told The ICIR inside his compound at No 54 Artisan Quarters, Enugu.
Like other children, 14-year-old Chigozie had woken up that morning and did some house chores, after which he was asked to go and throw waste. It was the day set aside by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB as sit-at-home.
The sit-at-home was a day designed to remember the over five million Igbo people who died during the three years of civil war between the defunct Biafra and Nigeria.
After throwing the waste, Chigozie walked towards a direction where a group of people were gathered- where the police officer was killed. He wanted to find out what had happened. As soon as he got the location, a group of policemen arrived and bundled him into their van.
“As soon as my wife told me what the boys had said, I went out and saw several police officers gathered at the main road”, a teary Nebo said. “There were more than 10 Hilux Vans”.
When he tried to find out why his son was arrested, one of the officers immediately cocked his gun and threatened to shoot him if he did not move backwards.