For the second time, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja, has ordered the Nigerian police to either release or charge Glory Okorie, an alleged spy for the Eastern Security Network (ESN).
The ESN is the military wing of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The 21-year-old Miss Okolie was arrested by the operatives of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), a tactical unit of the police, on June 17, 2021 in Imo State and subsequently transferred to Abuja.
Having been incarcerated since her arrest, the suspect has been in custody for 75 days as of Tuesday.
The judge, Sylvester Oriji, had on Friday, August 27, 2021, given the police an ultimatum to either charge her to court on or before 31, 2021, or grant her bail.
Instead of complying with the order, the police authorities, on Tuesday, approached the court, urging Mr Oriji to reverse his earlier ruling on the matter.
The judge, after listening to the police, asked them to comply with the earlier order.
Mr Oriji explained that he could no longer preside over the matter because the case file had been returned to the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court for reassignment to another judge.
Meanwhile, the suspect’s lawyer, Samuel Ihensekhein, while reacting to the police’s attempt to upturn Miss Okolie’s release in his absence, wondered why the legal department of the police would engage in a “back-door and shoddy” courtroom practice.
The lawyer lauded the judge for not cowering to the “antics of the police”, adding that the police authorities have no choice but to comply with the order and set his client free.
Last Friday ruling
Mr Ihensekhein had filed an application on August 24, specifically, suing the Inspector General of Police, Tunde Disu, a deputy commissioner of police heading the IRT, and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), as the respondents.
He had urged the court to order the release of Miss Okorie on bail from unlawful incarceration by the police for nearly three months.
In his ruling, the judge ordered the respondents – police authorities – to charge her to court on or before August 31, 2021, should their be any case against her.
In the alternative to the order directing the police to charge the suspect, the court ordered the respondents to release Miss Okorie on bail in the sum of N2million with a surety.
Mr Oriji said the surety must be a civil servant not less than Grade Level 12 in the federal civil service.
Public outcry over Okolie’s detention
Public outcry had trailed Miss Okolie’s incarceration by the police.
Last week, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) demanded the release of Miss Okorie’s release from illegal police detention which had lasted about 71 days as of Friday.
The Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Tony Ojukwu, said the only alternative open to the police was to charge her to court.
Mr Ojukwu, who was quoted in a statement released by the commission last Tuesday, described the detention as “a gross violation of human rights,” adding that it must be accounted for to serve as a deterrent.”
“The commission is therefore using this medium to demand the immediate and unconstitutional release of the detainee or in alternative charge her to a court of competent jurisdiction so that she will enjoy the right to fair hearing and the opportunity to defend the allegations against her, if any,” Mr Ojukwu had said.
ESN, believed to be the military arm of the outlawed separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), has been blamed for various violent activities in the South-east and South-south regions.
Similarly, Amnesty International, which had called for her release on Monday, said she was apprehended by the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), a tactical unit of the Nigerian police, headed by Tunde Disu in Imo State on June 17, 2021.
The international human rights watchdog said she was later moved to Abuja where she has been denied access to her family members and lawyer in violation of her rights.
Mr Ojukwu noted that the “unprofessional conduct” of the police cannot be tolerated in the 21st Century, adding that “perpetrators of such heinous crime must be immediately brought to justice.”
Expressing sadness over the claims of her being used as slave by police officers, Mr Ojukwu noted that the detainee was “washing clothes, sent in errands to buy stuffs for officers, tortured by some of the officers in charge of her detention hence the need for her release without further delay.”
“We will not hesitate to condemn such unprofessional conduct which undoubtedly resulted in further violation of the rights of the lady in question because her rights to freedom of movement and liberty among several others had been allegedly violated with impunity by the very personnel charged with the responsibility of protecting the lives and property of citizens,” the NHRC boss was quoted in the statement.
The police had accused the 21-year-old Miss Okolie of being complicit in “the series of deliberate and well-coordinated attacks” on security formations and other critical national infrastructures in the South-east and South-south regions.
The deputy public relations officer of the police, Aremu Adeniran, said Ms Okolie was arrested in Imo State, adding that she had aided the police in the arrest of one of the ESN’s top leaders they identified as Onye Army.