IIP-SARS hearing: Police denies killing Godwin Onomrerhino, Emmanuel Ita Ephraim, as petitioners call for Justice

A complainant’s counsel, Onome Okoroze-Egbo  has urged the Independent Investigation Panel on Allegations of Extra-Judicial Killing by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to give justice to the family of Mr Ovoke Godwin Onomrerhino .

He told the panel  to enter judgment in favour of the deceased family considering the preponderance of the evidence by the complainant .

When the matter was called up on Monday,  Okoroze-Egbo was not present at the panel but she had pleaded with the Panel’s legal team led by Chino Obiagwu (SAN) to assist her to adopt her final written address before the panel.
The crux of the Complainant’s Counsel’s written address as adopted on her behalf by a member of the Panel’s legal team, Pwadundi Oko is that police allegedly tortured Godwin Onomrerhino to death and therefore they should take responsibility.
Before Monday’s adoption of written address, Okoroze-Egbo had informed the 11-Menber panel chaired by Justice Suleiman Galadima (rtd) that the deceased, Godwin Onomrerhino was beaten to death by a team of police officers led by Inspector Kabari Tambari.
The Complainant’s Counsel had while cross-examining the Investigation Police Officer (IPO), Inspector Tambari, told the panel that autopsy report on the late victim showed that he died of anemia as a result of injury around his trunk and not as a result of jumping down from a police moving vehicle, as alleged by the police.
The petitioner’s counsel had observed that the IPO and his team killed Ovoke following a misunderstanding involving his father (Ovoke’s father) in their community and not as a result of the jumping down from a moving police vehicle, as was alleged by Inspector Tambari, Sgt. Musa Sunday and Sgt. Lucky Okuku.
She had as well rejected a medical report produced by Inspector Tambari which she noted was not signed by any medical officer. According to the lawyer, Inspector Tambari obtained the documents while the petition was already pending before the panel. She noted that the medical report was not issued at the very time Ovoke was allegedly taken to Government Hospital, Abaraka, Delta state.
On the other hand, the police gave a different account on the cause of death of Godwin Onomrerhino. When the Complainant’s Counsel cross-examined Sgt Musa Sunday and Sgt Lucky Okuku (police driver) both of them testified before the panel that Ovoke jumped down from the vehicle after taking them to the location where his armed robbery gang hid two cut-to-size guns and two live cartridges in the bush.
Specifically, the police driver, Sgt Okuku had said that immediately Ovoke jumped down from the vehicle that his other colleagues hit the body of the vehicle to alert him that something was amiss and that he immediately applied the brake and looked at the side mirror only to find the victim on the ground. He (Ovoke)  was confirmed dead on arrival when he was taken to the hospital
The matter was adjourned for the panel’s report.
In a related development parties to the petition filed in respect of an extra-judicial killing of Emmanuel Ita Ephraim by defunct SARS Calabar, Operation Skolombo Calabar,adopted their final written addresses.

Operation Skolombo is a multi-security task force made up of the Police, Department of State Service, Nigerian Civil Defence Corps and the Nigerian Navy, established by the Cross River state government to maintain peace and order in the state.

In adopting their written address in defence of the petition against the police, police Counsel, Malik Taiwo told the panel to hold that the police cannot be held accountable for the death of Emmanuel Ita Ephraim saying that no specific name was mentioned as police officer concerning the matter.

He argued that if anybody or authority needs to be asked questions over the death of Ephraim, it should be the authority that set up Operation Skolombo, which is under the Cross River state government and not the police.

Besides, the police lawyer stated that the family of the deceased reneged in their responsibilities when they knew that the deceased had some mental issues, yet they allowed him to move about in the nights where he allegedly had problems leading to his death.
According to him, the family of the late Emmanuel Ita Ephraim should have maintained an intense control over him knowing his mental state.
It will be recalled that an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Kabiru Salisu, during cross-examination, told the panel that Police personnel were not part of Operation Skolombo the very day the incident happened.
Earlier, the younger brother to the deceased, Mr Paul Offiong, had told the panel that his brother had on June 17, 2017, gone to Church for the purpose of worship and never came back.
According to him, the deceased who was suffering from depression was frequently going to the Church to worship and to be possibly healed so that he could go back to his normal business only for someone to inform the family that their brother had been shot and his dead body in the custody of the Police.
Other respondents in the petition are CPL Mohammed Inuwa Hafiz (defunct SARS), SP Kabiru T. Salisu (defuct SARS), and the Inspector General of Police.
Justice Suleiman Galadima (rtd) adjourned the petition for the panel’s report.