The six innocent citizens of Imo State wrongly arrested and falsely labeled by the Imo State Command have been released. Five of the six regained their freedom late night of yesterday, 3rd June 2021 from Imo State CID Headquarters and Owerri Correctional Headquarters or Prisons. The five newly freed innocent citizens are: Smith Amadikwa, Casmir Ugbor, Ojukwu Ukonu, Emeka Mbonu and Engineer Ikechukwu Okomah.
They were wrongly arrested on 12th, 13th, 14th, 13th and 19th May 2021, respectively; and publicly paraded on 28th May 2021 and falsely labeled “ESN hoodlums that attacked Imo State Correctional/Prisons Headquarters and others”. Intersociety had spoken to the five newly freed innocent citizens this morning and they all expressed joy and gratitude to our efforts and those of others including the media; and expressed sadness over the rate of extrajudicial killings and torture going on at the State CID, Owerri where they have been held since 12th, 13th, 14th and 19th of May 2021. This is to the extent that scores of citizens arrested nonviolently and taken into custody at the State CID have been shot and killed or tortured to death-with their bodies permanently disappeared to avoid traces.
Similarly, Citizen Casmir Ibegbulem, one of the five wrongly arrested and falsely labeled innocent citizens, differently arrested on 25th May 2021 in Owerri and paraded as “ESN hoodlums that attempted to burn down Orji Police Station”, was released on Tuesday, 1st June 2021. Citizen Casmir Ibegbulem (an oil company staff in Bayelsa State), alongside Citizens Chinonso John (an Owerri based barber), Chukwudi Okoro (Orji-Owerri based Shuttle Bus owner/transporter), Chigaemezu Sebastian (Owerri Timber Market trader/plumber) and Daberechi Alozie (25 years old apprentice Aluminum Fabricator with Oceanic Aluminum, Owerri) were arrested on 25th May 2021 at Orji part of Owerri and later paraded. Two days later, on 27th May 2021, they were taken to Force Headquarters, Abuja, from where Citizen Ibegbulem was forced to ‘buy his freedom’ with whopping N1.5m after five days of detention.
Citizen Casmir Ibegbulem, on his release, did an audio voice message of gratitude and revelation of what he went through and saw at the State CID, Owerri and Force Headquarters, Abuja. His account included how he was brought out from cell by his IPO at Force Headquarters in Abuja and asked if he was ready to pay N10m for his freedom as “an oil company staff”. Also revealed in the audio was how he bargained and priced “N800, 000”, forcing him to be thrown back into the cell in anger by the IPO. He further disclosed in the recorded audio how scores of detained citizens labeled “IPOB/ESN members” are routinely shot and killed extra-judicially or tortured to death. It remains our firm demand that the criminally collected N1.5m must be returned to Citizen Casmir Ibegbulem’s family and there shall be total discontinuation of such extortion and custodial torture and killings or forced disappearances and unlawful executions by the Force Headquarters.
International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) had on 31st May 2021, released a special report chronicling how soldiers, police and other security operatives hatefully and falsely labeled innocent citizens and spilled their bloods in the East and on 2nd June 2021, the IGP, Chairman of Police Service Commission and Commissioner of Police, Imo State Command were written to and strongly called upon to investigate, review, release, discharge and acquit all the innocent citizens wrongly arrested, detained and falsely labeled. Gladly, out of twelve names and photos of the arrested and falsely labeled innocent citizens included in the letter, six have been freed and six others remained. We are deeply grateful to online publishing, print and web sections of the media as well as families of the victims, media and local rights activists and lawyers hired or contacted.
Signed: Intersociety, Onitsha-Eastern Nigeria, Friday, June 4, 2021
· Emeka Umeagbalasi, Criminologist/Board Chair
· Barr Chinwe Umeche
· Barr Chidimma Udegbunam