Counsel to the police, Fidelis Ogobe has stated before the Independent Investigative Panel on Human Right Violation by the defunct SARS and other units of the Nigerian Police Force that rather than sue the police in the case of unlawful arrest Detention, cruel inhuman and degrading treatment, seizure of property, malicious prosecution and extrajudicial killing of late Joseph Oveje brought before the panel, the Delta State Government rather than the police should be held liable for any damage.
Ogobe while reading his written address before the panel stated that the complainant Godwin Ikolo and 5 others who represent the Nation Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association, Delta state chapter mentioned in their petition severally that the police men at the time of the operation were in company of their principal, the Delta state government.
According to Ogobe, the staff of the Delta state government led police to the association’s office, he also told the panel that the properties of the association that were seized are not in the custody of the police which shows the operation was not carried out by the police.
Furthermore the police counsel urged the panel to dismiss the allegation, citing the fact that the necessary party which is the Delta state government are not a party before the panel, adding that no specific allegations were mentioned against any of the respondent.
Meanwhile Ogobe said the police cannot be held liable for the death of one the members Joseph Ovedjie noting that he died ninety days after the said incidence and autopsy was not carried out to determine the cause of death which can be dependent on many factors he argued.
It would be recalled that Comrade Godwin Ikolo had pleaded with the Independent Investigation Panel on Human Rights Violations by the defunct SARS and other units of the Nigerian Police Force to order N3 billion compensation against the Police in favour of the National Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association (NCTMORA), Delta state chapter, following alleged brutality and seizures of over 150 tricycles and motorcycles belonging to the association.
Testifying before the panel, the witness alleged that a task force comprising some Police Officers, Delta state Ministry of Transport and the state Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) had at various times arrested, brutalized, detained their members for no justifiable reason.
According to Comrade Ikolo who is also the National Public Relations Officer NCTMORA, the harassment and intimidation of their Members by the Delta state task force led to the extra- judicial killing of late Joseph Ovedje.
He also stated before the panel presided over by Dr. Garba Tetengi (SAN) on behalf of the Chairman, Justice Suleiman Galadima (rtd) that the Delta state task force working with the police and other agencies of government in the state had impounded of over 150 tricycles and motorcycles belonging to his association and had refused to release them till date.
He said that those vehicles have been vandalized and that they need to be compensated to replace them, noting that the cost of one tricycle is N1.2m while one motorcycle is N530,000.
The witness who is also the Chairman of the National Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association, Delta state informed the panel that his Members have been maliciously prosecuted amid other alleged forms of human rights violations.
According to him, a similar association recognized by the state governments as the state owned Tricycle and motorcycle operators usually connive with the state task force to frustrate the operations of his own association in the state.
He further alleged that Delta state Ministry of transport expected his association to collapse into the state transport body, which according to him is not acceptable since they are fully registered to operate in the state.
Counsel to the Complainants, D. Faroae who led the witness in his testimonies, agreed with the panel that Comrade Godwin Ikolo testimonies are enough and therefore there might not be any reason to call more witnesses.
Meanwhile counsel to the complainant Sulieman Abubakar has raised three issues for determination. He asked:
1. Whether the petitioner and her members have the constitutional rights to join any Association/union of their choice and if so,
2.whether the arrest, detention, torture and seizure of the properties/working tools i.e Tricycles and motorcycles of the petitioner and her members by the police including members of the defunct SARS for their refusal to join the rival union in Delta state is illegal, wrongful and unconstitutional act and
3. Whether the petitioner and her members are entitled to damages.
The matter has been adjourn for report.