Being a Joint CSO Statement on the Continued Unlawful Detention of Gloria Okorie
COALITION OF CSOs DEMANDS THAT THE POLICE COMPLIES WITH THE ORDERS OF COURT – IMMEDIATELY RELEASE GLORIA OKORIE ON BAIL OR PRODUCE HER IN COURT TO FACE HER TRIAL
The Human Rights Monitoring Agenda (HURMA), a registered civil society organization under the name HURMA Global Resources Initiative, has joined other organisations (CSOs) and individuals across Nigeria to strongly condemn the continued incarceration of 21-year-old Gloria Okorie by the police in utter disregard to Court orders directing the police to either release her or produce her in Court.
Gloria Okorie’s parents were in search of their missing daughter for more than two weeks before it was revealed to them that their daughter was in the custody of the Nigeria Police Force Intelligence Response Team (IRT) in Owerri, Imo State. A commercial motorcycle operator, 41-year-old Izuchukwu Okeke, who was conveying Gloria and was also arrested along with her and detained at the Tiger Base, Owerri office of the IRT revealed her whereabouts to her parents after he was released from two weeks of illegal detention.
Gloria was eventually transferred to the Abuja headquarters of the IRT days after her parents and lawyers visited several times in a futile effort to secure her release, and after the Police had extorted various sums of money from them on false promises to release her.
Following the outrage that greeted public knowledge of the secret detention of the young woman and revelations that she had been held as a slave in custody – used for washing clothes and doing other humiliating chores, the police issued a belated, face-saving statement in which they claimed that Gloria is an informant to IPOB/ESN and that they would charge her to Court ‘soon’ upon conclusion of “investigations”.
It was also reported that the police re-arrested and detained Izuchukwu Okeke, the 41-year-old Commercial Motorcycle rider on July 5 when they lured him back to IRT Tiger Base Owerri imo State for revealing that Gloria was in their custody and warned his family never to show up at the police station to ask for him or they would be shot. His whereabouts remain unknown till date.
Despite police’s promise to ‘soon’ charge Gloria to court, they have continued to hold her in unlawful custody and her family and lawyers have been denied access to her since 17 June, 2021 when she was arrested – nearly 80 days as of today.
Following a fundamental rights action brought on her behalf before an Abuja High Court presided over by His Lordship Honourable Justice Sylvester Oriji on Friday 27th August 2021, the Court ordered the police to release Gloria from unlawful custody or charge her to court. But the police have continued to detain her in flagrant disobedience to the orders of the Court. She has been held incommunicado, denied access to her family and lawyers.
The continued incommunicado detention of Gloria in flagrant disregard to a court order is irresponsible, unconstitutional and contemptuous of the Court. It is a further violation of her fundamental rights to personal liberty, dignity of her human person, presumption of innocence and fair trial. The actions of the police amount to a subversion of due process and rule of law.
Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees Gloria Okorie’s right to liberty. The Constitution provides that where the Police arrests a person, the police is required to bring the person before a court of competent jurisdiction within 24 hours or 48 hours where the court is not within a 40km radius. Otherwise, the police are obligated to release the accused or detained person on bail.
The failure by the Nigeria Police to protect Gloria Okorie’s fundamental rights is also a clear breach of the Police Act 2020 which establishes the Nigeria Police Force and defines the limits of its powers. Section 5(1) of the Police Act 2020 provides as follows:
The Police Force is responsible for promoting and protecting the fundamental rights of persons in police custody as guaranteed by the Constitution.
In Section 5(3), the Police Act further provides as follows:
In addition to the provisions of subsection (1) and (2) of this section, the Police Force is also charged with the responsibility of promoting and protecting the fundamental rights of all persons as guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act and other international legal Instruments on Human Rights to which Nigeria is a signatory.
It is important to note that Section 9 (2) of the Police Act makes the office of the Inspector-General of the Police responsible for ensuring that the above provisions of the Police Act are adhered to and that suspects have their rights protected at all times. The said section provides as follows:
(2) The inspector-General shall, in addition to his functions under this section ensure the discharge by the Police Force of the responsibilities referred to under section 5 of this Act and for this purpose the inspector-General shall:
(a) facilitate access to legal support for suspects, accused persons or detainees in police custody.
Pursuant to the aforesaid, we hereby call on the Inspector General of Police to use his good offices to put an end to the continued breach of Gloria Okorie’s fundamental rights; ensure that his men adhere to the provisions of the law and the order of the High Court as stated above and stop the further trampling on the Rule of Law.
The CJN, Hon. Justice Tanko Muhammad on September 23, 2019 noted that disobedience to court orders is a recipe for anarchy and admonished that:
“The rule of law must be observed in all our dealings and we must impress it on the governments at all levels to actively toe the path.
“The right of every citizen against any form of oppression and impunity must be jealously guarded and protected with the legal tools at our disposal.
“All binding court orders must be obeyed. Nobody, irrespective of his or her position, will be allowed to toy with court judgements”
We therefore call on the Inspector-General of Police to order his men to release Gloria Okorie on Bail immediately or otherwise charge her to court for prosecution if she has any case to answer.
The continued unlawful detention of Gloria Okorie and the contempt for the courts of the land only worsen the negative public perception of the police and widens the trust gap. It also raises the suspicion that there is more to this act of impunity than meets the ordinary eyes. Why is the police shielding Gloria from access to her family and lawyers?
The police, by their actions and posture, are only lending credence to the fears expressed in some quarters that Gloria may have been violated including sexually and likely impregnated. Going by records, this is not beyond the Nigeria Police.
The police must dispel these fears and suspicion by immediately complying with court orders to release Gloria without further delay.
The Nigeria Police cannot be seen to be institutionalising impunity by engaging in acts that are unconstitutional, unlawful, irresponsible and lawless.
We also call on the Inspector-General of Police to order the immediate release of the commercial motorcyclist re-arrested and detained for revealing Gloria Okorie’s secret detention by the police.