Tell us briefly about yourself.
I am Augustine Okechukwu, lawyer to the Odamas.
What do you think happened to Joy?
As a human rights organisation, I want to make it clear that, we are neutral and what we are pursuing is justice in the society. We are not going to say Joy was drugged, but the autopsy shows clearly that she died of cocaine poison. The autopsy called it acute cocaine poison. The other girl, Martha, whom we interviewed, in her statement, said it clearly that Alhaji told them that the injections the nurse used to give to them was for energy and that they had given it to her several times. For the new girl (Joy), the nurse told her she had an infection and she would give her free medical tests. Martha said the nurse told Joy that the injection was for infection but she told the insiders that it was for energy.
How do you intend to get justice for the family?
What we are saying is simple: Alhaji is presumed to be innocent according to our law until he is proven guilty in a court of law. We are also asking why the police were covering up the case. We wrote a petition on January 3, 2017 to the Inspector-General of Police detailing what the woman narrated and how his men were trying to cover up the crime by forcing the family to take the money offered by Alhaji. But the IG never told us that, one, they have arrested the suspect and two, if the policemen involved have been queried. Up till now, we believe the IG knows about it and he is a party to it and he is part of the people covering up the case.
What evidence do you have to show that there is a cover up in the case?
You would agree with me that the police, including the DPO, Nkem Raphael, are a party to this cover up. The cook said even before the crime, Raphael had been going to Alhaji’s house and Alhaji would order her to fry pieces of meat for the DPO and they would drink wine and enjoy themselves. That is to show that they are partners. All this while, the DPO was aware that Alhaji defiled underage girls and he overlooked it because he used to eat fried meat in his house. There is another unprofessionalism we marked out on the part of the DPO. When Joy died in Alhaji’s apartment, from our investigations, and what the witnesses confessed to, that morning when Martha got to the apartment, she saw Alhaji, Elizabeth, the nurse and the other Gift.
These four including herself and the deceased were in the building. But when the police came, they saw one person dead and one unconscious. Others were okay. They took the deceased to the mortuary and ordered embalming, took the sick girl to the hospital, let go of the three and arrested one. Now, the one they arrested was a minor, a 14-year-old girl. They allowed all the mature people who could answer questions to go. In fact, till today, the police have not mentioned the nurse who is central to the whole incident.
You were at some of the meetings called by the DPO. What can you say about him?
I attended the meetings with my colleagues in disguise because the first time he saw us and we identified ourselves as lawyers, he was not comfortable. We had to disguise as family members before he welcomed us for the meeting. When the meeting was to start, he said he didn’t want any recording.
Did you suspect anything then?
Yes, I did. He didn’t know the name of the deceased’s mother. I was the person that told him. He said he was making a report to his superiors. I asked him which report and he said, “This matter now.” I further asked him which matter. He then said, “You know all these small girls, this Alhaji used to help them, at times, they would massage him.” While he was talking, Martha was in the office and he pointed at her and said, “This is one of them; they just go there and massage him, they would even steal his money, but the other time when something like this happened, I told this girl (Martha) not to go there again and now again she went there, that was why I even arrested her.”
When we asked about the suspect, he said “Who is the suspect? There is no suspect in this matter. This is not a crime, the girl just died. It is a natural and untimely death, so there is no case.” I also asked about the woman’s (Philomena) statement and he said, “It wasn’t necessary. There is no case to answer.” For me, the police have shown openly that they are covering up something and that’s why I am not surprised. When we went for the second meeting, I saw the AIG, Umoru Shehu, who left his office and came to the divisional police station in respect of the case. Normally, when a matter is beyond a police division, you transfer to the area command before it goes to him. But it is wrong for an AIG to breach this protocol, go to the division and say this case is closed. At that point, it was clear to us that there was a cover up; an impunity that says I ‘am above all.’ That was when we decided that if there is a country called Nigeria, if there is a constitution that guides us and if there is something called the rule of law, then we must give this case all it takes, even if it takes our lives.
Do you have confidence in the police to carry out a thorough investigation on the matter?
Not at all. We have already called on the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation to take over the case. Anything the police are doing now is a game. They told us Alhaji is at large but when we went to the force headquarters on June 8, we saw him there. Policemen were saluting him: the same Alhaji they said was at large.
Have you heard from the AGF?
He has not responded to us but we hope he would. It is only the Acting President that can do something. For me, the police are out of it. In fact, they should hands off the case. We are glad that the Cross River State governor has sent a legal team to take over the matter. The fact is, a crime is a crime, no matter the garb in which it is dressed. You heard what Elizabeth said that they gave her the injection too. Martha was infected with a sexually transmitted disease. The father ran to us and said his daughter was dying.