The independent investigative panel on violations of rights by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), on Wednesday, ordered the police to release the body of a victim of an alleged extrajudicial killing to her family for burial.
The chairman of the panel, Justice Suleiman Galadima (retd), gave the order after the Chief Pathologist of the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), Gwagwalada, Abuja, Dr Ahmed Abimiku, testifying on the autopsy report on the cause of death of the woman, Ifeoma Abugu Stella.
The family of the deceased had petitioned the panel, in the petition, marked 2020/IIP-SARS/ABJ/82, alleging the extrajudicial killing of Stella, inhuman and degrading treatment against DSP Melai Isaac, Inspector Enlemali Agbede and Sergeant Ezekiel Agbede, the officer in charge of FCT SARS, the FCT Commissioner of Police and the Inspector-General of Police.
The panel’s order was sequent to the application to that effect made by Ifeanyi Mamah, counsel for the petitioner, for the release of Stella’s remains to the family to enable them to bury her.
Testifying earlier, Dr Abimiku, who conducted the autopsy, informed the panel that the body was brought to the UATH for post-mortem two weeks after death.
According to him, the police told the hospital that the deceased died as a result of intake of cocaine, adding that the autopsy, however, proved otherwise.
“I asked them, was she taking or selling but they said nothing. When urine test was conducted to ascertain if it was an intake of cocaine that led to her death, it all showed negative,” Dr Abimiku told the panel.
He further told the panel that in the course of carrying out the autopsy, dried sperms were noticed in her vagina of the deceased, adding that it was not clear if the sperms were from sexual assault while in police custody or from her fiancee since they were living together.
He said that the possible cause of her death might be a lack of oxygen.
When being cross-examined by James Idachaba, counsel for the respondents, what was the use of autopsy, the pathologist said it was used to establish the cause of death.
He informed the panel that it was the police who paid for the autopsy carried out by the teaching hospital.
Meanwhile, the panel has the further hearing of the petition till March 23 for the respondents to defend themselves.
When the petition was first heard on February 8, the fiancee to the late Stella, Afamuefuna Ugwunwa, alleged that the police killed her, claiming that she was on drugs and died as a result of a high intake of drugs.
Ugwunwa, who said he was a businessman, told the panel that the police alleged that they met the deceased, who he described as “my woman”, unconscious as of the time they came to look for him.
He declared that he knew his woman very well, saying that, “she does not take alcohol not to talk of drugs.”
The fiancée informed that the autopsy on the deceased did not show anything trace of drugs in her remains.
Also testifying before the panel that day, an elder brother of the deceased, Abugu Alex, informed that he was in Lagos when he was informed on September 13, 2020, that his sister was arrested by the police and that she had already died.
He informed that he came to Abuja from Lagos and went to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command headquarters, where he was told that his sister was on drugs.
According to him, “they (police) told me that my sister was on drugs and that she died as a result of drugs. I called my mother and she said I should get a lawyer.
“I saw my sister’s corpse at the Gwagwalada Hospital where they did the autopsy. That was on September 16. There were bruises on her body and foams on the mouth.”
NHRC orders police to release victim’s body for burial