One month after NOPRIN wrote this letter to Governor Okorocha- the second letter we are writing to him since he assumed office in May 2011, we are still waiting to justice done in this case of subversion of justice in the case of murder by a former member of Imo State House of Assembly and later, Special Adviser to former Governor Ohakim, Jasper Ndubuaku.
Hon. Jasper Ndubaku
The Governor of Imo State
His Excellency, Owelle Rochas Okorocha,
RE: ‘RE: THE MURDER OF AUGUSTINE IGBOKWE BY JASPER NDUBUAKU, ATTEMPTED MURDER OF CHINEDU NWANGUMA BY RICHARD NDUBUAKU AND THE OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE BY THE FORMER ATTORNEY-GENERAL AND COMMISSIONER FOR JUSTICE, IMO STATE, KCO NJEMANZE, SAN AND FORMER GOVERNOR IKDEI OHAKIM.’
NOPRIN Foundation (Network on Police Reform in Nigeria) is a network of 46 civil society organizations spread across Nigeria, and committed to promoting police accountability and respect for human rights. It was established in 2000 to provide opportunity for civil society involvement in police reform, and the promotion of safety, security and justice in Nigeria. NOPRIN is registered in Nigeria and carries out its mandate through monitoring, field research and investigation, documentation, publication, campaign and advocacy. NOPRIN partners with national, international, governmental and intergovernmental organizations and institutions in implementing its programs aimed at transforming law enforcement institutions and practices in Nigeria.
NOPRIN Foundation writes to you in response to the letter referenced MJI/S.50/T.3/124 dated 4th August, 2011, addressed to you by the Hon. Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice, Imo State, Barrister Soronnadi Njoku. The said letter was in reply to yours to him dated 28th July, 2011 bearing NO. GH/PL/S.66/VII/282 and copied our organization, NOPRIN Foundation.
The Hon. Attorney General’s Shocking Reply
The Honourable Attorney General /Commissioner for Justice, Imo State, Barrister Soronnadi Njoku in his reply to yours,wrote:
‘I acknowledge receipt of letter No. GH/PL/S.66/VII/288 dated 29th July 2011.’
‘I respectfully point out that since I assumed office here as the Hon. Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice exactly six weeks ago, this is the 5th letter I have received in connection with this matter. I have also receivedthree delegations in respect of the same matter. All this show a deliberate design by the petitioners to stampede me into a decision in a matter that has lingered for the past four years, with over four volumes of files in this Ministry.’
‘I urge Your Excellency to please kindly prevail on the petitioners to give me some breathing space to enable me settle down on this job, and to find time to go through the four volumes files on this matter, so as to be able to take a decision one way or the other.’
He concluded with the following paragraph:
‘The kind of back-breaking pressure they are subjecting me to in this matter is neither healthy on my person, nor to our justice delivery system.
Your Excellency, this was the Honourable AG response to your letter to him dated 28th July, 2011 and which was prompted by ours to you dated June 22, 2011 on the above subject matter.
We find it worrisome and telling that the Honourable Attorney general, rather than see the avalanche of letters to his office,the three delegations to him and four volumes of files as indicative of the gravity of this matter and the urgency it called forth; and rather than understand the ‘pressure’ from the community as the yearnings of a helpless and despondent communitycrying for justice, he chose to interpret it as ‘back-breaking pressure’ and an attempt to ‘stampeded him into a decision in a matter that has lingered on for the past four years…’ We had thought that the fact that this matter has lingered for four yearsought to form the basis for the AG to take special interest in it, find out why it has lingered, and accord it the expedited attention it deserves, since it is said that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.
While we found the tone of the AG’s letter unnecessarily belligerent and dispiriting, we nonetheless, decided to tarry and allow the Hon. AG take as much time as he would to settle down on his job, study the ‘four volume files and take a decision one way or the other’ and communicate his decision to us either directly or through Your Excellency to whom we addressed our appeal in the first place.
As at date, it is 6 clear months since the Hon Attorney General wrote his letter. We are dismayed that he has not yet foundenough time to communicate to us whatever may be his decision.
Restating our Case:
In our letter to you, dated June 22, 2011 we brought to your attention, on behalf of the Igbokwe family and concerned members of Ekwedim Community in Isiala Mbano LG the cold blooded murder of late Augustine Igbokwe by Mr. Jasper Ndubuaku and the attempted murder of another member of the community, Chinedu Nwanguma by Mr. Richard Azubuike Ndubuaku on April 14, 2007.
These acts of murder and attempted murder took place along Okpohuru road, Umuakam, Isiala Mbano LGA Imo State following a long-standing community-related dispute.
Mr. Jasper Ndubuaku (who as at the time of commission of the crime of murder, was a member of the Imo State House Assembly, representing Isiala Mbano Constituency, and later, Special Assistant to the former Governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim) was engaged in an argument with the late Augustine Igbokwe and he (Jasper Ndubuaku) pulled out a gun and shot Mr. Igbokwe point blank and he fell and died on the spot.
Mr. Chinedu Nwanguma rushed to carry Mr. Igbokwe when he fell down and Mr. Richard Azubuike Ndubuaku, who was with Jasper at the time, pulled his own gun and shot Mr. Chinedu Nwanguma on the chest and abdomen. Chinedu Nwanguma was later taken to the hospital and survived the gunshot.
Police Investigation Indicts Jasper Ndubuaku and Azubuike Ndubuaku
Police investigation- which spanned three years owing to interferences by the accused persons and other political interests in the matter with a view to influencing its outcome- eventually indicted Jasper Ndubuaku and Azubuike Ndubuaku and recommended that they be arraigned and tried for murder and attempted murder, respectively.
The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Ministry of Justice, Imo State, after studying the case file, approved the trial of Jasper Ndubuaku and Azubuike Ndubuaku and directed the Imo State Police Command to arrest and charge them to the Magistrate Court for murder and attempted murder respectively.
By a letter dated March 25, 2010 with reference 3510/X/LEG/FAQ/AB/VOL.2/36 the Commissioner of Police (Legal /Prosecution), Force Headquarters, had conveyed to the Commissioner of Police, Imo State the advice of the DPP Imo State on the report of police investigation which indicted Mr. Jasper Ndubuaku and Richard Azubuike Ndubuaku for the murder of Augustine Igbokwe and the attempted murder of Chinedu Nwanguma, respectively on April 14, 2007. The letter directed the CP Imo to ensure the arrest of the named suspects ‘for murder and attempted murder respectively as directed by the DPP.’In its own letter to the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Abuja, dated February 12, 2010 with reference number DPP/S.42/VOL.50/288 the DPP, Ministry of Justice, Imo State had called for the original case file of the matter ‘for the prosecution of the suspects for the offences of murder and attempted murder in the High Court of Imo State’. The DPP directed the police to expedite action and ‘arrest and arraign the accused persons at the Magistrate Court of Imo State, immediately.’
Former Attorney General K. C. O Njemanze SAN Perverts Justice
Shockingly, when the suspects were briefly arrested, the then AG, Imo State KCO Njemanze SAN, on March 10, 2010 wrote to the Imo State Police Headquarters, through the Solicitor General ordering the stoppage of arraignment of the suspects ‘pending further directives.’
Until the expiration of the term of the immediate past government in Imo State in which the former AG served, and despite several letters from various sources, including the affected community, human rights lawyers and organisations, etc appealing and calling on the former AG to allow justice to run its full course, the former AG Mr. KCO Njemanze sat on the case file and refused to give any ‘further directive’ or allowed the police carry out the orders of the DPP.
Former Governor Ohakim Shields Culprits from Justice
Also, former governor Ohakim persistently ignored all the letters addressed to him by Ekwedim community and several human rights groups appealing to him to direct the then AG Imo State to allow the police to discharge their duties without hindrance, and to release his aide to face justice.
Emboldened by this air of impunity, Jasper continued to prowl and parade the community with thugs, terrorizing and boasting that the Imo State Judiciary was in his pocket. In one of their several letters to former Governor Ohakim, Ekwedim community lamented:
‘… the blood of our son is constantly crying for justice… Our people are embarrassed and worried that the Imo State Ministry of Justice is trying to cover up a clear case of murder and attempted murder…’
NOPRIN strongly believes that the former AG of Imo State allowed political considerations to becloud his sense of justice and professionalism. The failure of various levels of government and authority, including President Jonathan to respond to appeals by the family and other groups to intervene and prevail on the AG and the former governor of Imo State to allow justice to prevail also put to serious doubt the sincerity of the federal government’s rule of law mantra.
This matter has passed through five successive Commissioners of Police in Imo State, who all gloated over it owing to political interference and compromise.
A New Dawn?
With your Excellency’s election which ended the tenure of the former governor who perverted justice by shielding his aide from justice and denying the victims justice, it was our hope that the obstacle to justice had been removed. We were further emboldened by your promise and commitment- during your swearing in ceremony- that in Imo State under youradministration, no criminal will go unpunished and no innocent person will suffer injustice. We therefore, decided to write toseek your intervention with a view to ensuring that justice was done at last in this matter. We saw this case as a litmus test ofyour avowed commitment to justice.
Alas, we are rudely shocked by the belligerent posture of the current Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice,Barrister Soronnadi Njoku. But we are not deterred in our resolve to continue to fight for justice in this matter!
Our hope that your election heralds a new dawn in the dispensation of justice in Imo State is still alive.
We hereby renew our appeal to you, on behalf of this helpless and traumatized families and community, to ensure that justice is not further delayed in this case. Today, it is Ekwedim community, tomorrow who knows who next? We call for justice on behalf of the victim’s family and community members.
In accordance with the police report and directive of the DPP, Imo State, we call for the immediate arrest and arraignment of Jasper Ndubuaku and Richard Ndubuaku for the offenses of murder and attempted murder respectively. This must be done not only in the interest of justice, but in order to demonstrate to these villains who were treated by the previous government as above the law, that they are actually not above the law. They must now be brought under the law to face justice.
We are already taking up issues with the Nigerian Bar Association and its relevant disciplinary and privileges committees,with a view to getting them to investigate the role of Mr. KCO Njemanze SAN, former Attorney General of Imo State in obstructing justice in this matter, and to take appropriate disciplinary actions against him if found guilty.
In conclusion we wish to state as follows,
‘Allowing those who commit abuses to get away with it helps perpetuate the cycle of violence. By contrast, ensuring that perpetrators are brought to justice gives a clear signal that abuses of human rights will not be tolerated, thereby helping to prevent future abuses. Nigeria has an obligation under international law to respect and protect human rights, which requires that effective measures be taken to combat impunity. This includes bringing perpetrators to justice in accordance with international human rights standards. Only by clarifying the truth about what happened, establishing accountability for human rights abuses, and bringing to justice those responsible can confidence in the justice system be restored and human rights protected.’ – A coalition of Nigerian civil society organisations and Amnesty International.
CC: National Human Rights Commission