16-year-old Enugu student regains freedom after three months of unlawful detention

After spending three months in police prison, a sixteen-year-old Enugu State secondary school student was discharged on Friday.

Olu Omotayo, the President of the Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), a non-governmental organisation that has been following his case since his arrest last year, declared his release yesterday.

The 16-year-old secondary school student who has been unlawfully detained in the state police headquarters since October 2023 was the subject of a petition filed by CRRAN last week against Governor Peter Mbah.

In a petition that it copied to the state’s attorney general, commissioner of justice, Dr. Kingsley Udeh, and commissioner of police, Kanayo Uzoegbu, the organisation begged the governor for immediate action.

In the petition, which Omotayo signed, the group expressed regret that the police action interfered with the Senior Secondary School Two student’s academic pursuits and called the police action “a clear violation of the Child Rights Act 2023.”

The student had been arrested on October 9, 2023, and had been kept incommunicado without being brought before a court for any offence.

The group claimed that in order to free the boy who was detained on suspicion of rape, the police were requesting a total of N1.2 million.

The petition partly read: “We write to you in respect of the above-mentioned matter on behalf of an SS2 student in one of the secondary schools in the state, who has been in police detention at the State Police Headquarters Enugu since October 9, 2023.

“Mr. and Mrs. Eze, the distressed parents of the detained child had told the organisation that a family friend, and complainant to the police, “one Mrs. Blessing Erede, who attends same church with them, by virtue of which children of both families exchanged visits, but due to an altercation between them and Mrs. Erede, she came with the police to their house on October 9, 2023, and alleged that their son raped her 16-year-old girl named Mary, sometimes in May 2023, and also in June 2023.

“The Ezes further revealed that since October 9, 2023, when their son was detained, he has not been able to go back to school.

“They further stated that all efforts to settle the matter were rebuffed by Mrs. Erede, who insisted that their son must go to jail, even the intervention of the father of the victim, Mr. Erede, a serving Police officer could not secure the release of the detained child, as his estranged wife Blessing, insisted that police should not release him.

“The Ezes further stated that despite the fact that the victim denied that she was raped, and her father Mr. Erede stated that there was no rape; and also there was no medical examination/ Report to support rape, the Police decided to charge the child to court for rape.

“Mr. Erede not supporting what his wife was doing went further to depose to an affidavit before a Notary Public, stating that there was no iota of truth in the issue of rape raised by his wife but a ploy to extort money from the Eze family. The said affidavit is attached to this petition.

“The Police charged the child to court on the 26th October 2023, in Charge No. MEN/384C/2023, on a two count charge of rape. The lawyer to the child G.S.K Iriaka, raised objection to the arraignment of the Juvenile and the presiding Magistrate, His Worship J.I. Agu adjourned the matter to 1st November 2023, for argument.

“On the 1st November 2023, the court took argument on the matter and the child’s lawyer pointed out that by virtue of 207, 212, 216, 217 and 226 of the Child Rights Law, Enugu State, the child cannot be tried as an adult offender.

“The Learned Magistrate thereafter directed that the OC Legal of the state Police Headquarters should resolve the matter between the parties and secure the release of the detained child. The Ezes’ said they have been going to the office of the OC Legal, but were not able to meet the financial demands made on them.

“According to them the OC Legal demanded N500,000; the Investigating Police Officer Nwosu demanded N200,000, while the complainant also demanded N500,000.

“As the Ezes’ could not satisfy the demands of the police and the complainant, they have written to the office of the Honorable Attorney General vide a letter submitted to his office on 4th December 2023, wherein they sought justice.”

The group, however, appealed to the governor to use his good office to intervene in the matter to ensure that justice was done in the circumstance of the case.

“We believe that the continued detention of the child at the Police Headquarters Enugu for over 3, months is a grave violation of rights of a Nigerian Child and the refusal of the Police to admit him to bail is not only worrisome but also a clear assault on the Administration of Criminal Justice in the state and Nigeria as a whole. We seek your intervention.”