A coalition of human rights and civil society organisations has appealed to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to intervene in the continued detention without trial of Gloria Okorie by the Nigeria Police.
Gloria Okorie, 21, has been in police detention for over 100 days.
She was arrested on June 17, 2021 and detained secretly by the Inspector-General of Police’s Intelligence Response Team (IRT) at their Tiger Base office in Owerri, Imo State, before she was transferred to the Abuja headquarters of IRT.
Police claimed she was a spy for the Indigenous People of Biafra and the Eastern Security Network (ESN)
In an open letter to the vice president, the coalition said for 100 days, the police had continued to “stubbornly and contemptuously” detain Gloria in defiance of several legitimate efforts to release her, including a court order on the police to release her on bail or immediately charge her to court.
It noted that police had also rebuffed repeated pleas and efforts by her parents, family members and lawyers to secure her bail, civil society demands for her release on the grounds of her constitutional rights under Nigeria’s 1999 constitution as well as public outcry and media reports and critical commentaries over her continued detention by the police in flagrant violation of the law.
“This is an indictment on the rule of law credentials of the government,” it said.
“Your Excellency, for weeks Gloria’s parents and relatives searched for their daughter, running from community to community, hospitals to morgues, police station to police station, and churches, in search of any lead until her whereabouts was eventually disclosed by a commercial motorcyclist that was arrested alongside with Gloria two weeks earlier.
“This Good Samaritan traced Gloria’s family to inform them of the location of their ‘missing’ daughter.
“The police issued a belated and face-saving statement through their public relations unit claiming that Gloria was a spy for IPOB/ESN.
“This was in response to public outrage over her secret detention and enslavement for 70 days without charging her to court as required by law and causing her and her parents and community serious trauma.”
The coalition told the vice president that Gloria for the 100 days in unlawful detention has been stripped of every fundamental right guaranteed under the Nigerian constitution.
The document read in part: “Your Excellency, public safety is seriously imperiled when the police, as the primary law enforcement agency, constitute themselves into the despicable role of chief lawbreaker.
“For decades the police have remained a notorious institutional violator of human rights. Unfortunately, this culture carried over from colonial rule, through military rule now constitutes a major threat to our nascent democracy.
“The continued detention of Gloria without bail or charge should concern you and every Nigerian genuinely committed to the rule of law and public safety.
“Therefore, having exhausted all avenues to make the police act in accordance with the law unsuccessfully, we are writing to you as a father, a pastor and the vice president of the country to kindly use your good offices to intervene in the continuing detention of Gloria by the police and help bring an end to the trauma and plight of her parents, family, and community.”
It also informed the vice president how the police, “in a vengeful move” lured back to the station the commercial motorcyclist that revealed Gloria’s whereabouts, re-arrested and mercilessly brutalized him.
“His whereabouts remain unknown as we write this letter. There are speculations that he may have been killed for disclosing that Gloria and other detainees have been secretly held in IRT custody in Owerri, Imo State.
“Therefore, the police must be made to account for his whereabouts. Hundreds of other youths are similarly languishing in secret detention. This is not acceptable in a democracy,” it added.
A total of 36 human rights and civil society organisations signed the open letter, including the Civic Space Consortium, Spaces for Change, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre (IPCRC), Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation (HURSDEF), Public Enlightenment Project (PEP)
Citizens’ Solution Network, Centre for Community Empowerment and Poverty Eradication (CCEPE), Centre for Impact Advocacy, Human Rights Defender (HURIDE), Centre Against Injustice and Domestic Violence (CAIDOV), Human Right Advocacy and Monitoring Group (HURAMG), Access to Justice, Ethics and Corporate Compliance Institute of Nigeria, and NOPRIN Foundation.