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Joi Nunieh: Former Rivers PPRO Carpets Police, Says Action Was Invasion, Not Arrest

Dr. Uche Mike Chukwuma is a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, an author of several books on ways to improve policing in Nigeria; and onetime spokesperson of the Rivers State Police Command.

Chukwuma was guest on Rhythm 93.7 View Point on Saturday, July 18, 2020 where he spoke on the saga concerning the attempted arrest of former Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Dr. Joi Nunieh.

Dr. Uche Mike Chukwuma is a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, an author of several books on ways to improve policing in Nigeria; and onetime spokesperson of the Rivers State Police Command.

Chukwuma was guest on Rhythm 93.7 View Point on Saturday, July 18, 2020 where he spoke on the saga concerning the attempted arrest of former Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Dr. Joi Nunieh.

Excerpts:

Let us look at the protocol of arrest, you are aware of everything that happened on Thursday concerning Joi Nunieh.  People are asking what is the protocol and process for arrest?  Was the police right in what it did?  The commissioner of Police has come out to say that those men are actually men of the Nigeria Police Command and that in all cases, there is no need for warrant of arrest.  Just put us through.  What is the protocol for arrest?

You don't need warrant of arrest if someone is considered criminal and violent, but if someone is considered highly placed in society, you need a warrant of arrest dully signed by a Magistrate or a judge of competent jurisdiction to arrest such a person. However, if somebody is considered not a high-level criminal or is seem not to constitute a threat to security invitation, you don't need a warrant of arrest.  All you need do is to invite the person to the Police station.  The person will appear in the station and answer whatever question he or she is levelled against. 

I know that Nigeria is a signatory to both the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human Rights.  Nigeria has also domesticated both charters in her local laws and in recognition of that, Article 9 of this charter provides that no one should be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.  Let us situate this to the case of Dr. Joi Nunieh.  Let us even look at the time the arrest was to be made.  According to the statement issued by Joi Nunieh, the policemen were in her premises around 4 am.  What does the protocol on arrest say?  Does it talk about time frame?

I did not see any sense in that invasion of Joi Nunieh's house by 4 am or whatever the time was.  In the first place, the issue concerning Joi Nunieh and Senator Akpabio was an administrative issue that needed to be properly investigated.  Already, the National Assembly had already stepped in and was investigating it.  So, who was it that they actually invited the police?  That should be the first question.  Is it the Presidency or the National Assembly? A person who has a case cannot be a judge around it.  Who wrote petition against Joi Nunieh in a case that is already in the public domain? I do not see the sense in inviting the police at this point in time.

Secondly, going to Joi Nunieh's house with armed policemen at that point in time, within that period of the day or night was uncalled for.  Even with the IG's monitoring squad, as they claim was not supposed to have gone to her house. If they actually needed Joi Nunieh, all they would have done was to extend an invitation to her.  I don't think that Joi Nunieh would have disobeyed the Commissioner of Police, if he had asked her to come to Police Headquarters where she could have felt safe.

You are a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police.  Let us also look at the protocols of arrest.  Section 4 of the Police Act empowers the police to dictate and prevent the commission of crime, apprehend any suspected offender, preserve the law, protect lives and properties and others. That section 4 said that in the performance of their duties, the police must ensure that it adheres  to various human rights protection protocols some of which include mandatory informing of suspects of the ground for an arrest except where the offence was actually committed in the presence of a police officer or the suspect was fleeing the scene of an offence or escaping law custody. 

Now, the Commissioner of Police has come to tell us that there are cases whereby a warrant of arrest is not needed.  Could you just enlighten us more, and situating the case involving Joi Nunieh?  Is it one of such cases where a warrant of arrest is not needed?

Totally uncalled for.  I call that an invasion, that issue of going to Joi Nunieh's residence was uncalled for, officially speaking, legally speaking.  Joi Nunieh's case, she didn't need to be arrested as a matter of reality.  All she needed was an invitation.  It's what the protocols of arrest, processes, fundamental human right.  She needed an invitation and not an arrest.  Not even talking about warrant of arrest.

Joi Nunieh is not an armed robber, not a kidnapper and not a murderer.  She is not a violent criminal that anybody would want to storm her house. Her matter does not even need an invitation.  If there was any allegation against her, she needs to be invited to clarify it.  The issue of an arrest does not come in, before talking about the warrant.  To arrest her at all, you need a warrant and go there at the right time when normal human beings have woken up.  She would know that they are coming and she would arm herself with her lawyer and relatives and know where she is going to for her own safety because we are talking about human life in this case.

Could you clarify to us, when you say you go in at a time when normal human beings have woken up, what time, according to Police protocol?

6 am to 6 pm.

Which means that going to her residence by 4 am to arrest her is against the Police protocols, is that what you are saying?

As long as she is not a violent criminal, and as long as she did not commit any violent crime and is not sub-mon-to-be, armed with any violent group around her, you don't need to be in her house anything before 6 am and after 6 pm.

What are the contents of this petition?  I am asking this question.  Joi Nunieh is a learned and enlightened person.  She aught to have been informed that there is a petition against her on so, so and so topic.  She is expected to appear before the police station at so, so and so time.  If they are people from Abuja, they are supposed to be there at the Commissioner's office while she comes to visit them there at the Commissioner's office.  From there, they can now take her, if necessary and only if necessary, to Abuja.  But she has to start from somewhere she feels safe and secured.

Unlike the situation where her house was invaded by people, she did not know who initially claim they were policemen, even if they were later confirmed to be policemen.  She wouldn't have known that they were policemen, considering the time and manner with which they visited her residence.

There is a big difference between an arrest, invitation and invasion.  The security situation today is not something you can easily discern.  In visiting somebody's house, you must announce your arrival, particularly in situations like this one. 

For me, as a person, the police has powers to arrest anybody to break in and to break out, but which house are you breaking in and breaking out?  What is the offence of the person and what is the position of this person in society?

There are so many unanswered questions that need to be answered in this case.  I am not against the police but I am against the procedure and processes of this arrest or attempted arrest.

You are correct there because we are not against the police.  We are looking at processes and procedure and what guides the processes and procedure of arrest in the Criminal Act.  We are looking at the various relevant sections.  According to the Criminal Act, there are people that don't need a warrant of arrest.  But again, let us look at the confusion that ensued in the first place because Governor Wike said while addressing the press that he called the Commissioner of Police and the CP said he was not aware.  And later on, the Commissioner of Police said the police is confirming the identities of these men.  Ordinarily, as a senior police officer and retired ACP, when you have the IG team visit the state, where should be their first point of call?

When the IGP or any very senior police officer or a VIP of the federal Republic of Nigeria is coming to any state, the governor must be properly informed that he is coming in.

I am talking about the IGP investigating team.

The IGP investigating team must come to the Police Headquarters first and foremost.  The Commissioner of Police must be aware of their arrival, even before their arrival.  And when they do arrive, they would be introduced to him physically.  The Commissioner would endorse their arrival or direct his assistant to endorse their destination.  And when they leave the headquarters, they would go to the Divisional Headquarters that has immediate jurisdiction and announce their arrival before they move in. that's the procedure.

But it is a little bit confusing when Governor Wike said the Commissioner of Police said he is not aware.  What could have happened? Is it possible that the IGP investigating team would have gone straight?

There is no way the Commissioner of Police wouldn't have been aware.  Let me be very frank, if you have read my book 'Chronicle of my testimony', I gave testimony at Abuja over the governorship issue between Governor Wike and Dakuku Peterside.  The Commissioner of Police who actually gave me a hundred thousand Naira to move the same date, later denied that he was not aware of my movement to Abuja.  It was documented in my book for people to see.  People should not because of their personal interest, abuse professional processes.  I am not aware whether the Commissioner said or did not say he was not aware of their arrival, all I know is that the Commissioner of Police must be aware that visitor from the zone or colleagues from the zone or federal headquarters arrived his command.

Even if a Commissioner of Police from any other state, they must arrive at the State Headquarters first and foremost and get their letters endorsed to the Divisional Police Headquarters that has jurisdiction of that case.  That is the procedure, official, it has not changed.

Rivers State Governor, taking Joi Nunieh into custody at that particular moment, in what way does this impede the arrest or has it in any way impeded the arrest by the Nigeria Police?

Let me be very frank with you, the Governor of a state is the Chief Security Officer and father of the state.  What is security?  Ensuring the safety of your people or children.  The question is, who are the people who actually came to whisk away Joi Nunieh? Who were they?  Nobody knew them until now that clarifications are being made.

The governor was pragmatic enough to have personally brought down himself as a Governor, left his residence and his comfort to go and rescue her.  What he did was rescue and not prevention of arrest.  Now that we know the people that came, the governor will not say that he will not release her, unless there is a counter directive from any legal authority.  What the governor did was safeguarding the life of a big daughter of Rivers State.

You see the issue of the Supreme Court justice whose house was raided sometime ago.  The governor did what any father could have done, what any chief security officer could have done.  Whether you believe it or not, I am not a politician.  What the governor did is pragmatism, leadership, fatherism all in one.  Anybody can take sides but I say it the way it is.

Now the Commissioner of Police has said they are demanding that the Governor should hand over Joi Nunieh to the Nigeria Police, in the line of police protocols or policing, what should be done here?

The Commissioner of Police does not need to demand.  He is a member of the State Security Council.  He works with the Governor.  Let me be very frank with you, we should separate politics from administration.  We should also separate politics from security.

I see politics prying into this issue.  That is why I asked the question, 'Who actually petitioned Joi Nunieh?  That is the one thing you journalists should find out.  I heard the Commissioner of Police saying that there is a petition against Joi Nunieh and that she is a criminal.  That is not a statement you make publicly.  To call her a criminal, the court must confirm that by its judgment.  So, who petitioned Joi Nunieh?  That's one question nobody has asked up till now.  We know that she has an allegation and counter allegation with Senator Akpabio.  Two of them are suspects.  Are they to become judges in their own cases? No, an independent body must have to investigate them and come out with the state of the situation, to enable us the listening public, to actually know who is culpable in this NDDC saga.  We only hear of NDDC, most of us are yet to enter the compound.  This issue is of public interest.

You said something in the course of discussion.  You said the Commissioner of Police need not call on the Rivers State Government to hand over Joi Nunieh because he is part of the State Security Council.  What should he have done?

If he had a good relation with the governor, all he needed to have done was a telephone conversation or a visit to the Government House and sort out things with the Governor, that's all.  He is a member of the State Security Council and I do not think he does not attend and the governor is not a stranger to him.  Unless there is a political influence somewhere.