The Investigating Police Officer in charge of a rape and ritual murder case has been dismissed and arraigned in court following the suspect's escape.
A statement from the State Police Command signed by its spokesman, DSP Nnamdi Omoni, states that Sgt. Okoroeze is facing charges for allegedly aiding the escape of the suspected ritual killer, Ifeanyi Dike, from the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department [SCIID], Port Harcourt, just a day after he was arrested.
Dike, a 23-year-old undergraduate of the University of Port Harcourt, was arrested by local vigilantes on the morning of Saturday, August 19, 2017, after he allegedly abducted an eight-year-old girl, Victory Chikamso, and raping her repeatedly before killing her.
He then proceeded to cut off her vital organs like the tongue, eyes, breasts, finger and the private parts for ritual purposes.
He was handed over to the police but a day after, he reportedly escaped from detention, apparently with the connivance of insiders.
Sgt. Okoroeze who was also arraigned by the police before a chief magistrate’s court on two counts bordering on obstruction of justice and conspiracy, was remanded in custody for the alleged offences.
Though the charges were not read to the accused, the Chief Magistrate, Sokari Andrew-Jaja, cautioned him as he cried uncontrollably inside the court before his case was mentioned.
It was gathered that Sgt. Okoroeze who was the Investigating Police Officer in the case had removed the suspect’s handcuffs while he took his statements.
The victim’s father, Dr. Ernest Nmezuwuba who was also in the charge room at the time, had earlier told journalists that the IPO used candlelight while taking the suspect's statement as there was no power supply in the area.
The darkness was said to have given the suspect cover as he managed to sneak out of the station and escape and his whereabouts had remained unknown.
The State Commissioner of Police, CP Ahmed Zaki had earlier ordered the dismissal and arraignment of Sgt. Okoroeze for criminal conspiracy.
The accused, who was brought to the court in handcuffs, reportedly cried profusely on the premises.
He was heard saying:
“What have I done to myself? What did I do? Call my wife for me. Please, call my wife for me.”
The charges preferred against the dismissed officer read:
"That you, Johnbosco Okoroeze, on August 19, 2017, at about 8.30 pm, at the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Port Harcourt, in the Port Harcourt Magisterial District, did assist one Ifeanyi Dike, who is to your knowledge, guilty of the offence of murder of one Chikamso Nmezuwuba, aged eight years, for rituals, to escape when he was to be detained for prosecution, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 322 of the Criminal Code Cap 37, Vol. II, Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999.
That you, Johnbosco Okoroeze, on the same date, time and place in the aforesaid magisterial district, did conspire with a suspect, Ifeanyi Dike, and allowed him to escape from prosecution to prevent and defeat the course of justice, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 126 (1) of the Criminal Code Cap 37, Vol. II, Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.”
The chief magistrate observed that while the first charge could earn Okoroeze a life sentence if found guilty, the second charge could earn the dismissed police sergeant a seven-year jail term if found guilty.
The chief magistrate then ordered that the suspect be remanded in prison custody without an option for a bail, while the case was adjourned until September 14, 2017, for an adoption of written addresses.