Under the auspices of the organization’s pro-bono legal assistance program, Spaces for Change | S4C has continued to explore different avenues to enforce the Order by the Imo State Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Security Breaches to release the corpses of Late Chidozie Chukwu and Late Magnus Okechukwu Okoro, who were allegedly tortured and killed by officers of Anti-kidnapping Unit, State CID Owerri, Imo State. Recall that on 28th April 2022, the Judicial Commission ordered Imo State Commissioner of Police and the Federal Medical Center (FMC) Owerri to release the bodies to their respective families for burial within 14 days of service of the Order and at no cost to the petitioner. S4C filed the petition at the Judicial Commission on behalf of mothers of the deceased young men.
To activate compliance with the court order served on Imo State Police Command, S4C’s legal team visited the newly-appointed Imo Commissioner of Police (CoP) to intimate him of the proceedings at the Commission. They also visited the management of Federal Medical Centre, Owerri demanding the release of the bodies to their families. These efforts met with a brickwall. The defiance of the police and hospital authorities necessitated further recourse to the Judicial Commission. On the 19th of May 2022, S4C’s Legal Officer, Chetachi Louise-Udeh, prayed the Commission to direct the FMC to release the bodies without further recourse to the Police. In response to S4C’s petition, the Commission issued a summon on FMC’s Chief Medical Director and Chief Mortician to appear before the Panel on 24 May 2022 to show cause why the release of the victims’ corpses in their custody have been delayed.
In spite of the summons served, the respondents were absent at the proceedings. S4C further urged the Commission to issue a warrant of arrest on FMC’s Chief Medical Director and the Chief Mortician. The Commission issued another Order directing the Chief Medical Director and Chief Mortician to release the corpses of the victims to their families on or before 28 May 2022 without cost and forward the records on compliance to the Commission on or before 31 May 2022. The petitioners were also directed to accompany the balliff to FMC in order to have firsthand information regarding the state of the corpses. On Friday, May 27, 2022, the petitioners, along with S4C legal team, met with FMC’s Head of Legal Unit who clarified that the corpses have not been released due to accrued bills arising from the cost of embalment and body preservation for almost one year. At the judicial proceedings held on 31 May 2022, FMC’s Legal Officer appeared before the Commission with receipts of the accumulated bills which must be paid in full because FMC is not a state-owned institution.
It is pertinent to note that the Judicial Commission is expected to conclude this special assignment of resolving security breaches in Imo State by the end of May 2022 unless there is an extension of time. The Commissioner of Police for Imo State and FMC management have continued to stall the dispensation of justice with their nonchalance and total disregard for due process. The petitioners, both of whom are widows, have suffered untold hardships in seeking closure regarding the deaths of their sons. The deceased young men were the breadwinners in their respective families and their dependants continue to grieve their absence. Spaces for Change is committed to ensuring that justice is served in this matter, starting with the release of the bodies of Late Chidozie Chukwu and Late Magnus Okoro to their families for proper burial.