The counsel representing the first and fourth defendants in the trial of dismissed officers opened the cross-examination of third prosecution witness (PW3) as case resumed on Friday.
The counsel, Elder David Abuo, cross-examined third prosecution witness, Victor Ogbonna, before the Port-Harcourt High Court presided by Hon. Justice Florence Fiberesima.
The defence counsel represents the first defendant Fidelis Ayogu and fourth Rose Georgewill who are among officers facing charges of alleged murder and act with intent to maim.
Under cross-examination the witness said the five Ikokwu mechanics were arrested in 2019 by officers of disbanded Eagle Crack Unit of the Nigeria Police Force saying that he remembered what happened.
He said that they were wearing only boxer shorts while in detention adding that he had told the court that the defendants used Toyota Highlander Jeep in the operation.
He however said he did not know the registration number of the Highlander Jeep used in the operation.
He also said that he knew owners of the cars they were working on but not their names.
The witness also said that he did not know the name of the officer who was in charge of the case saying that police took their statement while in detention at Eagle Crack Unit.
He said when they were taken to DPO’s office two of the defendants standing trial were present saying when he made statement to police the four defendants were present.
At a point the counsel requested statement made by the prosecution witness at the Eagle Crack Unit leading to a hot session between the prosecuting and the defence counsels and the judge stressing that there was need for the trial to speed up.
She had however granted the application by the counsel for the statement made at Eagle Crack Unit by the witness to be brought to court and had directed that the prosecuting counsel apply for the statement from the Nigeria Police and make it available to the defence counsel by next hearing.
The judge also said any cost incurred should be borne by the Rivers State Government.
The witness said upon arrest the defendants had allegedly collected his phone and money.
At that point the judge adjourned the case for continuation of hearing to 15, 18 and 23 March.
Speaking in an interview, the counsel representing the first and fourth defendants said that he needed the statement by the witness because the law allowed him to examine statements made outside the court and ones made before the court.
The defence counsel said: “Under the Evidence Act, the law allows us to look at the statement of a witness made outside the court and compare it with the one he’s making before the court to test his veracity”.
He said the statement was made by the witness to the police investigating officer (IPO) at Eagle Crack Unit.
Asked about how the statement would help him in the trial, the counsel said that he would not prejudge it until he sees it.
And asked how he could get his clients out of the charges, the counsel said: “My duty is to let the court know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The truth of the matter (is) when it happened, the court was not there. The policeman was not there. The only people that know the truth are the witnesses and the defendants. So my duty is to make sure I expose the whole truth to the court so that the court will arrive at a reasonable conclusion”.
Elder Abuo said that he had witnesses to testify in the case.
The four defendants: Ayogu Fidelis, Eke Chibuzor, Egbunafu Felix and Rose Georgewill face five counts of alleged murder and act with intent to maim.
They are being accused of brutalizing five Ikokwu mechanics leading to the death of one of the mechanics, Chima Ikwunado, who allegedly died in detention.
The five mechanics were arrested in December 2019 for allegedly driving against traffic and were taken to Mile I Police Station where they had been allegedly detained and tortured.
The case was first heard at the Magistrate Court before it was transferred to the State High Court where the defendants had appeared for trial.
The officers were dismissed before their trial.
Meanwhile, the state counsel, Chidi Ekeh, who had opposed the application for the statement told the court that he was for murder trial and not for statement made to the police at the Eagle Crack Unit.
He said that what was in his possession was the statement made to the Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID) over alleged death of the victim which he said was also in the possession of the defence counsels.
Speaking at a previous interview over the trial, the state counsel had said that crimes were committed against the state and not against individuals implying that it was responsibility of the state to prosecute crime.
The Rivers State Government took over the case from the State Police Command to prosecute the alleged offenders.