• As lawyers demand his immediate release

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has given legal backing to the contempt proceedings initiated against the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Effiong Asuquo, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) of the Special Investigation Unit (S.I.U), over alleged disobedience of its order directing the unconditional release of a bank manager with Polaris Bank, Mr. Chinenye Hezekiah Duru from police custody.

Justice Donatus Okorowo had in his order dated January 5, 2024, ordered the unconditional release of Mr Duru, who has been in police custody since December 11, 2023, pending the determination of the originating summons filed against the respondents.

Already, the court has fixed Thursday, January 18 for the defendants to come and show cause why they will not be cited for contempt.

Form 48,(which is the notice for consequences of disobedience to a court order), dated January 12, was moved before the court on Monday, by counsel to the applicant, Chukwuemeka Kalu, who informed the court that the respondents were in flagrant disobedience to its order.

The said form 48 reads: “Take notice that unless you obey the direction contained in the order, you will be guilty of contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to prison.”

The bailiff of the court, Samuel Edeh, in an affidavit of fact in attached to form 48 deposed that he was given an order of the court to release the applicant, Dr. Hezekiah Chinenye Duru, from the custody of the Nigeria Police Force (Special Investigation Unit, FCT, Abuja).

He stated that he went there on four different occasions between Tuesday, January 9, 2024, and Thursday, January 11, 2024, “but they refused to honour the order of release from the court.”

He further deposed that: “I also went to the office of the Commissioner of Police (Legal and Prosecution section) to effect same service and he wrote an internal memo to the said S.I.U. on the need to comply with the order of the court but they still refused to accept or obey the order of the court.

” That they said only their Officer-in-charge -S.I.U. can give them any instruction before they can receive the order and release the applicant.

“That I called the O.C. in charge -S.I.U. through his phone number to explain the situation but he ended the call after listening to my explanation and he refused to pick my calls since then.

” That all efforts to effect the release of the applicant proved abortive,” the bailiff deposed.

Meanwhile, after listening to the applicant counsel, Kanu, Justice Okorowo fixed Thursday, January 18 for the respondents to come and show cause.

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The judge equally ordered that service of the court documents should be served on the respondents before the adjourned date.

According to court documents, the applicant has been having a running battle with his erstwhile spiritual leader, Most Rev. Prof. Onukogu Victor Hezekiah, popularly known as Daddy Hezekiah, Head, Living Christ Mission Church, with headquarters in Onitsha, Anambra State. The banker had served his spiritual leader as his financial adviser and accounts officer.

Trouble between the two men reportedly started when the banker, who was also a top shot of the Living Christ Mission, and some other people decided to leave the church, after expressing discomfort at some unethical developments around the religious group.

In reaction to the development, Daddy Hezekiah, was said to have turned on Duru and accused him of owing him billions of naira. The bishop reported the banker to the police. The matter is now in the court.

The Magistrates’ Court in Masaka, Nasarawa State had, on December 11, 2023, ordered the detention of Duru. But, on December 21, 2023, the court admitted him on bail. The Federal Court in Abuja, under Justice D.O. Okorowo, equally ordered the release from custody of Duru. The order has, however, not been obeyed.

Meanwhile, lawyers under the aegis of “Lawyers in Defence of Democracy and Himan Rights”, have called on the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Lateef Fagbemi and the Inspector General of Police IGP Kayode Egbetokun to intervene in an alleged unlawful detention of a banker, Chinenye Duru by Police since December 11, last year.

The lawyers are demanding that the detained banker be immediately released of or in the alternative, to be charged before law court for any offence he may have committed.

While faulting the detention of the banker on the ground that it is being done in flagrant disobedience to lawful orders of courts, the lawyers alleged that the fundamental rights of the banker are being unlawfully trampled upon.

At a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, the Spokesperson of the lawyers, Okere Kingdom Nnamdi said that the arrest and detention of the banker is in violation of sections 4, 5 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution.
They recalled that the church founder once petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) leading to the invitation of the detainee but left off when nothing incriminating was established against him.