70 year old Monarch allegedly dies of hunger, torture in Police custody in Calabar

The traditional ruler of Buanchor community in Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State, His Royal Highness Henry Okong has died as a result of alleged hunger, torture and denial of bail by the Nigeria Police Force in Calabar.

Okong, 70, died in the custody of the X-Squad Police at the state Police command headquarters, Calabar.

Investigation revealed that the monarch was first arrested on the third of August 2018 by the Police in Okundi, in Boki local government area in connection to a village mob manhandling of an elderly woman accused of witchcraft incident.

The woman who was accused of being responsible for the death of several young people in the community was almost lynched before the intervention of security personnel.

Suspected to be behind the mob attack on the aged woman, the Police picked him up and transfered the matter three later to the state headquarters in Calabar.

He was reportedly denied access to his family members, good food and healthcare while in detention. He died on 26 August.

It was also revealed that, while in detention, his over 30 years old son who was sick before his arrest also died.

Speaking, a family member who introduced himself just as Sam noted that “Chief did not have enough food to eat, and he was sickly”.

The late monarch's lawyer, Olivier Osang who was also counsel to other community leaders arrested alongside the village head alongside him said that despite the Police not seeing anything connecting his clients to the crime, he was denied bail till his death.

Osang said that “Three weeks ago when the traditional ruler took ill, he pleaded with the Police authorities, and they took him to their clinic where he was referred to another hospital. The Police authorities refused to grant him bail or take him to the prescribed hospital.

”The officer in charge of the case SUPOL Victor Okonkwo said he could not have released the late chief in the absence of the Police Commissioner whom he said was away as at then on his Sallah holiday without his authorisation.

“As I speak to you, the body of the late traditional ruler is not yet released to his community.  Nothing was found to suggest that he was culpable to the crime for which he was detained”.

When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Irene Ugbo who confirmed that the monarch died in Police custody denied the allegation of Police torture, harassment and starving.

She said that "It is not true that the man died of hunger and torture. Being in the cell already is torture so there's no how the Police would have tortured him again. When a suspect is arrested, he'll be allowed access to his family members who will bring food that will be screened to ensure it's not poisoned.

"The only thing that would have killed him is because of the tension that he will be charged to court; he couldn't handle it because of the atrocities he has committed in his community. Again, I think he was sick".
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