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The Nigerian Police Force on Tuesday told the IIP-SARS that they have the power to investigate, arrest and prosecute any person allegedly involved in criminal breach of trust and cheating saying that they are empowered to do so by the Police Act.

The police was responding to Engr. Nicholas Ogbedo Azuka's petition over alleged abuse of office and arbitrary arrest in a case of criminal breach of trust reported against him by Mr. Uzoma Nwachukwu and Mrs. Victoria Nwachukwu (couple), who had informed the panel that Engr. Azuka defrauded them while trying to purchase a property (house) from him.

Counsel to the police, Fidelis Ogwobe reiterated the powers of the police to effect arrest while investigating criminal breach of trust before the 11-Member Panel Chaired by Justice Suleiman Galadima (rtd) in respect of the petition.

According to Ogwobe, from the evidence before the panel, there is a valid criminal allegation against the complainant (Engr. Azuka) for which the police arrested and detained him. He cited Section 66 of the Police Act which he noted empowers the police to deal with such matters.

In furtherance of his reply on points of law to the written address of the petitioner, the police counsel recalled that the evidence of Mr. King Uzoma Nwachukwu and Mrs. Victoria Nwachukwu, who are 3rd and 4th respondents respectively in the matter shows that there is a valid criminal allegation against the complainant.

Responding to the complainant's position that the police lack the power to recover money from him during their investigation of the aforementioned criminal breach of trust, Ogwobe told the panel that the police are empowered by the law to investigate cases of breach of trust which culminated into criminal acts.

On the contention by the complainant that the money recovered by the police during investigation should be returned to him, he argued that the Supreme Court has already taken a decision on similar matters, citing the case of Ajiboye Versus Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) where the Supreme Court held that courts (and by extension panel) should not allow any person to take a benefit of his crime.

Rather, the police lawyer urged the panel to order the complainant to return the remaining alleged proceeds of crime still with him which he said amounts to N2.3m.

On their oral submission before the panel, Mr. and Mrs. Nwachukwu who did not have a lawyer to present their case before the panel said that they filed and served their written address in respect of the matter on all the parties.

Mr. Nwachukwu, though not a lawyer, addressed the panel on behalf of himself and his wife saying that they want the petitioner, Engr. Azuka to balance them the sum of N2.3m, having willingly refunded them the sum N1.4m earlier.

Besides, he prayed the panel to order in their favour, a compensation of N5m against the complainant, saying "we are suffering as a result of the debt and we do not have money to hire a lawyer to defend us".

Earlier, Counsel to the complainant, Henry Ebu asked the panel to determine whether Inspector Henry of defunct SARS FCT played the proper role expected of a police officer in the matter and to also establish whether Mr. and Mrs. Nwachukwu are entitled to the reliefs they are seeking before the panel.

In addition, he pleaded with the panel to ensure that officers deserving punishment in the case did not hide under the cover of the Institution of the Police, but are rather fished out for appropriate punishment including dismissal where necessary. He said such measures will serve as a deterrent to other police officers in the field of operation.

The case was adjourned for report of the panel.