Home News Eight Nigerians accused of attacking Kimberley cops seek bail

Eight Nigerians accused of attacking Kimberley cops seek bail

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The defence team representing eight Nigerian nationals, who allegedly attacked the police and damaged state property in Kimberley in retaliation after a fellow countryman was apprehended for drug possession, has argued that they were only arrested due to their nationality.

Eight Nigerian nationals are applying for bail after they allegedly attacked the police and damaged state property. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE DEFENCE team representing eight Nigerian nationals, who allegedly attacked the police and damaged state property in Kimberley in retaliation after a fellow countryman was apprehended for drug possession, has argued that they were only arrested due to their nationality.

The accused – Nnameka Unogu, Charles Annji, Steven Chijioke, Sophuru Umembu, Tochukwu Amajoyi, Okori Charles, Oken Kelechi and Kennedy Ebite – have been charged with malicious injury to property, illegal immigration, interference with the law, assault, public violence and obstruction of justice.

They appeared in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court this week for formal bail hearings.

They were arrested after police members were allegedly attacked and vehicles and windows at the Kimberley police station were damaged on April 18.

Captain Alfred Sibiya, from the provincial Detective unit, testified that the accused were in the country illegally, where some of their visas and permits had expired.

He pointed out that while they had children who were staying with their mothers, they were still considered a flight risk. “Even if they happen to marry a South African, it does not make them a permanent citizen of the country,” said Sibiya.

He indicated that the accused were either unemployed or were self-employed, working in hair salons at the taxi rank or informal restaurants, while one accused owned a tavern.

“They may easily leave the country and it will be very difficult to trace them especially if they have no relatives in the country. It is not as if their passports can be kept. If they leave the country, I will not know where to look for them across the border.”

Sibiya believed that the accused were highly likely to evade their trial dates.

“They should not be granted bail as they undermined the enforcement authorities and interfered in the administration of justice.”

Sibiya was also concerned that the incident could spark xenophobic attacks if the local community resorted to taking the law into their own hands.

He stated that at the time of the incident, the police had stopped and searched two men in front of a tyre puncture shop in Elliot Street, at around 4pm, while they were conducting routine patrols.

“One of the accused was found with drugs in his possession and also hidden in the tyres. Suddenly a group of men approached from the east and west sides of Elliot Street singing unknown songs and telling the police to stop harassing their compatriots. The police took out their pistols and fired a stun grenade and rubber bullets in order to disperse the mob when they started throwing stones at them.”

Sibiya stated that one of the accused was arrested when a police officer saw him picking up a stone and hurling it at him.

“Another accused helped the accused who was arrested and restrained for being in the possession of drugs to escape by obstructing the police. The police managed to apprehend him again.”

Sibiya added that the accused were very arrogant and failed to co-operate with the police.

“A police officer was manhandled when the accused grabbed his clothes. One of the accused swore at the police while they were in the waiting rooms at the police station in Phakamile Mabija Street. He assaulted the police with his fists and tore his shirt buttons when they tried to detain him.

“The accused refused to provide his name. The police at the cells knew him and registered his name in the docket.”

Sibiya indicated that a crowd of between 20-30 Nigerian nationals arrived at the police station demanding the release of their “leader”.

“They were very dissatisfied and wanted to speak to the station commander. I warned them that there would be repercussions as they were preventing members of the public from entering the police station. They wanted to complain about an incident of police brutality and showed me a picture of someone who had sustained wounds on the body. The picture was taken long ago and it appeared to be old bruises. I was unable to confirm if the injuries were inflicted by the police.”

He explained that he had advised them to follow the proper channels and open a case and refer the matter to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.

Sibiya stated that the crowd agreed to leave after he spoke to a representative.

He added that a group of people however returned to the police station after the representative was later arrested and released, whereupon the windows of the police station were damaged.

Chwaro Kgotlagomang, the legal representative for Unogu, Annji, Chijioke and Umembu, claimed that his clients were peaceful and were not involved in any acts of violence or damage to property.

“People were only gathering outside the police station and were not doing anything illegal. They also agreed to leave when requested to do so,” said Kgotlagomang.

He indicated that the accused only fled the scene and were chased by the police after a stun grenade was fired.

Kgotlagomang stated that his clients were asylum seekers in South Africa. “They cannot return to their country of origin until this process is completed.”

Advocate Marcus Mafaro, the legal representative for Amajoyi, Charles, Kelechi and Ebite, believed that his clients were only arrested because they were Nigerian nationals.

“Ebite was arrested and was taken to the waiting room at the charge office when police officers confiscated his cellphone and deleted the videos of the police arresting someone in Elliot Street. However, he had already sent the videos before his cellphone was taken from him. It has not been returned to him yet,” said Mafaro.

“He was locked up in the cells, bleeding and was not allowed to access his cellphone.”

Mafaro pointed out that the group returned to the police station a second time following the arrest of their representative, who had addressed them at the Indian centre taxi rank.

The case continues before Magistrate Maimane Booi.

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