It was on the 23rd of September, 2022, that the police arrested Tamunoala Alatoru, over a case of negligence at the residence of Patience Jonathan, the wife of Former President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan, in 2 Bauchi Street, Old Gra, Port Harcourt.
Tamunoala Alatoru, 56, has been under the employment of Mrs. Jonathan since 2012, having started as her personal staff when she was the first Lady of Nigeria. Part of Alatoru’s duties includes managing the residence in Port Harcourt. In 2014, she employed a cleaner, Praise Gelson. She also supervises the cleaning of the residence by cleaners under her purview.
According to our source who Is related to Alatoru, Alatoru was accused of negligence when the cleaner, Praise Gelson, duplicated the keys of Jonathan’s private quarters entrusted to Ala Alatoru. On the 21st of September, the cleaner was able to access the private quarters using the keys he duplicated, stealing gold pieces of jewelry, money, and other items as alleged by Mrs. Jonathan.
Within Nigeria learnt that after her arrest, she was taken to the Old GRA Police Station on the 23rd of September 2022. She spent the weekend detained at Old GRA Police Station. On Monday morning, the 26th of September, 2022 she was taken back to Mrs. Jonathan’s residence for interrogation and returned to the Old GRA Police Station in the evening. On the 29th of September, 2022 she was taken back to Old GRA Police Station briefly and then, transferred to Nigeria Police Force Criminal InvestigationDepartment (FCID), Port Harcourt Base located around Alu, Rivers State.
“He (the cleaner) was caught by the police and confessed to the crime. The persons he sold the items to were also caught and are all in Police custody. The cleaner has confessed to the crime and said he acted alone and Mrs. Ala Alatoru has nothing to do with it and she does not know anything about the theft.
“Mrs. Ala Alatoru is still being held incommunicado for 24 days. She has underlying health issues the family has been managing for a while now. We’re unable to see her give her the medication she’s been using. She has been without her medications” our source said
Cleaner arrested, confessed to the crime
Praise Gelson was first apprehended by the security officers at Patience Jonathan’s house on the 19th of September after he was searched and money and pieces of jewelry were discovered, Within Nigeria learnt.
According to our source, Gelson when asked who owns the jewelry and where he is taking them said he was asked to send them via waybill to lagos. He was asked to call the owner of the items and he brought a man, identified as Christian Mbaeri, shortly after, who claimed he directed Gelson to send these items to one Usman Garba in Lagos. However, Within Nigeria can authoritatively confirm that the three of them have been arrested.
In a 38 page proof of document made available to Within Nigeria, the police investigation report revealed that Praise Gelson is the principal suspect, while also noting that Mrs Alatoru showed negligence. The findings indicated that Praise Gelson has been stealing from the house of Mrs. Jonathan for three years prior to the time he was eventually apprehended.
The findings further revealed that Praise Gelson confessed to have used the keys under the care of Mrs Alatoru to access Mrs Jonathan apartment and used a hammer, chisel and other ‘dangerous weapons’ to open the safe box which had jewelry, bangles and wristwatches in it. The police said it took him two days to damage the safe box.
The police further confirmed that on the 23rd of September, some of the quantities of gold jewelries, bangles and household equipment were recovered from the house of Praise Gelson. It was also revealed that one Sani, who is at large, has some part of the stolen items in his possession.
Even with the evidence gotten by the police, Mrs Alatoru was in detention for 38 days without been charged to court.
Lawyer Petitions Police
In a 3-page petition sent to the Complaint Response Unit, Nigeria Police Force Headquarters, Abuja, and signed by Ala Alatoru’s lawyer, Karibo Dimabo, He requested that the police headquarter intervene in the case of Ala Alatoru citing that her rights, life, and liberty are expected to be protected. He tagged the arrest and detainment as unjust, unlawful, and a clear breach of her fundamental Human Rights.
Dimabo noted that Praise Gelson, the cleaner, having confessed to the crime, indicates that Mrs. Alatoru is innocent of any crime or criminal activity.
“Mrs Alatoru has an underlying health condition she has been managing for a while now. She has medication that she constantly needs to take. Since her arrest 13 days ago (pointing to the day she was arrested), she has had no access to her medication and is unable to take them. Her health is deteriorating
“Sir, by our follow-up in this matter, it has been clear that no criminal link has been tied. Mrs.Alatoru to the crime except for the fact that she employed the said Praise Gelson and that the said Praise Gelson stole and duplicated her bunch of keys where she hid them which is a very honest mistake on her part” a part of the petition reads
Within Nigeria further spoke to Mr Karibo who told us that a fundamental human rights suit was filed on the 18th of October, at the Isiokpo High Court in IKwerre local government area, Port Harcourt. On the 24th of October, in the fundamental human rights suit which has Mrs. Tamunoala Alatoru as the complainant and Mrs Patience Jonathan, Rivers state commissioner of police, Divisional of police (Old gra division), and the chief superintendent of police, Alex Udenze as respondents.
The court granted the request for bail in the sum of ‘5 million naira with one surety in like sum’ and ordered that the respondents be restrained from taking further steps pending the hearing of the motion on Notice of the suit. The case was adjourned to the 3rd of Nov, 2022.
Mr Karibo however told us that Patience Jonathan and the police refused to obey the court order.
“This is the court order they refused to obey. Claiming that the matter is in another court and evading service on it. But the bailiff dropped a copy with them which is sufficient service. Also, the order was sent to the Officer in charge and the lawyer.” he said.
Within Nigeria also spoke to Umana Okon, the Nigeria Police Force Criminal InvestigationDepartment (FCID) Legal officer, on Oct 30, who said the matter is in court and would not speak on the case.
Charged to court after 38 days in detention
After 38 days of being unlawfully detained on the orders of the former first lady, A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, on Monday, sat on the case. Within Nigeria who obtained the charge sheet noticed that the case is now between the Inspector general of Police and Praise Gelson, Tamunoala Alatoru, Usman Garba, and Christian Mbaeri, being the defendants.
The case presented to the court was a five-count charge bothering on conspiracy, armed robbery, and attempted murder.
The suspects after listening to the count charges read out to them in court pleaded not guilty to the offences.
However, Dimabo Karibo Counsel representing the 2nd Defendant Tamunoala Alatoru applied for the bail application of his client, but the prosecution Counsel O.M Umana informed the court that he has just been served the bail application.
The presiding Judge, Justice Adolphus Enebeli after listening to Counsel in the matter said he will give a speedy and fair trial on the case as his court is already congested.
The Court declined consideration of the bail application and ordered the Counsel in question to do the needful for an acceleration of hearing on the bail application, thereby adjourned to 4,6,8, 18 November 2022, for hearing and remanded the four suspects in Port Harcourt prison.
Karibo who spoke to Within Nigeria after the court hearing said the charges against his client, Tamunoala Alatoru, are Trump up charges, describing the charges as laughable.
“My client the 2nd Defendant is a domestic staff to the former First Lady, she has been working for her for over ten years. There was a stealing that occured by the first Defendant in his proof of evidence he confessed right from the Old GRA Police Division that he acted alone.
“They took the matter from Old GRA Police station to the State CID and FCID where he also said he acted alone. We are surprised to see trump-up charges of armed robbery. As the court has said it will give us an accelerated hearing so that it can determine the matter in almost one month. We would go to court and by the grace of God there will be victory”.
Within Nigeria, however, made multiple calls to Patience Jonathan who failed to respond as at the time of filing this report.