The Joint ‘public’sitting of two committees of the Senate were yesterday told how a total of ten persons who have been denied access to their families from periods ranging from October 22 till now are suspected to be part of those killed and dumped into the Ezu River at Amansea.
The Senate committees on Police Affairs led by Igwe Paulinus Nwagu and the Committee on Security and Intelligence led by General Magoro (Rtd) opened public hearing, surprisingly in the multipurpose hall at Government House Awka were told by Barrister Uwaneke Udegbunam that his client and relative, Mr Chiekezie Obiofor, who hails from Omor in Ayamelum local government area was arrested on the 22nd day of October 2012 by men of the Anambra State Police Command and taken into custody at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Awkuzu, Oyi Local government area .
Mr Obiofor, according to the lawyer who said he came into the matter on the basis of a distress called raised on the matter was arrested along with two other persons PraiseGod Ndumanya and Chinwuba Okoye.
Udegbunam said he promptly visited SARS in Awkuzu and enquired to know if his client was there, but was told by one Inspector Celestine Ani, on duty that he was not.
He therefore proceeded to other stations to no avail, until he stumbled on a high-level contact which assured him that Mr Obiofor was taken to SARS Awkuzu. He therefore returned to bail him, but was neither allowed, nor given access to the client. He therefore proceeded to court on November 12, 2012.
According to Barr Udegbunam, the Police later admitted when they finally answered to court summons that his client is dead, but failed to release his body.
Acknowledging that he was taking a risk, Barrister Udegbunam asked the Senate committee to call for all the files submitted by the Police to the Anambra State Ministry of Justice which are labelled (Sudden and Untimely Death (SUD) as it would for a long way to assist them in reaching the truth of what happened in Amansea and what happens in terms of extra-judicial killing in Anambra State, adding that he stumbled on a case where a dead person deposited his body in the morgue, going by the fact that receipt of payment for the service was issued in the deceased’s name.
He therefore prayed the tribunal to Order the release of the body of his client to him’ so that it would not be deemed to have been among those thrown into the Ezu River and discovered on January 19, 2012.
Also testifying before the panel, The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) insisted that nine of their members were arrested on November 9, 2012 and that they have not been allowed access to them.
Comrade Uche Madu ,MASSOB Director of Information who appeared for the movement insisted that that their background checks show that the Police killed their members and that they were part of the bodies found in Amansea River as earlier stated , ‘irrespective of what the Commissioner of Police (Anambra State) was saying in The Sun of Today’
Asked why it took them three weeks to react, Madu said that initially it did not cross their mind that their members, could be there, but later when we came up with the idea, we decided to conduct our own investigations’ adding that, ‘as long are the bodies are still kept in the morgue, we can still go and identify them ’.
Presiding Senator Nwagu, ruled that MASSOB testimony should be documented, while the movement’s officials should approach the Senate committee in Abuja along with the relatives of the deceased for further testimony.
Testifying earlier, both Anambra State Police Commissioner and Anambra State commissioner for Health, and the Transition Chairman for Awka North LGA Mrs Joy all denied ordering the burial of the corpses. The Police commissioner had said that following the discovery of the bodies and the prompt arrival of the police, the governor, Mr. Peter Obi had directed him to bury the bodies to which he responded that it was not the duty of the police to do such on receiving the response the governor then called on the Chairman Caretaker Committee of Awka North Local Government to which she responded that it wasn’t the council’s duty. It was at this point that the Commissioner for Police said that the Governor ordered both the police and the Awka North Council to see that the bodies were buried.
The CP’s claim at the public hearing sharply contrasted with the earlier position on the bank of Ezu River at Amansea, where he claimed that the corpses were buried by locals, without the knowledge of the Police.
When asked on the bridge by Senator Nwagu if blood stains were found on the top of the bridge, CP Nassarawa simply said: ‘We have not found any’, to the surprise of media men who had reported the contrary when the story broke. Shortly afterwards, the Enugu State Police Commissioner, Mr Musa Daura, answered in the negative when asked if other communities in on the course of the river ,apart from Amansea have been interviewed on the incident.
Villagers discovered close to 50 bodies on January 19, 2012 downstream of the bridge over Ezu River at Amansea Old Enugu Onitsha Road and raised an alarm, which prompted the visit of the Commissioner for Police and later the Anambra State Commissioner for Local Government State ,who told the media that the Governor eter Obi was abroad and a message had been sent on the discoveries.
Gov. Obi later visited on January 21 and offered N5m for anyone with useful information that would explain the floating dead bodies.The same day Police confirmed recovery of 18 bodies,out of which three wrer reportedly taken for autopsy,while 15 wrer said to be buried at the bank of the river, without identification.
However on Monday January 24,while senator Chris Ngige made his first visit to the site, two bodies where spotted by media men , wile blood stains were still on the bridge. The villagers reported that two others were discovered on Tuesday January 22, two days before, making a fresh four.
On January 28, 2012, pathologists from the Nigeria Police and the Anambra State Government visited the bank of Ezu River following public outcry, and ostensibly owing to what media reports described as ‘shocking discoveries’ on the three bodies earlier subjected to autopsy exhumed four bodies out of and 15 buried, reburying them afterwards and promising exhume the remaining 11 later. Five fresh bodies were recovered from the river and taken away from the site to an unknown destination, but the Police surprisingly claimed on Monday this week that the bodies under investigation total 19,a claim re-echoed by the Secretary to the state government ,Mr Oseloka Obaze during the Senate’s fact-finding mission yesterday.
Senate hearing has moved on to Enugu.