By Martins Ezigwe
The Conference Hall of Anambra State Government in Awka came alive last week Tuesday when the Director of Information of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Mr Uchenna Madu mounted the podium and said that his organisation had lost nine (9) persons whose bodies were part of those floating in Ezu River.
‘About one week before dead bodies were seen floating on the Ezu River at Amansea, we received a security report to the effect that nine of our members have been killed, along with some armed robbers and kidnapping suspects at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad Office in Awkuzu.’ Madu asserted confidently.
Mr Madu gave the names of those allegedly killed by the Police as Basil Ogbu, Sunday Ogwa, Sunday Omogo, and Philip Nwankpa.Others according to him were, Eze Ndubisi, Ebuka Eze, Obinna Offor Joseph Udoh, and Udechukwu Ejiofor.
Uche Madu said that but for the fact that he only knew about the sitting of the Senate Committee, about one hour before he came out to testify, he would have arranged to come with the wives and children of some of the deceased. He discountenanced the statement credited to the police denying their media releases on the missing members as false and promised to prove it beyond doubt to the panel.
It was not the first time Madu was saying this. The Weekend before, he had issued a press statement to that effect. The Commissioner of Police Bala Nassarawa denied that in a press statement distributed to the press without fielding question the day before the panel’s Anambra sitting. Hence the day’s newspapers were awash with the Police denial, which said he did not arrest anyone bearing the names mentioned by MASSOB’.
MASSOB stood their ground, explaining that the reason it took them to come out with the names was to enable the freedom fighting organisation enough time to conduct its own thorough investigation.
In MASSOB’s testimony one name stood out, that of Obinna Ofor. Ofor was one of those paraded by the police and in Mid-October 2012 and the recorded video of that parade is already on U-tube website, which means that unlike most others mentioned by MASSOB, which have to be established as directd by the Senate through its committees by bringing their relatives to confirm his story, his has been proved as an existing detainee of the Police. Yet the Commissioner of Police Bala Nassarawa who testified earlier restated that the nine names given out by MASSOB as killed by the Police were baseless and that the Police did not arrest them.
Is the Police telling the whole truth on the issue of this arrest? The afcts on ground suggest otherwise.
Going by the video posted on U-tube ,which coincides with media repprts at that time as well as the testimony of the Director of SSS. Police indeed took custody of MASSOB members at the time. The SSS Director confirmed that indeed there was a raid on the MASSOB office in Onitsha around the time described by Mr Madu, but he did not remember the exact date. According to him the suspects were handed over to the Police which is the standard practice.
Hence both circumstantial and real evidence has established that Obinna Ofor having been arrested and detained by the police in the middle of October has not been allowed to see his family and his lawyers and no one has seen him ever since, while the police refused to produce him in court.
So what is the motive of the police in denying his arrest when in fact the same Police claimed elsewhere as attested to by documentary evidence, that another suspect which died in Police custody ,according to police testimony in court ‘was implicated by one Obinna Ofor who was arrested in October 2012’?
On October 22, 2012, the police arrested one Obukezie Ejiofor, a native of Omoo, Ayamelum local government area of Anambra State, said to be living in a one-room apartment with six children. He was arrested along with PraiseGod Ndumanya and Chinweuba Okoye. Mr Ejiofor was shot on the one leg and was paraded to the media as a suspected kidnapper, suspected to have kidnapped one Jonathan Onyekwele.
His lawyer and kinsman Uwaneke Udegbunam carried out an enquiry on the basis of a distress call made on the same day to SARS Awkuzu, and was told by one Celestine Ani, a policeman on duty that Mr Ejiofor was not in their office, or in their custody.
The lawyer left and continued the search in other police formations, until his highly placed person in the Police Command referred him aback to SARS Awkuzu with an assurance that his client was there.
When he returned and confronted them with the request to release Mr Ejiofor, to him, the officers on duty demanded the sum of N300, 000 (Three Hundred thousand Naira) bribe to effect the release. He left, rushed back to the village and was able to rally round N100,000 through donations. When the money has given to the police at Awkuzu, they released Messrs Ndumanya and Okoye ad asked his to come back for Mr Ejiofor. They brushed aside his request that Mr Ejiofor should also be released.
That was the beginning of a ding-dong affair that lasted till he, brought a suit to court on November 12, 2012 to effect the release via an ex-parte motion in the Federal High Court Awka, under the fundamental human rights. The motion was granted and the Police was put on notice.On the adjourned date the police rather than produce Mr Ejiofor simply asked for an adjournment to enable them prepare their case. This application was opposed by Udegbunam and the court sustained his objection asking the Police to produce Mr Ejiofor.
At that point, Barrister Udegbunam confessed to the Senate panel that ‘rather than produce Obukezie Ejiofor, the policeman started fidgeting, until he voice out that he (Mr Ejiofor )was dead.’ Yet till date the body has not been produced. Ejiofor was said to have died in Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital Nnewi. His lawyer’s investigation showed that there was no record on his treatment in the hospital.
He was said to have been implicated by Obinna Ofor, which MASSOB mentioned in their testimony, but Ofor wrote his statement on October 28, 2012 to implicate Mr Ejiofor whose statement was dated October 22, 2012. Also the man that they claimed was kidnapped by Obinna Ofor Mr Onyekwele also wrote a statement which post-dates that of Ejiofor. The lawyers investigation showed that while Ejiofors’s statement appeared on Page A4 n Police Register of statements, Ofor and Oyekwele who allegedly implicate d him had their statements on Pages B1 and B6.
Also intriguing to Barr. Udegbunam was the fact that Obukezie Ejofor who is a stark illiterate and has never read or written anything in his life in English Language had a beautiful signature against the statement that was credited to him. Barr Udegbunam came to the Tribunal with a copy of Mr Obinna Ofor’s said statement, obtained from the Police records, which also forms part of the attachment in the suit filed at the Federal High Court Awka.
The testimony of MASSOB and Barrister Uwaneke Udegbunam who also asked the Senate committee to investigate all the file labelled ‘SUD’ (Sudden and Untimely Death) In Anambra State Ministry of Justice for clues on what may have led to the floating bodies in Ezu River at Amansea have so far linked up, proving one another and showing that the Anambra Police Commissioner lied to the panel by insisting that his command did not arrest anyone bearing the names given by MASSOB.
Hence the issue at hand has narrowed down to the execution without trial of detainees in Police cells by the Police. What remains is the link to throwing away bodies ,also obviously of detainee into the Ezu River, at Amansea.
All corpses recovered were those f males between the age of 25 and 35. All of them were in shorts and singlet and all of them were found on the down stream side of Amansea bridge, which coincide with the side of the bridge that blood stains were found. Perhaps that explains why the Police did not bother to interview other river riverrine communities, where the bodies were initially thought, or designed to be thought to have floated down from. But the fact that no corpse was found on the upstream (Enugu State Side ) rules out the body floating from anywhere upstream.
On the part of the government, they have operated side by side with the Police in some of the major actions taken on security. Governor Peter Obi himself led the operation to demolish the house of a notorious criminal in Oraifite around September 04 2012, but that criminal has been observed not to have appeared in any court. Obi also personally shut down a hotel in Nkpor on August 05 2012 after the police arrested four kidnap suspects. Last week the hotel was re-opened after six months with an apology that the government acted on wrong information, but nothing has been said about releasing the arrested suspects.
The investigation is far from complete, but it is now pointing in a clear direction, even as the world awaits the release of the autopsy results, with its ‘shocking revelation’ as proclaimed after the test of the first three bodies. So far, 32 days after the fact, it seems like a wait for eternity. But that may not be far-fetched. These autopsies are being conducted by those now under the question mark of the enraged public.
So who will bell the cat? Time will tell.