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Echoes of Ezu River Police Massacre: How to end torture and extra-judicial killings in Nigeria (Part 2)

By News Express on 27/07/2017

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•Some of the Ezu River corpses.
•Some of the Ezu River corpses.

Origin of Anambra Police SARS:

The Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Anambra State Police Command is one of 36 Police SARS formations located in Nigeria’s 36 State Police Commands. There are also 12 Police SARS Zonal formations of the Nigeria Police’s 12 Zonal Commands. Police SARS sections are under the Nigeria Police Force Criminal Investigations Department presently headed by Mr. Hyacinth Dagala Medgu, a Deputy Inspector General of Police. There is also a Federal SARS squad, known as “Police Federal SARS” or F/SARS. At the State level, SARS formations are under State Criminal Investigations Departments or SCIDs.

Generally, other sections of the Nigeria Police Force Criminal Investigations Department are: Administration, Anti-Fraud Section, the Central Criminal Registry-CCR (near moribund), X-Squad (supposedly in charge of police corruption), General Investigation, Special Fraud Unit, Legal Department, Forensic Science Laboratory (near moribund), Interpol Liaison, Homicide, and Anti-Human Trafficking, Force Intelligence Bureau, DCI Kaduna Annex and Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU).

There are also Police Anti-Cult Squad, Police Anti-Bunkering Squad and Swift Operation Squad (SOS) as well as Police Mobile Force or Police Anti-Riot Force. Greatest number of atrocities of the Nigeria Police Force (i.e. torture, extra judicial and other unlawful killings and corruption) come from them.

Anambra State of Nigeria is a typical blue-collar State or society making it prone for high incidence of criminal activities particularly violent crimes such as armed robbery and abduction as well as murder and burglary. The Nigeria Police Force has been operating as a federal and central police force since 1967 when various police forces in Nigeria were unified through a military decree, making it a federal affair. But Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution recognizes State Governors as Chief Security Officers of their States and by Section 215 (4); a State Governor can give his or her State Commissioner of Police lawful directions in matter of security and protection of lives and properties.

By these provisions, State Governors are constitutionally allowed to play supplementary and complementary roles in the management of the Nigeria Police Force and other policing and security formations located in their States for the general security and safety of their States. These supplementary and complementary roles of the Governors have led to formation of State Joint Security Taskforces or SJTFs; composed of commanders and personnel of the Nigerian Armed Forces and the Police formations in their respective States.

The Governors from time to time, support or donate security vehicles and other security equipment and cash logistics worth millions of naira particularly to their State Police Commands and Police special formations including SARS. Under the Governors’ monthly “security votes”, millions of naira is doled out to the referenced security formations as “operational logistics”, covering transportation or operational, general maintenance and communications costs.

In all these, Anambra Police SARS are not an exception or excluded. Apart from receiving robust financial and material supports from successive State Governments since 2003 “for effective combat of violent crimes”, physical formation facilities have also been provided for them by the successive Governments of Anambra State.

The Anambra Police SARS are presently quartered at Awkuzu Old Party House (headquarters), Okpoko Police Station in Ogbaru LGA (annex), Ekwulobia Old Party House in Aguata LGA (annex), Onitsha Central Police Station (annex), Awka Central Police Station (annex), Nneni (annex), Ogidi Police Station (annex), Ihiala Police Station (annex), Umuchukwu (annex) and Nnewi (annex), etc.

The Anambra Police SARS is presently headed by Mr. Sunday Okpe, a Superintendent of Police (SP); its immediate past OC/SARS is CSP Bassey Abang (now OC/SARS Abia), while it had its darkest and most atrocious and notorious era (2012-2015) under Mr. James Oshim Nwafor-a CSP, who is now OC/File at CP’s Office, Awka. Mr. James Nwafor was the Nnewi Annex Commander of Anambra Police SARS from where he was appointed Anambra OC/SARS in 2012 following the routine transfer and promotion of then CSP but now retired ACP Felix Kigigha.

Patterns of Anambra Police SARS Corruption and Atrocities:

Police Corruption is one of the major banes of the present Nigeria Police Force especially the Anambra Police SARS. Police Corruption in Nigeria has been seminally categorized into seven types and dimensions of: corruption of the authority (brown envelope and daily returns), kickbacks (criminal receipt of goods, services and money), opportunistic theft (stealing from arrestees, traffic accident victims, crime victims and deceased bodies or properties), the fix (tempering or undermining criminal investigations or proceedings for illicit financial or material gains), direct criminal activities (buying or selling or diverting or converting of prerogatives available for police personnel including statutory overhead costs and ghost workers remunerations) and flaking/padding(planting of or adding to evidence with intents to doctor or distort same for a price or favour).

Other corruptive activities of the Anambra Police SARS are frame-ups, running of errands and slave boys for troublesome billionaires and violent politicians; bail bribery/extortion, criminal labelling and prosecutorial vindictiveness (i.e. concoction of spurious high profile criminal charges and arraignment of suspects in magistrate courts for purpose of remanding them in prison for long as punishment for their refusal or inability to cough out huge sums of money as bail bribes).

How SARS Fetched and Slaughtered their Human Cows:

Most of the victims of Anambra Police SARS torture and extra judicial and other unlawful killings in their custody are made up of citizens arrested by the operatives of SARS annexes scattered across the State particularly Onitsha and its environs. Many, if not most of these arrestees are arrested before late night or late evening or early morning and at weekends. They are mostly those enjoying their leisure at rest joints or returning from work or going or returning from early morning and evening church services or activities including Christian crusades and church vigils.

Other human cows of Anambra Police SARS comprise of those involved in land or property, business or debt and personal or civil disputes, but got framed up by their opponents including troublesome rich citizens and violent community/vigilante heads and politicians; and transferred to detention facilities of the Anambra Police SARS at Awkuzu or their annexes where they are detained solitarily, tortured and in many cases killed or tortured to death while in custody.

These arrestees are recklessly, commercially and wickedly accused of involvement in “armed robbery”, “kidnapping”, “arson”, “attempted murder”, “terrorism” and “terrorism sponsorship”, etc.  Those who survived torture and extra judicial executions are detained for several months without trial before being dumped in prison custody through magistrate courts under phantom charges of “armed robbery” or “kidnapping”, etc, which magistrate courts are disallowed to entertain jurisdictionally. Other human cows of the Anambra Police SARS are those accused of “MASSOB and IPOB” or “Biafra” membership. The last category of the arrestees who constitute a fraction or miniature percentage of all the arrestees are those circumstantially involved in robberies, thefts/stealing and victimless crimes (i.e. drug addiction, street and student cultism and motor park/garage touting).

Those arrested by Anambra Police SARS operatives manning SARS annexes especially those returning from early morning and evening/late evening church services or legitimate daily work activities are charged or tasked to pay amounts between N20, 000 and N50, 000 each or more as “bail fee” and those unable or who refused to pay are bundled and transferred to Awkuzu headquarters of Anambra SARS with transfer notes marking them as “armed robbers”, “kidnappers” and “terrorists”. A good number of the dead and tortured victims of Anambra SARS are traced to the above till date.

The level of extortion or amounts demanded and collected from each “capable” detainee as “bail fees” at Awkuzu SARS Headquarters is capable of buying a fairly used automobile. In other words, the amounts range from N200, 000 to N500, 000 or more. An unprocessed/untried kidnapping or armed robbery suspect can also buy his freedom at Awkuzu SARS provided he is capable of paying millions of naira. Crime proceeds and properties recovered from violent criminal suspects’ particularly armed robbery and kidnapping suspects are instantly converted and possessed by Awkuzu SARS personnel particularly their commanders.

By Section 15 (5) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, the State (Nigeria) is directed to abolish all forms of corrupt practices and abuse of power. By Section 341 of the Nigeria Police Act of 2004, a police officer is personally liable for misuse of his powers.  Also, by the extant laws of the Federation of Nigeria, a police officer can be prosecuted for murder or wilful/culpable homicide once he or she is dismissed from the police force.

By Section 353 of the Nigeria Police Act & Regulations of 2004, a police officer shall not conduct himself in such a manner as to bring his private interests into conflict with his duties or in such a way as to cause a suspicion in the mind of any reasonable person. By Section 354 of the same Police Act & Regulations, a police officer may not receive presents (other than gifts from his close personal friends or relatives) whether of in the shape of money, gifts, and free passages or other personal benefits and he may not give such presents. It is important to point here that the authorities of Anambra Police SARS have gravely observed these sacred provisions above in breach.

Patterns of Torture and Killing by Anambra Police SARS:

There are total absence of scientific methods and tools of criminal investigation and advanced techniques for criminal investigation/interrogation in the entire operational modes of the Anambra Police SARS; leading to crude application and use of torture and custodial executions. In the past 13 years or since 2004, not less than 4,000 unprocessed suspects and constitutionally presumed innocent citizens have been killed or tortured to death in the hands of Anambra SARS operatives on annual average of 300 or more and monthly average of 25 or more. Scores of others have also disappeared or become victims of enforced disappearances since then.

Citizens arrested and taken into Anambra Police SARS custody unarmed or non-violently are routinely brought out from their cells and shot dead or tortured to death. The Anambra Police SARS and their oversight or immediate superior authorities – Anambra State Police Command, has at all times defended falsely the said torture and butchery by provocatively, atrociously, falsely and unconstitutionally claiming that “they were armed robbery and kidnapping suspects killed in exchange of gunfire with the Police” or “killed while trying to escape from cells/detention”, or “killed resisting lawful arrest”.

Dead and torture victims of  the Anambra Police SARS  are tortured or killed through the following forms of torture: ceiling or bench hanging, lethal roping,  needle insertion into their manhood or private parts, suffocation under scorching heats and sun using thick tarpaulin; deaths resulting from untreated physically and internally inflicted injuries; strangulation, clubbing, machete cuts; fist, brick, metal and plank beatings; injection of killer substances, gunshots, enforced blindness, amputation and the newest forms of torture and perfect killing  which include: starvation  through dry throat with blanket denial of drinking water for weeks and dry stomach with blanket denial of  foods for  weeks.  

The Anambra Police SARS operatives have also devised new undetected methods of inflicting bodily torture on their victims especially in ceiling fan and allied hangings: whereby victims have their limbs and legs covered with pieces of cloth before being hanged for torture so as to erase any trace of body marks or scars.

There are also cases of contaminable/contagious sicknesses and deaths whereby surviving detainees get infected and affected by the stench of their dead colleagues whose bodies are left un-removed for days inside their cells with consequential health hazards including breathing suffocation leading to instant illness and summary death in custody of the survivor-detainees.  A case in point is the recent death of eight detainees inside the Nneni annex cell of the Anambra Police SARS, who were starved to death by being denied water and food for two weeks.

According to a leading rights activist, Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma, who is also the Executive Director of Int’l Human Rights & Equity Foundation: ten citizens were arrested recently by Awkuzu SARS and transferred and detained at the Nneni annex cell of the Special Anti Robbery squad. While in detention, they were denied water and food for about two weeks.  One of them was earlier bailed with huge amount of money by his family, leaving behind nine others; out of them, eight later died of dry starvation while one miraculously survived and was revived on account of our advocacy intervention.

Following our intervention, the SARS personnel became unsettled and hurriedly arraigned him before a magistrate court with a phantom charge and he was remanded in prison custody from where we got him bailed on health ground and secured his released on Wednesday, 23rd June 2017. The dead bodies were left inside the cell for days to decompose before they were removed and the only survivor of the ten arrestees stayed in the cell with the dead bodies for days. For more information, Comrade Ijeoma can be reached via juijeoma@yahoo.com or justus.ihref@gmail.com.

Custody of Human Cows slaughtered by Anambra Police SARS:

By law, Nigeria Police officers including Anambra SARS operatives and their authorities are required to keep records of all unnatural deaths in custody. Such records must include names of the deceased, dates and causes of their unnatural death and outcomes or results of coroner’s inquests about their sudden death. The Coroner’s Laws enacted and existing in most States of Nigeria including Anambra State also oblige the State authorities to investigate and determine the circumstances of all unnatural, sudden and violent deaths through an open and public enquiry. In practice including in Anambra State, these legal or statutory provisions have been observed in grave breach till date.

The whereabouts of the dead victims of Anambra Police SARS have not been officially and publicly disclosed till date. But independent investigations by local and international rights and media activists have incontrovertibly and severally established that those dead bodies including bodies of innocent citizens who are victims of SARS torture and custodial killings are routinely buried in secret mass graves or designated but hidden cemeteries. Few years ago, before the Onitsha and Awada cemeteries were taken over for construction of church buildings by some churches, such dead bodies littered the cemeteries with many of them dumped on the surface or buried shallowly.

There is also an existing unethical practice whereby dead victims of Police and other policing extra judicial executions and unlawful killings are deposited by their murderers in public or general hospital morgues including nearby university teaching hospital morgues and tagged “State property”. Such corpses are later abandoned by their murderer-depositors, forcing the hospital morgue officials to “dispose” or “evacuate” them to public or secret cemeteries so as to “decongest” their morgues for “new customers”. Such unholy practice was the order of the day during the recent massacre of unarmed and defenceless pro Biafra campaigners and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria by the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force, etc.

In some, if not in many or most cases, bodies of the extra judicially executed citizens including innocent members of the public are secretly taken out of their places of killing usually from police SARS cells/stations in the dead of the night or hours of the blue law and shallowly buried in isolated bushes or dumped inside rivers with heavy objects tied on them to make them sink and undetected by members of the public.

We had in the course of our investigation into Ezu River SARS killings visited Omambala and Ezu Rivers as well as certain forest locations in Ntoko Community, near Police Mobile Force 29 in Awka and Nawfia/Enugu Agidi in Dunukofia LGA of Anambra State. We also visited Onitsha and Awada cemeteries then to see things for ourselves. The two forests visited which used to host indiscriminate dumping of dead victims of Police SARS extra judicial killings had been sealed by their communities as at the time we visited; owing to their serious concerns and contempt over indiscriminate dumping of the slain bodies by security personnel especially the officers of Anambra Police SARS. 

From our thorough investigation into Ezu River SARS killings, we empirically found that (1) dead corpses dumped inside the  Ezu River including nine members of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) were shot and killed by Anambra Police SARS, (2) some of them were already shot and killed or blanketed to death at Awkuzu and Nnewi SARS cells before conveyed to Ezu River in Police SARS trucks in the late night or between 12:am and 3:am of 19th January 2013 , (3) the dead bodies conveyed to Ezu River were conveyed under duress by  some survivor-detainees and in company of Police SARS personnel, (4) the survivor-detainees never returned alive as they were shot dead on top of the Ezu River Bridge and dumped together with the slain others inside the River to erase any trace of culpability.

These explained the blood stains found on top of the Bridge by members of the public hours after the mass killing. While some of the slain bodies were shot and killed at their respective detention facilities at Nnewi and Awkuzu, others were blanketed and suffocated to death under scorching heats in the open and isolated parts of SARS premises. The rest might have died of torture and gunshot injuries sustained during their lethal torture or routine custodial shootings and deadly or excessive use of force by Anambra Police SARS personnel.

Till date, none of the nine MASSOB members arrested around Onitsha Main Market and Biafran Market axis by Onitsha Main Market Vigilante Group and Police Personnel from Onitsha Central/Area Command and transferred to Awkuzu SARS on 8th December 2012 leading to their killing and dumping inside Ezu River on 19th January 2013 with other detained criminal suspects at Awkuzu and Nnewi SARS cells has returned alive till date. The star witness account of this is presented below.

Statistics of Human Cows slaughtered by Anambra Police SARS:

The number of the good, the bad and the ugly tortured and killed by Anambra Police SARS particularly since 2004, a period of 13 years, when the identities of some dead victims of the murderous outfit and methods of their killing in custody were exposed, is credibly put at not less than 4000, on annual average of 300 and monthly average of 25 citizens. Since then till January 2013 and from 2013 to date, torture and extra judicial executions carried out by Anambra Police SARS have not abated. As a matter of fact, the murderous activities have risen to an apogee or alarming and uncontrollable proportions.

Under a period of two years-2014 to 2016, a globally respected human rights organization-Amnesty International had thoroughly investigated and issued two reports on torture and other ill-treatment in Nigeria and in the two reports, Anambra Police SARS under CSP James Oshim Nwafor was gravely and inescapably indicted. The 2014 report released on 14th September 2014 is titled: welcome to hell fire: torture and other ill-treatment in Nigeria while that of 2016 released on 20th September 2016 is titled:  Nigeria: ‘You have signed your death warrant’: Torture and other ill treatment in the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.

The two seminal reports also made far reaching recommendations on best ways to get the Nigeria Police authorities and the Government of Nigeria out of globally shameful and atrocious torture practices; till date none of the far reaching recommendations has been implemented; except false denials and name calling by Nigeria Police authorities. The links to 2014 and 2016 anti torture reports of AI are here: (http://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/AFR44/011/2014/en/), (https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr44/4868/2016/en/)

Statistically recorded cases of torture and extra judicial executions by Anambra Police SARS as well as identities of the victims are basketful or too numerous to mention and are contained or cited in several media and rights groups and activists’ reports/researches/investigations. One of them worthy to be mentioned and highlighted here was the killing of SARS 20 detainees on 4th November 2004 by Anambra Police SARS then headquartered at the Awka Central Police Station (CPS), Anambra State.  Comrade Ifeanyi Onuchukwu, an Nnewi based human rights activist and Executive Director of Humane Justice Int’l in Nnewi was arrested and detained by SARS for “refusing to pay sanitation fees and engaging in public enlightenment campaign against payment of same in Nnewi and environs owing to its fraudulent methods of collection”.

Comrade Ifeanyi Onuchukwu was arrested at the instigation of a Government contractor handling the collection of the said sanitation fees and transferred to SARS to be tortured and killed extra judicially. He was also labeled “armed robber”. Comrade Onuchukwu was held and tortured without trial from 4th to 19th November 2004 when he was granted bail following swift advocacy pressures mounted by Barr Chuka, obele-Chuka and Emeka Umeagbalasi led Anambra CLO (then).

It was while in SARS captivity that Comrade Ifeanyi Onuchukwu found that several citizens had been solitarily held in various stinking cells at the Police Station for weeks and months without trial or bail; with several of them arrested and detained at the instance of some Government contractors and appointees over civil matters and minor or simple and misdemeanor offences; following which they were framed up and labeled “armed robbers” and transferred to SARS.

Comrade Onukwu further informed that moments after he was thrown into detention at SARS he interacted with some older detainees and was informed that one of the Police officers had handed a sheet of paper with a pen to one of the detainees to re-compile names of those detained and their States of origin and at around 7:15pm same day (4th November 2004), they were brought out of the cell and shot dead. Comrade Onuchukwu said he took possession of the sheet of paper containing their names when the Police officer forgot to recover it from the detainee before he was executed alongside 19 others same evening.

According Comrade Ifeanyi Onuchukwu, the 20 detainees excluding himself and others arrested same day were lined up and shot dead by the corner of the Station and their remains were immediately taken to “Agu-Awka mass graves” same night and criminally buried. Some detainees who were forced to assist in evacuating the corpses never returned to the Station alive. Comrade Onuchukwu hid the sheet of paper and maintained a sealed lip until he was freed on 19th November 2004.

He later gave the names of slain 20 Igbo citizens as: Nduka Okoye, Ephraim Okenyeka, Samuel Odoh, Oforbike Odoh, Chibueze Ugwuoke, Ugochukwu Okonkwo, Chizoba Mbaebie, Ifeanyi Nwafunanya, Ugochukwu Anaekwe, Ifeanyi Izueke, Ekene Ejike, Chinedu Okoro, Uche Ubaka, Charles, Onyeabo Anaekwe, Leonard Obasi, Emeka Ofoke, Chibuzor Asouzu, Obiajulu, Kingsley and Ugoo Nwude.

Their states of origin were given as Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo. Comrade Ifeanyi Onuchukwu and his organisation-Humane Justice Int’l also co-petitioned alongside then Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO)  the then Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mustafa Adebayo Balogun (Tafa) and the matter was never conclusively investigated, neither the culprits identified, arrested and punished till date.

The Anambra Police SARS had also in the early hours of 9th May 2009 surrounded and cordoned off the family house of the Board Chairman of this Organization (Emeka Umeagbalasi) and arrested eight members of the family including Emeka Umeagbalasi. The family in question is from Ezinifite in Aguata LGA of Anambra State, Nigeria.  The family members and close friends had returned for the wedding ceremony of a younger brother to Emeka Umeagbalasi (Chimezie). The SARS operatives claimed that one of their operatives “lost his rifle at gun point in Ezinifite” and accused a nephew of the family (Uchenna) whom they said they saw riding home on his motor bike in company of a cousin of the family (Chinenye).

Before 6am of 9th May 2009, Emeka Umeagbalasi’s family house had been surrounded by five Hilux trucks filled with well armed SARS operatives, leading to the arrest and handcuffing  of eight family members. The arrestees including Emeka Umeagbalasi were dumped at Ekwulobia SARS annex and in a verge of being tortured before one of them (SUPOL Felix) facially recognised Emeka Umeagbalasi and raised a panicky alarm. Before then, another Hilux truck with SARS operatives had already left for Ezinifite to bundle the women members of the family including Emeka Umeagbalasi’s wife-Blessing and his mother-Patricia. The alarm so raised instantly unsettled the SARS officers leading to recalling of their menacing squad going to bundle the women family members.

The “chief suspect”, Uchenna Uzoaga and Emaka’s youngest brother-Chinonso Umeagbalasi were handcuffed and bundled inside the Ekwulobia SARS torture chambers while  Emeka Umeagbalasi and others got dumped behind the Ekwulobia SARS premises where they were shown three new graves containing the shot and killed victims of SARS. Emeka and others were threatened with death and bluntly told to await their death if in few minutes they still refuse to disclose the whereabouts of the phantom SARS “stolen rifle”.

While these were ongoing, signals let loose and callers included then Governor Peter Obi who Emeka’s spouse sent a distress text message. Other callers were then Acting CP, Amusa Bello, then OC/SARS, Felix Kigigha and then Ekwulobia DPO, SP Dang (now OC/Anti Cult, Imo State). Emeka Umeagbalasi was profusely apologised to and him and other arrested family members were immediately taken back to their family house. Then OC/SARS and Ekwulobia DPO later visited his house in furtherance of their apologies. The said “stolen rifle” was later found lying idle at another Ezinifite village called Aku Village in liquor store; where the bearer SARS operative drank to a stupor and abandoned his rifle.

On March 29, 2009 and June 23, 2009, respectively, the duo of Nonso Ayalogu (43) of Onitsha and Chekwube Okeke (41) of Nanka, in Orumba South LGA, Anambra State, went missing in the hands of the Awkuzu SARS operatives over a business dispute they had with their accusers. The leadership of the Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization then led by Comrade Aloysius Emeka Attah investigated their disappearance  and found that they have been killed extra judicially by SARS. He later confirmed from the then OC/SARS (CSP Felix Kigigha) that they had been killed before he could call for their case file or intervene. The link below contains accounts of more atrocious conducts of Anambra Police SARS: http://www.thesourceng.com/MurrderOctober262009.htm.

The Ezu River SARS killings are another clear case in point. Bodies of 25 young men and above were in the early morning of 19th January 2013 found dumped and floating in Ezu River located in Amansea part of Awka, the capital city of Anambra State. The total number of corpses may most likely be between 25 and 40 or more. Thorough investigations and findings made by this Organization showed that the killings were traced to Anambra Police SARS. While some of the slain were shot and killed or tortured to death before being dumped inside the River, others were strongly believed to have been taken to the River alive before being shot dead and dumped inside the River alongside others.

According to interviews we conducted then and other information gathered from some undergraduate students living around Amansea area, freed detainees of Awkuzu SARS including an Awkuzu vigilante operative and an estranged girl friend of one of the SARS operatives who was then a student of the Anambra State/Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu University at Igbariam; the corpses were dumped between the hours of 12: am and 3: am in the late night/early hours of 18th/19th January 2013.

All the corpses dumped were dumped in anticipation that they would be pushed or carried or flushed away by the River flows but some were carried away while others remained at the point of their dumping owing to lesser quantity of river flows occasioned by dry season then. Some villagers especially local swimmers interviewed told Intersociety that dumping of slain corpses inside the River was not new in the area and that why the ones under complaint were seen floating was because of lesser quantity of river flows occasioned by dry season.

In other words, the corpses were dumped at the wrong time of the season. An estranged girlfriend of one of the Anambra Police SARS operatives at Awkuzu told Intersociety then strictly on anonymity that “slain corpses are usually moved late night to Omambala River in Otuocha or Ezu River” and that “her boyfriend had told her in December 2012 that their cells at Awkuzu are filled up with so many detainees and that the cells must be decongested (custodial killings) soonest”.

We were also told that some of those corpses dumped in the late night/early morning of 18th/ 19th January 2013 had been pushed by river flows to the interior part of Ezu River called “Onaluokwe River Circle”, where only Ijaw fishermen can access with their canoes. We were further told that the police authorities had on the heels of the news outbreak concerning the floating of slain corpses contracted the Ijaw fishermen to “recover and burry” those slain corpses pushed by river flows into its interior parts including the “Onaluokwe Circle of the River” where the River enlarges.

Slaying of MASSOB Nine by Anambra Police SARS:

CSP James Nwafor of the Nigeria Police Force was the Officer-in-Charge (OC/SARS) of the Special Anti Robbery Squad of the Anambra State Police Command between 2012 and 2015 after taking over from then CSP (now retired ACP) Felix Kigigha. Before his elevation as Anambra OC/SARS, he was in-charge of Nnewi SARS Annex. He is presently the OC/File in CP’s Office of the Anambra State Police Command, Awka. According to official records of the Nigeria Police Force, CSP James Nwafor with Force Entry Number AP31343, is from Ezza North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, Southeast Nigeria and was born on 1st January 1961 (56yyrs). He joined the Nigeria Police Force on 1st April 1983 and was promoted to Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) on 30th January 2013.

He will be due for statutory retirement on 1st April 2018 when he must have served 35 mandatory years in service. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree (B.Sc.) in Public Administration and is rated by critics “to be far richer than his statutory remunerations as a serving Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) in Nigeria”. The headship of Police SARS in Anambra State is a goldmine owing to high commercialisation of their activities and operations as earlier highlighted above.

On 7th December 2012, nine members of the Movement for Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) tagged “MASSOB Nine” were arrested by the combined team of Onitsha Main Market Vigilante Group headed by Mr. Chinenye Ihemko and officers of the Onitsha Central Police Station/Area Command then headed by ACP B.S. Wordu. Their arrest followed a protest/solidarity match around Onitsha Main Market and nearby Biafran Market against the Police/Vigilante Group for killing one of their members, Mr. Uchechukwu Ejiofor on 12th November 2012 who hailed from Imo State. The protest was followed immediately with a meeting on how to bury their fallen comrade. There had also been existing animosity between MASSOB members and Onitsha Main Market Vigilante Group over toll collection and extortion rights around Onitsha Main Market, Biafran and Ose Markets’ axis and adjoining streets, roads and motor parks or loading garages; leading to periodic confrontations between them.

As MASSOB meeting was in progress at their nearby office after the protest, the said combined team stormed the place, shot some of them below the knee including late Mr. Basil Ogbu who was shot at his leg. Nine of them were arrested and their names are: (1) Basil Ogbu (Nsukka-Enugu State) of No. 100 Bida Road, Onitsha, (2) Michael Ogba (Ebonyi State) of Johnbosco Lane, Ugwuagba Layout, Obosi, (3)Sunday Omeogo (Ohaukwu-Ebonyi State) of No. 10 Minaj Street, Obosi, (4) Philip Nwamkpa (Ezza West-Ebonyi State) of Uruowuru Village, Obosi, (5)  Ndubuisi Eze Obumneme (Amandugba-Imo State) of No. 2 Maifulani Street, Fegge-Onitsha, (6) Ebuka Eze (Amandugba-Imo State) of No. 5 Anaekwe Street, Fegge-Onitsha, (7)Obinna Oguejiofor( Umuoji-Anambra State), (8)Joseph Udo and  (9)Sunday Offor (their relatives not found).

The wounded and arrested nine MASSOB members were later taken to Onitsha Area Command and dumped by the corner of the Command’s admin building. The wounded were never treated and before   most of their relatives could come for them the next day being 8th December 2012, the then Area Commander (ACP B.S. Wordu) had signed their transfer warrant to Awkuzu SARS; leading to their  transfer in the afternoon of 8th December 2012 to Awkuzu SARS with a tag of “armed robbers” and “kidnappers”.

All efforts made by some of the nine MASSOB members through their families and lawyers to get them freed administratively from Awkuzu SARS or through court processes proved abortive. The then OC/SARS, CSP James Oshim Nwafor frustrated and flouted orders issued by courts including the Awka Division of the Federal High Court for some of them including late Citizen Basil Ogwu to be produced in court until late night and early morning of 18th/19th January 2013 when they were extra judicially executed and dumped inside the Ezu River alongside detained criminal suspects. For more details concerning how the “MASSOB Nine” were tortured and extra judicially executed by CSP James Nwafor led Awkuzu SARS, see the star witness account below; from the then heavily pregnant wife of late Basil Ogwu.  

Star Witness Account:

On Monday, 25th day of February, 2013, Mrs. Uchenna Ogbu, who was in her early twenties then, spoke to the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law in our office.  Mrs. Uchenna Ogbu, who was about six months pregnant then, was the wife of Citizen Basil Ogbu, one of the nine MASSOB members strongly and widely believed to have been tortured and killed extra judicially and dumped inside the Ezu River by Anambra Police SARS.

Her Account:  My name is Mrs. Uchenna Ogbu from Ogbaru, Anambra State, married to my husband-Mr. Basil Ogbu, 25 years of age, from Nsukka in Enugu State. I dropped out of 2nd year from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Nigeria about three years ago due to my mother’s death and got married in 2012. My husband is a businessman, dealing in cosmetics along Sokoto Road, near Onitsha Main Market. He has about five apprentices trading and working for him. Some stay in his shop, while others work for him in a motor park, located on Bida Road, near Onitsha Main Market. We live at No.100, Bida Road, in a flat apartment. My husband is also one of the local leaders of MASSOB in Onitsha. We returned from Okigwe in Imo State (headquarters of MASSOB in Nigeria) in early December 2012 and my husband was getting ready for his new administrative posting to Nnewi at Ojukwu’s house before his arrest and missing.

In the morning of December 7, 2012, my husband-Mr. Uchenna Ogbu told me he was going to their office, which is located at Ezeolisa Lane, off Sokoto Road, for a meeting on how to bury one of their members-Citizen Uchechukwu Ejiofor (from Imo State), killed by a combined team of Onitsha Main Market Vigilante Group and Onitsha Central Police Station/Area Command on 12th day of November, 2012. In the evening of December 7, 2012, my husband did not come back; later a call came informing me that he had problem with the police and the Onitsha Main Market armed Vigilante Group. One of their members called me again and told me that my husband was shot and bundled away alongside others by the named combined security team, which stormed their office on the said date.

On 8th day of December, 2012, we organized a search party involving myself, my husband’s elder brother and a lawyer and we visited the Onitsha Area Command and the CPS. He was located at the Onitsha Area Command alongside others. We saw him lying on the floor with one of his legs battered with gun bullets without any medical treatment, not even first-aid. His battered leg was covered with carton papers. He managed to speak to us. He said that some of their members were on peaceful procession along Sokoto Road, when the armed security team came and violently disrupted their procession and arrested some of them, after which they raided their office,  shot and arrested  him;  and that about nine of them were violently arrested on the said date.

My husband later asked us to give him pure water(sachet water) and a police officer on duty advised us against it on the ground that he may die if given because of his gun-shot wounds. He suggested a pack of locozade boost and a bottle of malt, which were bought and given to him. The police officer who was touched by my condition (heavily pregnant) and age (early twenties) advised us to hurriedly get a doctor to treat his gun-shot wounds before they are transferred to SARS or State CID. We went to the New Hope Hospital in Onitsha and the doctor on duty demanded police report and by the time we got back to the Onitsha Area Command, my husband and others have been taken away.

We went to the State CID, at Awka and they told us that such suspects including my husband were not brought there. We went to the Awkuzu SARS headquarters and they chased us away. We returned to the Onitsha Area Command and pleaded profusely with the Area Commander-ACP B.S. Wordu before he brought out the transfer list showing that my husband and others were transferred to the Awkuzu SARS headquarters.

It was when several efforts to see my husband at the Awuzu SARS  failed that we went to the Awka Federal High Court to compel the O/C SARS to produce my husband in court, which till date, has failed to yield any good result. Since 8th day of December, 2012, a period of two months, two weeks and three days, I have not set my eyes on my husband-Basil Ogbu. I am tempted to believe that SARS have murdered my innocent husband!

Reaction of the then Government of Anambra State:

The then Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Gregory Obi had traveled to UK on official trip when the news of dumping and discovery of the Ezu River slain bodies broke out; forcing him to cut short his trip. He ordered for the recovery of the dumped corpses, leading to 25 of them recovered and deposited at the Amaku Government General Hospital, Awka for autopsy.

Among the corpses officially recovered, other than those already buried by non-State parties; 15 of them were reburied in Amansea at the instance of the Government of Anambra State and the Police authorities. It has been earlier stated here and above that scores of other slain and dumped corpses pushed by the river flows to interior parts of the Ezu River including its “Onaluokwe” Circle (most dangerous part of the River) were recovered and reburied shallowly by Ijaw fishermen using their canoes so as to tame the public health hazard posed especially for neighboring villagers making use of the River for domestic and farming purposes.

Independently, the total number of the slain bodies dumped inside the Ezu River was put at between 25 and 40 or more. Some say that up to 50 citizens were slain and dumped using police hilux vans in a well coordinated operation carried out in the hours of the blue law. A close ally of CSP James Nwafor told Intersociety strictly on anonymity sometime in 2015 that “20 of the slain corpses came from the Nnewi SARS detention facilities”.

This is more so when the then Anambra State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Lawrence Ikeakor had in a press conference held on 12th April 2013 disclosed that “25 corpses were autopsied at the State owned Amaku General Hospital and by the Ezu River side; after which some of the corpses were reburied”. He further disclosed that the final autopsy result/report had since six weeks ago (then) been forwarded to the Federal Government/Senate and that the Ezu River saga involved three resolvable cardinal questions: who are those killed; who killed them; and what killed them?  

For more details of the said Health Commissioner’s press conference of 12th April 2013, see the link below: http://dailypost.ng/2013/04/12/autopsy-report-on-ezu-floating-bodies-now-with-senate-anambra-government/

The Nigeria Police Force and its Anambra State Command, on their part, shamefully claimed that only 19 bodies were recovered. Also, other than the interim report of the result of the autopsy disclosed by the Government of Anambra State through its then Commissioner for Health, Dr. Lawrence Ikeakor; the comprehensive and final report, which was sent to the Federal Government and Senate in March 2013 was never released or publicly disclosed till date.

The then Government of Anambra State had also explained that the Federal Government had in the middle of its (Government of Anambra State) efforts to substantively unraveled the Ezu River saga sent signals to the Government of Anambra State directing same to hand over and hands off everything concerning the Ezu River saga (SARS killings) including the ordered autopsy and its final outcome.

The Government of Anambra State stated also  that the Federal Government considered the Ezu River saga as “federal affair” since the Nigeria Police Force and its personnel under whose command and control or oversight that the Ezu River saga took place is constitutionally a federal police and establishment; that it was in compliance with the Federal Government directive, that the  Government of Anambra State handed over and hands off as directed; especially when the Senate Joint Committee on Police and National Security/Intelligence had taken over the investigation.

Critics:

Critics say that the then Government of Anambra State headed by Mr. Peter Gregory Obi should have ignored the Federal Government directive and released the final autopsy result. Critics further say that the same State Government should have also set up a Judicial Commission or Panel of Enquiry into the Ezu River SARS killings; more so when science of autopsy can only reveal how the unnatural death of the Ezu River slain corpses occurred or what killed them (i.e. whether they were killed by poisoning, clubbing, lynching, strangulation, suffocation, forced suicide/killer liquid substance, torture, gunshots, machete cuts, etc) and cannot answer scientific and manual questions of who are those killed and who killed them.

•Being the continuation of our three-part serialisation of The Untold Story of Ezu River Police SARS Killings: Inside Anambra’s Theatre of Butchery Where SARS Send The Good and The Bad To Early Graves Outside The Law, a Special Investigation Report by Intersociety released in Onitsha, Anambra State, on July 20, 2017. Keep a date tomorrow for the conclusion of this gripping report.

Source News Express

Posted 27/07/2017 6:04:03 PM

 

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