It’s time to talk about state-directed anarchy in South-eastern Nigeria
What if someone told you that there is somewhere in Nigeria where governments openly defend criminal behaviour and keep people locked up in prison indefinitely on the flimsiest, most tenuous grounds? What if you were told that state-appointed legal personnel in this part of Nigeria take advantage of victims searching for justice and try to obtain sexual favours from them? Would it sound shocking?
To be honest, it probably wouldn’t. This is Nigeria that we are talking about after all – the country from which the person writing this had to flee for his life. Open illegality and outrageous actions are like death and taxes in this part of the world. What could however be classified as surprising in this instance is the sheer extent to which such activities go on in the southeast of Nigeria, seemingly without any pushback whatsoever. I will outline just two instances in this column to make this point.
The innocent health workers falsely imprisoned for 2 years
On March 21, 2019, Dr Maria Amadi drove home after a day of work at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu where she worked. As she pulled into her driveway, she was accosted by four young men who jumped out of a Honda Accord. She was shot 3 times on her stomach, waist and left palm. Upon being rushed to the Enugu State University of Technology Teaching Hospital at Parklane Enugu, she unfortunately passed away, but not before naming some of her work colleagues as her suspects.
The colleagues in question were Dr. Afam Ndu and a nurse, Mrs. Ruth Buzo Maduka, both of whom also worked at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital. Apparently, she had recently had altercations with them, which led her to believe that they had a hand in her shooting. Along with another nurse colleague Stella Achara, they were duly arrested and referred for questioning by the Enugu State Commissioner of Police and the Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad (FSARS).
Upon questioning, the police report signed by C.P. Olafimihan A. Adeoye averred that no evidence whatsoever was found linking them to the crime. The police then actually arrested three members of the 4-man gang that carried out the shooting and even obtained written and video testimony from one of them confessing to being one of those who killed Dr. Amadi. C.P. Adeoye’s word on the arrested health workers was simple – they had nothing to do with this. Release them, so we can prosecute the actual suspects.
And here is where the story takes a left turn. Prior to the outcome of the investigation at the Force HQ in Abuja, the Enugu State Criminal Investigation Department has carried out its own investigation with findings very similar to the subsequent federal investigation.
According to the findings, not only was no evidence found against the arrested health workers, but the very accusation itself was dismissed as an unsubstantiated “mere presumption.” This really ought to have been the end of the matter for the three detainees except for a stunning paragraph that came next – stunning for both its utter illogicality and its barefaced lack of shame.
Thus from March 2019 to date, three obviously innocent health workers trained at great cost to Nigeria have been kept in prison for no reason whatsoever. My source who contacted me through TruthIsNow.org, claims that Dr. Ndu and Mrs. Maduka are being persecuted for the egregious crime of not being from Enugu while occupying “juicy” positions that certain highly placed indigenes think should be theirs.
It is of course, impossible to independently verify such allegations, but what can easily be verified is the fact that the Chief Judge handling this case in Enugu has found reasons to avoid sitting whenever this case is to be heard. In so doing, he has prevented three innocent people from having their day in court and the chance to clear their names for two whole years. Coincidence? You be the judge.
The Awkuzu SARS panel and what happened next
The name “James Nwafor” is now one of the most infamous names in the Nigerian public lexicon following the exposure of the myriad atrocities of the erstwhile Awkuzu SARS butcher-in-chief. The story that caught the world’s attention the most was that of Chijioke Iloanya, whom he boasted of murdering to the young man’s distraught parents back in 2012.
Chijioke Iloanya was arrested in Nigeria in 2012 and his family never heard from him again.
He was transferred to the former SARS police unit that was disbanded after mass #EndSARS protests against police brutality in 2020. We meet with the Iloanya family to recount his story. pic.twitter.com/P8Qvend5k5
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) January 14, 2021
In November, weeks after the #EndSARS protests threatened to upend Nigeria’s political architecture, several states scrambled to set up hastily-convened judicial panels to go through the extensive charade of pretending to investigate events that have been common knowledge for years. After the Lagos State panel, the Anambra State judicial panel sitting in Awka attracted the most attention because it was where the petitions against CSP James Nwafor were due to be heard.
At the time, I spoke to Obianuju Iloanya, the older sister of Chijioke Iloanya who bravely fought alone for years just to get to the point of having her brother’s murder publicly acknowledged. She had no great expectations going into the hearing, but even her most pessimistic projections could not have accounted for what would happen next.
The judicial panel for Anambra State in Awka will be hearing my brother's case on Tuesday, 17th November 2020. I'm soliciting for emotional support and encouragement, my parents are witness at the panel, I'd need all my strength to be strong for them cos I'm really exhausted now.
— Where is Chijioke? (@Ada_mummyya) November 15, 2020
Speaking at the panel, police legal representative SP Innocent Obi claimed that no records regarding Nwafor’s tenure as officer in command existed. The reason? Apparently the crowd of protesters had supposedly gained access to the Awkuzu SARS police station and burnt all its records. Amazingly, despite the existence of hundreds of minutes of live streaming video showing that the protesters never came close to storming the said police station before being dispersed with live bullet rounds, this argument was accepted by the panel.
Obi further argued that since no records existed, CSP James Nwafor thus had no case to answer and could not be compelled to appear before the panel. I have it on good authority by the way, that Nwafor himself was sighted repeatedly in and around his former Awkuzu stomping ground on the day before his botched hearing. As if this were not bad enough, when Obianuju Iloanya confronted SP Innocent Obi to explain the miscarriage of justice she had just witnessed, he proceeded to proposition her, dangling justice for her brother as a bone and claiming to “have feelings” for her.
Don’t believe me? Well it just happens that she recorded the encounter and I was given a copy of the sordid tape. Here, have a listen below:
In the course of my affiliation with TruthIsNow.org and other journalistic sourcing platforms, I have documented many other instances of similarly flagrant disregard for any sort of rule of law, legal convention or basic human decency within the governmental ecosystem in Nigeria’s southeast. For the purposes of brevity (and possibly to protect BusinessDay from liability), I chose to highlight only these two instances because they are among the most egregious. There are many, many more where these came from.
What Nigeria will do with this information is anybody’s guess. My job is simply to point out where there is a problem – and clearly, there is a problem in the land of the rising sun.
A very big problem.