By George Onah

Mr. Chukwunwike Oguejiofor Orafu graduated from University of Port Harcourt  with a second class upper division. He read accounting. He was the best graduating student in his department and faculty. Soon after getting his call up letter to the National Youth Service Corps scheme, he  proceeded to Kano State where he was deployed.

Orafu belonged to batch ‘A’ of the scheme.  It is on record that he was the first to report to camp where he promptly signed up and his NYSC number bears testimony to that – KN/04/A/001. Orafu reported to camp on 1  May, 2004. Twenty four hours later, as he acquainted himself with what obtained in the camp and city, fighting broke out in a small town of Yelwa, in far away Plateau State. It was alleged that hundreds of Muslims were killed by Christians in that town. Orafu did not have to bother his head over the happening in Plateau State since he was in Kano.

But nine days later, precisely Tuesday, 11 May, hundreds of Muslims, angered by the alleged killings in Plateau, marched from Kano’s main mosque to the state governor’s office.  What first appeared like a peaceful protest-march later turned violent.

The protest, reportedly  led by some Islamic leaders, quickly degenerated into a  riot. Massive attacks were launched at Christians in Kano and town flowed with blood. Orafu was new in Kano and was only familiar with the environment of the camp. He had left the camp and gone to the town to buy  toiletries when the riot broke out. He promptly put a call to his father in Onitsha, Anambra State, informing him of what had become of the city. The elderly Orafu advised his son to run to any nearby police station for refuge. The corps member immediately attempted a dash to the nearest police station around the market.

As Orafu, who was fully dressed in his NYSC uniform, negotiated the bend towards the police station, he came face-to-face with a mob, wielding machetes, clubs, iron rods, cans of petrol and other dangerous weapons. He put another call to his father, telling him of his encounter and how he was trying to escape the mob. He doubled his pace and ran the race of his life as the mob ran after him.

Orafu headed for the Bopai Police Headquarters and apparently told himself that he would soon be in the safe premises of the police.  He was wrong. Unknown to him, another group of protesters laid in wait and promptly swept him off his feet as he sprinted  towards the police headquarters. The group dispossessed him of his cell phone and descended on him.  Minutes  later, the father called his son and the receiver said, “The owner of this phone is an infidel and he has gone the way of infidels. He has been beheaded”.

The commissioner of police in Kano at the time, Abdulganiyu Daudu, told journalists the  following day, Wednesday, 12 May, that 30 people had been killed and over 40 injured in the riot. Daudu said at least 15 corpses had been deposited in the mortuary of the Murtala Mohammed Hospital that day. But he did not mention whether Orafu was one of the dead. Some of the dead were burnt after being stabbed or  clubbed to death; still there was no trace of Orafu.

It has been seven years since  Orafu was declared missing by the authorities of the NYSC and Kano State government.  However, the father of the missing corpse member has been asking both the NYSC and Kano government to produce, for proper burial, the corpse of the young man who travelled all the way to Kano to serve his fatherland.

Shortly after the riot, the NYSC secretariat in Kano wrote a letter dated  25 May, 2004 to the headquarters of the corps informing it of the missing corps member since the riot of 11 May, 2004. The father of the missing corps member, the Very Rev. Felix Orafu of Azu Ogbunike in Oyi LGA, Anambra State, anxious  to know the fate of his son, travelled to Kano on 3  June, 2004. 

 The NYSC secretariat in Kano revealed its letter to the DG.  On 8 June, 2004, a letter from the family was sent to the DG  of the corps and there, but there was no response from the NYSC. About a year later, on 23 May, 2005, the family forwarded another letter to the head of the scheme. In it, the family said “… the aforementioned youth corper is still in your custody and, consequently, members of his family will want an update on his fate since it is one year since you declared him missing. … we believe that since our son was on national assignment in Kano under your charge, you should, at this point in time, do what is fair and just by taking up his case with concerned quarters including the Kano State government whose duty it was to ensure his safety. We also plead with you to inform the Presidency to resolve this issue as would be acceptable to his family”.

*Late Chukwunwike Oguejiofor Orafu
Sunday Vanguard, however, gathered that the directorate had not all the while been silent on the matter but it was not until 28  January, 2006, nearly two years after, that the directorate of the corps responded to the mails of the family on  the missing young man. Signed by the DG,. Brig-Gen Y Bomoi, the letter says “… since the matter was reported to us, management has left no stone unturned in searching for the young man.

In our search, a team was raised to comb all hospitals, mortuaries and other sick bays in the vicinity. The police and other security agencies were also contacted and involved in the search”.

The letter also informed that “… as parents, we are mindful of your feeling and agonies of the family at this critical moment and that was what informed the visit of the former NYSC DG, Brig-Gen. Walter Oki, to the family of Mr. Sam Azuka Onyechi of Orafu family in Port Harcourt who first contacted us on the matter”.

 It concluded  that “while arrangement is being made to inform our insurance company to pay all the benefits due to the missing corps member, I implore you and your family to continue to keep faith in Almighty God for his blessings”.

But, seven years after and not satisfied with the response of the NYSC and spurred by  the recent compensation for the families of the 10  members of the NYSC who died in the post-election violence, the family petitioned President Goodluck Jonathan, reminding him that “what is good for the goose is good for the gander”.

The  family said it was writing “on behalf of the Orafu family of Ogbunike in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State to plead with you sir to employ your good offices and your confirmed penchant for fairness, equity and justice to give to the goose what is good for the gander.”

The letter continued: “We forward this petition to your esteemed office over the horrible murder and subsequent unsatisfactory manner, the untimely death of our brother, cousin and ward, Mr Chukwunwike Oguejiofor Orafu, was handled by the NYSC and the Kano State government of Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau after he was brutally murdered by rampaging Moslem youths in Kano, precisely on 11 April, 2004 while he was on Youth Service.

“Mr. Chukwunwike Oguejiofor Orafu was slaughtered by rampaging Moslem youths on a religious riot within Kano metropolis and his phone number, which the wicked killers held onto for days thereafter, was being answered by the vampires who severally warned several frantic relatives and friends who called the number to stop making further calls to the phone because the owner of the phone had  been beheaded, after which the voices will rattle off strings of Hausa invectives and roar with laughter at the plea to have mercy on our brother who committed no crime against them.

“Despite several searches and adverts for missing persons placed by us and even the NYSC too, our brother is yet to be found several years after, lending credence to the claim of the nightmarish voices that they had actually killed him. We had made representations to the NYSC demanding that they, the Kano State government and the Federal Government whom our brother was serving should pay adequate compensation for the young man whose life was snuffed out in such a brutal manner but no tangible action was taken.

“This young man so coldly killed in his prime in this gruesome manner was a blazing star who made a second class upper honours degree in accountancy, graduating from the University of Port Harcourt as the best graduating student of his Department and Faculty and won both the Department and the Dean’s Awards for Academic Excellence. He was the first_born son of an aged and retired reverend gentleman, the Very Reverend Felix N, Orafu, who is now above 80 years old and still mourns the terrible unbearable loss of his dear son to people he did no harm to.
“It will not be out of place to say that our Chike was the first NYSC MARTYR and should be known officially as that.

 It is, therefore, very saddening and a reopening of old wounds when we learnt of your humane gestures of personal contact and recognition of the families of the recently slain colleagues of our dear brother with proper and due compensations paid to the bereaved families while our brother lies unsung, unmourned and unrecognized somewhere in the wilderness of Kano.

At least some solace was given to the families of these recent colleagues of his, who had dead bodies to bury with a proper mourning. Our brother cannot be properly mourned as we have no corpse to shed our tears on”.

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