By Ikechukwu Amaechi
I DECRIED here, penultimate week, the murder of Chukwuemeka Anichukwuegbo, an industrial physicist, whose life was cut short at 33 in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.
Emeka, an orphan, was an employee of Diversey West Africa Limited when he was killed on November 28, 2020. His corpse was dumped in an unregistered, private morgue whose proprietors are yet to coherently explain what happened and why they appropriated his phone.
Police investigation has been anything but thorough. There were no follow-ups on possible leads. For instance, the proprietor of the rogue morgue said he was tipped off by his police friend to go and pick Emeka’s corpse after an alleged clash by rival cult gangs near the Lagos Garage in the old city.
Police refused to follow up on that. Till now, nobody knows who that “mystery policeman” is. So, I agonised that most likely, nothing will come out of the so-called investigation and the Anichukwus may not get the justice they deserve because “the Nigerian State does not have the reputation of standing up for the weak and vulnerable”.
But I also insisted that though the “Anichukwus have neither the financial nor political muscle to bring justice to these vampires who murdered their son in cold blood … the Nigerian State must step to the plate of equity and justice to unravel this case. The blood of Chukwuemeka seeks for justice. Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, should be interested. Nigeria is not a jungle that must be abandoned to hoodlums.”
The article elicited a lot of response. Some cried, prayed for the repose of the soul of the dead, and besought God to take vengeance. But there was a unanimity of opinion that the Nigerian State cannot deliver justice.
And like the police officer at Igbeba Police Station who advised Emeka’s elder sister, Stella, to quietly take his corpse back to their ancestral Nomeh Unataeze community in Nkanu East LGA in Enugu State for burial rather than wasting her time and resources seeking justice, many of those who reacted to the article gave the same advice. Vengeance, they chorused, should be left for God.
But I found one of the interventions particularly instructive, coming from an elder statesman, a retired General of the Nigerian Army, who I have the privilege of calling my friend. To perfectly appreciate his drift, I will reproduce his text verbatim. “Good morning IK and happy new year once again. Hope you and your family are fine and keeping safe. Well done.
“Regarding the unfortunate killing of Emeka which is the subject of your write-up, I am sorry to say that most of you, especially those of you whose job is to keep chronicling and commenting on events as they occur, don’t seem to understand the absolute incapacitation of, not just this government, but all previous governments before, nay, the Nigerian State to ‘stand up for’ not just ‘the weak and vulnerable’, but also for the so-called high and mighty.
“Just check the records. Except, perhaps, during the Gen Sani Abacha era, when, from my own perspective, the so-called Ogoni Four obtained decisive victory in the infamous Ken Saro-Wiwa episode, I can’t remember any other instance when the Nigerian State stood up for any of its citizens whether high or low.
“Look at the C-130 incident of the IBB era when more than 140 young Nigerian Armed Forces officers perished in an obviously avoidable accident. Till today, no person has been held accountable for that mishap. Look at the murders of top political actors from Chief Bola Ige, Harry Marshall, is it Funsho Williams? Has the Nigerian State (the Police, DSS) solved any of the murders? Has any single official been held accountable?
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“Now look at the Boko Haram insurgency. In spite of the Anti-Terrorism laws that have been reviewed several times over and which prescribe stringent punishments, including, I think, the death penalty, apart from a few lowly placed terrorists who received just the minimum prison terms, has anyone been convicted of terrorism?
“But some few months ago, many of the terrorists were executed in Chad, having been swiftly tried, convicted and immediately executed by firing squad. Okay, a few days ago, I read in one of the blogs that a soldier who killed his officer and other soldiers has just been convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad. This is one of the rare instances of the dead getting justice through the instrumentality of the State.
“So, from my own perspective, as unfortunate as it may seem, whosoever gets hurt or even killed in this country is on his own. No person is ever held accountable for failures or transgressions. No one ever owns up to his responsibilities. And in a situation where these two are missing, people must then take measures to stay safe and alive. The Nigerian State is absolutely incapable of rendering justice whether to the lowly or the mighty.”
I broke out in sweat and felt faint after reading the General’s response, not because he said anything new per se, but coming from a man of his standing in the society, the predicament of Nigerians became more evident. Must we continue like this?
That takes me back to the chicken and egg conundrum of whether Nigeria is a failing, failed or just a fragile state. And my answer is simple: Any country where citizens are exhorted to take personal measures to stay safe and alive because the government whose primary purpose, spelt out in Section 14 (2b) of the 1999 Constitution, is the welfare and security of the citizens, has abdicated is a failed state. Period!
Any country where life is as cheap as it is in Nigeria has failed. Any country where any citizen with blood flowing in his or her veins will read the tragic story of Emeka and retort: and so what, is he the first person to be killed, as some definitely did, is a failed state. Simplicita!
Last week, the police called Stella to tell her they were charging the case to court but the IPO pointedly said they were not charging the suspects for murder even as he refused to disclose what the charges were. No attempt was made to investigate the alleged mystery policeman.
Meanwhile, statements are changing. The lady who claimed to be Emeka’s girlfriend and witnessed his murder initially said the deceased came to her house and they ran into the murderers when she was seeing him off. Now, she is claiming that they went to a hotel. That does not add up.
Assuming, without conceding that she was indeed Emeka’s girlfriend, Stella is wondering why her brother who was living in a two-bedroom apartment alone would take the girlfriend to a hotel for a tryst. Besides, the brother’s wallet was found in his room with all the money and his ATM cards. Why would someone taking the girlfriend to a hotel for a rendezvous leave behind his money and ATM cards?
Stella went to Ogun State police headquarters to request that clinical investigation be carried out. She had hoped for listening ears. She got none. Instead, the state police public relations officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP, got angry and asked her if she was insinuating that the police were culpable in her brother’s death. The beleaguered lady, in tears, said no.
She was pointedly told nothing can be done about the matter. Thoroughly intimidated, she left Abeokuta and cried all the way to Lagos.
Stella is fatigued and broken. But she does not want to give up. I admire her tenacity. An orphan with no resources whatsoever to pursue this matter, she told me last week that something tells her the Nigerian State will not let her brother die in vain.
“Please, help me and tell the Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu about this. I was told that he is a decent man who believes in justice. My brother deserves justice,” she pleaded.
That plea is the reason for this open letter to IGP Adamu. Let it be said, for once, that the Nigerian State stood up for one of its citizens irrespective of status. Let it not be said that we have become collateral damages in a country that once was, but which for so long has tragically refused to be.