The most outstanding issues in Anambra State today regarding the conduct of the incumbent Chief Security Officer and Governor Mr Peter Obi are:
1. Failure of Peter Obi to ensure effective investigation to unravel and/or disclose the whole truth about what happened to Igbo sons at Ezu River, whose naked and half clothed corpses were found floating on the river.
Governor Peter Obi’s brutish and arbitrary resort to ordering and personally supervising the demolition of properties of people accused- but not yet tried or convicted- of crime in the state, and
The role and use of the SPECIAL ANTI ROBBERY SQUAD (SARS) based in Awkuzu in committing illegalities and crime in Anambra State.
These three issues highlight the growing tendency by the Anambra State Governor to treat human life and dignity with levity, to circumvent the due process and resort to lawless approaches of governance and law enforcement capable of dragging Anambra state back to the Stone Age characterised by savagery.
The Anambra state government’s policy of arbitrary and illegal demolition of properties of persons accused of crime and the governor’s failure to ensure exhaustive investigation to unravel the truth about the Ezu River floating bodies possess the ominous potential of entrenching the culture of lawlessness and impunity, leaving behind a legacy of violence and disregard for due process and human life and ultimately undermining- if not- reversing the march towards democratic and civilised governance.
Biafrans all over the world, stakeholders in Anambra state, relevant state and federal authorities must take appropriate legal and political actions to check Mr. Peter Obi’s increasing recklessness and descent to savagery which will lead to a backlash that may be more difficult to deal with if allowed to become the norm of governance in the State.
THE UNRESOLVED EZU RIVER DEAD BODIES SAGA
It is an act of failure of responsibility on the part of the Anambra State Government not to have unraveled and made public the truth about the outrageous discovery of several floating dead bodies in Ezu River in January 2013. The danger in not unraveling this atrocity and bringing the perpetrators to justice is that those who perpetrated the heinous crime and others who may harbor or contemplate similar crime will be emboldened to repeat it. Public health and public safety are at stake here!
The bodies were first seen in the morning of January 19, 2013 by some indigene of Amansea in Anambra state who went to the river to fetch water.
Curiously, upon being informed of the floating dead bodies, the governor ordered their immediate burial, instead of ordering and/or ensuring an exhaustive investigation into the circumstances surrounding such horrific incident.
It is the responsibility of the governor, as the chief security officer of the state, to ensure investigation to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the discovery of such large number of human corpses floating in a river which is the main source of drinking water for neighboring communities. How did the victims die and who dumped their dead bodies in the river? To cover up such atrocity smacks of gross irresponsibility and complicity.
It is shameful and suspicious that up to date the actual number of the dead bodies is yet to be credibly determined. This is a pointer to the possibility that something is being hidden from the public. The failure by the governor to ensure a deeper digging into the allegation that the victims were detainees killed in police custody and their dead bodies dumped in the river by their killers is disconcerting and raises serious questions.
The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) claimed that nine of the dead bodies found floating on the river were those of their members earlier arrested by security agents who raided their meeting venue and detained them at SARS Awkuzu. The ethnic self-determination and some civic groups in Anambra have conclusively asserted that the dead bodies were those of detainees extra judicially killed by SARS and secretly dumped in the river. We are surprised that the Anambra state governor has not taken this serious allegation which provides a clue seriously enough to ensure a credible investigation with a view to providing a proof or disproof for it.
The investigation conducted into the Ezu river incident by joint Senate Committees on Police Affairs and National Security and Intelligence was perfunctory. And because it was shallow and unprofessional, it did not unravel any substantial or far reaching information that could lead to a resolution of the matter.
Despite the investigation by the joint Senate committees chaired by Senator Paulinus Igwe Nwagu and Senator Mohammed Magoro, certain basic facts are yet to be established.
The report did not reveal the identities of the victims, their actual figure and the circumstances around their killing: who killed them and dumped their dead bodies in the river. These and many other basic minimum findings should have been unravelled by any serious-minded and thorough investigation.
The Senate committees’ investigation did not resolve the conflict in figures. While the IGP quoted 19 dead bodies, the DG SSS quoted 18. Other reports quoted 30 and more. How did the Senate committee, in its report, arrive at 19 instead of 30? It was also expected that the Senate Committee would require the police to account for the 9 MASSOB members they had in their custody before the discovery of the flloating corpses, since the police denied the allegation that they were among those whose bodies were allegedly dumped in the river.
How many family members of the victims did the committee visit and interview? How did they determine the type of gun used? Who shot them and why?
The Senate Committee and the Anambra State Commissioner for health stated that autopsy reports revealed that some of the corpses had gunshot wounds on them. Isn’t this a useful clue which needed to be further explored forensically? A ballistic examination of the bullets extracted from the dead bodies will determine the type of guns used to kill them.
The Committee also reported that the gunshots ‘aimed areas of the body: legs up to the knee cap and some up to the hips’. What did the committee make of this? Considering the strong suspicion of police complicity, why did the senate committee not consider it necessary to conduct or engage an expert to carry out an audit of suspects in police custody in SARS and other police stations in Anambra and Enugu states?
It appears that the police and the Anambra state government are reluctant to push the matter because there are strong indications that security agents are responsible for the killings.
The Anambra State Governor is yet to act on the senate committee’s recommendation “That the Anambra State Government should also be encouraged to carry out a more thorough DNA test on the bodies as requested by the pathologists.”
THE ROLE OF THE SARS IN ILLEGAL AND CRIMINAL ACTS IN ANAMBRA STATE
Governor Peter Obi and the authorities at SARS Awkuzu whose operatives operate as if they are above the law and beyond legal control and accountability. The failure by the Anambra state governor to ensure investigation into allegations that SARS Awkuzu was responsible for the killing of the people whose dead bodies were found in Ezu River and his use of the same SARS to provide security cover for the illegal demolition of people’s property appear to underscore this unholy alliance.
The SARS is a section of the Nigeria police under the Force Criminal Investigation Department and specifically charged ‘to combat armed robbery and other heinous crimes nationwide.’
But SARS in all parts of Nigeria have gained embarrassing notoriety tainting the image of the Nigerian Police locally and internationally, and should either be scrapped or comprehensively reformed to conform to modern standards of policing or human rights-compliant policing.
SARS operatives are known for arresting people for all manner of alleged offences, torturing, extorting and executing suspects and detainees in their custody and secretely disposing of their dead bodies. They also dabble into civil disputes.
The police in SARS, Awkuzu, Anambra and many other places in the country are being used by politicians and other influential persons to victimize their opponents or to settle disputes that are purely civil or communal.
The IGP is not unaware of this serious human rights challenge. Shortly after his appointment as Acting IGP, he was quoted in several news reports as lamenting that ‘ ’Our Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) have become killer teams engaging in deals for land speculators and debts collection…’ The IGP should, as a matter of urgency, re-organize SARS and the entire anti-robbery operations of the Nigeria police force, so as to insulate them from abuse of office.