Anambra State of Nigeria has steadily earned local and international notoriety as a social enclave where the State-actors and non-State actors ceaselessly engage in butchering and maiming members of the human family outside locally and internationally approved and accepted processes. Any killings and maiming not covered by local and international due processes are tagged-extra jus (beyond the law); extra legal (beyond what the written criminal law provides); and extra judicial (beyond court or judicial process). Universally speaking, any killing of human being by a State actor or official security operative without the completeness of subjecting the killed to the processes of arrest, investigation, prosecution, fair trial, conviction and sentencing by a criminal court of competent jurisdiction amounts to extra jus, extra legal or extra judicial killing. Few strict exceptions are governed by the Laws of War and the Principles of Self Defense. Any such killing by a private individual amounts to murder or manslaughter depending on the intents (mens rea) and other prescribed circumstances. In some, if not in many jurisdictions, corporate bodies, which facilitate the murder of individual citizens, are held to account under the law in the form of manslaughter. In the area of torture, which can be physical or mental, with malicious intents, the local and international norms hold the torturers, whether State-actors or non-State actors legally culpable and if convicted, faces same punishment according to jurisdictions.
In Criminology, which is a multi-disciplinary science study of crime, especially in its biological and sociological context, a Criminal is anybody who violates the criminal laws of a country or a defined political territory, whether mala prohibita or mala inse; and adjudges by a competent criminal court after going through the process of arrest, investigation, prosecution, fair trial, conviction and sentencing. A criminal is also anybody who is in conflict with the criminal law, whether he or she is a born-criminal (biological criminal) or a criminaloid (environmental/sociological criminal) is immaterial in the eyes of both criminology and criminal law. A child usually under 12 years, who is in conflict with the criminal law, is regarded by same as a delinquent. Therefore, any killing or torture, whether physical or mental that is rooted within the confines of extra jus, extra legal and extra judicial processes, is socially, biologically, morally and legally abhorrent and culpable. Also, anybody tortured or killed within the confines of extra jus, extra legal and extra judicial processes, with exceptions to the international Laws of War and the Principles of Self Defense, is not a criminal whether accused of armed robbery, kidnapping or murder unless and until he or she is properly processed within a written law and defined penalties through arrest, investigation, prosecution, fair trial, conviction and sentencing. Adequate and sufficient local and international safeguards against these heinous crimes against members of the universal human family abound.
Locally, some of such safeguards are contained in Chapters Two and Four of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, especially Sections 33, 34, 35, 36(with its relevant subs .i.e. sub 12) and 42; the new Code of Conduct for the Nigeria Police Force and relevant decided cases. Regionally, the African Charter on Human & Peoples Rights of 1981, domesticated by Nigeria in 1983 in line with Section 12 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, is a competent regional safeguard. Internationally, there are the UN Convention against Torture (CAT), the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officers, the UN Basic Principles for the Use of Force by Law Enforcement Personnel, the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crimes & Abuse of Power, the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention & Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary & Summary Execution, the Law Enforcement Oath of Honour, Code of Ethics, Code of Conduct and Cannons of Police Ethics, issued by the International Association of the Chiefs of Police. Others are the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights and its optional protocols, the Rome Statute for International Criminal Court and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These local and international safeguards against torture and extra legal executions have political and legal binding effects on State-actors and non-State actors as well as member-States of the UN family including the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Nigeria is a State party to most of these regional and international safeguards, either by way of signing, ratification/accession or domestication. The country is also the general overseer of her numerous local safeguards. Administrative and criminal penalties dominate their violations codes or chapters. Sadly, despite the availability of these local and international safeguards, killing fields and torture chambers still dot Nigeria’s strategic formal and informal security formations including the Special Anti Robbery Squads of the Nigeria Police Force. The Ezu River of Death in Anambra State of Nigeria is one of such tragedies in recent times.
Historically, the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War of 1967-1970 introduced or exacerbated the culture of mass killings and torture in the South-East Nigeria. Most of the heinous crimes known in the country today including the colorization of violent crimes with sophisticated weaponry and technology also originated from the war. Hate crimes (systematic killing of Igbos by non-Igbo security personnel i.e. secret killing of non-violent MASSOB members/supporters by non-Igbo security operatives and their Igbo collaborators as well as systematic massacre of Igbo nationals by Boko-Haram militant elements in northern Nigeria) and negative collective behaviours (civil disturbances and mob justice) also have their origins rooted in the war. In other words, modern trends and patterns of crimes as well as raging gun and homicidal cultures in Nigeria had their origins rooted in the Nigeria-Biafran Civil War of 1967-1970.
In 1979, what looked like first negative collective behavioural action called Boys Oyee (mob justice) took place in the commercial of Onitsha, Anambra State, South-East Nigeria. Suspected criminals especially thieves and robbers were ambushed in their hideouts including hotels housing commercial sex workers and summarily executed. The hotels and residences housing them were also burnt or destroyed. Dozens of such alleged social deviants lost their lives. The Boys Oyee was repeated in 1989. The crude public acceptance of the socially and legally abhorrent methods by the local residents particularly traders, later led to its full adoption in the early 1990s by the leadership of the Onitsha Market Amalgamated Traders Association (OMATA) under the leadership of one G.U. Okeke. Suspected criminals and opponents of the market leadership were routinely rounded up, slaughtered with machetes or shot with pump-action and double-barrel guns and dumped inside the River Niger usually in the night. As a result, hundreds of unprocessed suspects lost their lives. This crudity continued into the late 1990s during the regime of the Onitsha Traders Association (which replaced OMATA) under the leadership of one Paulinus Ubanozie, now late, which lasted from September 1999 to July 8, 2000. Over 1,500 unprocessed suspects including innocent citizens and opponents of the market leadership were slaughtered on major streets of Onitsha. The outfit’s modus operandi was slaughter and dump on the street. For instance, on the Xmas Eve of December 1999, many Onitsha residents were offered dead and decomposing bodies as their New Year Gifts, on their return from the Feast of Xmas.
The then disastrous civilian government of one Chinwoke Mbadinuju in Anambra State not only backed the OTA-killer leadership and its killing spree, but also adopted extra legal execution methodology as its official policy of crime fighting-so called, owing to its political intolerance and legitimacy bankruptcy. This was because kill at will was very popular among traders, most of who had, and still have limited education and little knowledge about law, security, crime and human rights norms. Prior to this inglorious epoch, there was Nnewi Bakassi Boys, formed in 1998 with its offshoot in Ariaria Market in Aba, Abia State, Southeast Nigeria, which, in turn, originated from an alleged shrine in Cross River State, South-South Nigeria. The Nnewi Bakassi Boys also slaughtered dozens of unprocessed suspects-labeled criminals. In July 2000, the Mbadinuju disastrous regime signed the Anambra Vigilante Service Law No 9 of 2000, making the State the first extra legal/judicial killing and torture State in Nigeria. Between July 10, 2000 and September 22, 2002, Anambra State was turned into a killing field and torture chambers. The lynching of a citizen accused of minor legal infraction or involvement in civil dispute usually got the attention and presence of the said governor and members of his cabinet. Suspects were tortured and lynched few meters away from the governor’s office in Awka, the state capital city. At the end, over 4,000 unprocessed suspects (excluding over 1,500 slaughtered by OTA Killer squad) including those in business, family and land disputes; those accused of pick-pocketing and other petty crimes; those involved in landlord/tenant disputes; married and unmarried women who refused to sleep with Bakassi operatives; and opponents of the then disastrous government, were massacred. Also, thousands, if not in their tens of thousands, were tortured, both physically and psychologically, and out of every five citizens who came in contact with the Bakassi Boys, five were tortured and three out of the five slaughtered. The Bakassi Boys’ modus operandi was kill-and-burnt to ashes. Rape was also very high among the two deadly squads created and funded by the then disastrous government of Anambra State. For instance, late Mrs. Ngozi Oranu of Eziowelle in Anambra State was raped to death by the Bakassi Boys at the Bakassi White House located at the Onitsha Main Market in November 2001. She was fighting for her late husband’s properties including a parcel of land when she was framed up and abducted by the Bakassi Boys. Also, in early August 2002, the 17-year-old SS2 Student of the Mathamavis Secondary School, Umoji Community in Anambra State, Miss Chinenye Okoye, was abducted by the Bakassi Boys (AVS) and taken to its White House so called, where she was raped in turn for 60 days. She was among those rescued on September 22, 2002 by the Nigeria Police Force during the dislodgement of the killer-outfit.
Summarized Data Of Innocent Citizens Killed By OTA & Bakassi Vigilante Death Squads:
1. Citizen Chuma Onwuazo – killed by OTA in April 2000 at Onitsha Main Market. He was framed up over a business transaction by a fellow businessman at the Niger Bridgehead Market and taken to the OTA office at Onitsha Main Market where he was butchered. 2. Comrade Bonaventure Egbuawa – butchered by OTA in July 2000 at Onitsha Main Market and dumped inside the Niger River in the night of July 8, 2000. He was a rights activist opposing the OTA’s killing spree. 3. Hon. Ifeanyi Ibegbu – escaped death by whiskers in the hands of Bakassi Boys in August 2000. He was rescued at midnight in Onitsha Main Market by the order of the then IGP. He was a State legislator opposing hash policies of the then government of Anambra State. 4. Edward Okeke – a popular prophet killed and burnt by Bakassi Boys in November 2000 at Ochanja Market Roundabout, Onitsha for prophetically opposing the then disastrous government of Anambra State. 5. Ezeodimegwu Okonkwo – killed by Bakassi Boys in February 2001 at the Nsugbe “33”, near Onitsha. He was a politician/musician. 6. Ikechukwu Nwagboo – killed by Bakassi Boys in February 2001. He was a personal assistant to the then member representing Awka North/South Federal Constituency at the House of Reps. 7. Rockfeller Okeke – killed by Bakassi Boys in April 2001 at his residence in Awka, Anambra State. He was a public servant. 8. Mrs. Ngozi Oranu – raped to death by Bakassi Boys in November 2001 at the Bakassi White House. She was framed up over her late husband’s properties. 9. Felix Ikebude – killed by Bakassi Boys in December 2001. He belonged to the Anambra People’s Forum (political rival of the then government of Anambra State). 10. Sunday Uzokwe – killed by Bakassi Boys in January 2002 at Ozubulu, Anambra State over a misunderstanding he had with one of his town’s men, who was a Bakassi Boys chieftain. 11. Citizen Odigwe – killed by Bakassi Boys in August 2002 in Onitsha. He worked for the then State Environmental Sanitation Authority. 12. Barnabas Igwe – butchered by Bakassi Boys in September 2002 along Oraifite Street, Awada, Anambra State. He was a lawyer and head of a local branch of the Nigerian Lawyers/Bar Association. 13. Amaka, A.B. Girl Igwe – butchered alongside her husband – Barnabas by Bakassi Boys on the same spot and same date. They were butchered because they spoke out against failed public governance in Anambra State of Nigeria.
The Resurgence Of Killing Fields Under Anambra SARS Midwifery:
The denial of any culpability by the Anambra State Police Command under CP Bala Nasarrawa in the Ezu River of Death tragedy is criminologically un-surprising. What matters most is the emptiness of his logic of denial and emerging circumstantial pieces of evidence and incontrovertible antecedents of unlawful killings by the Command, particularly its deadly Special Anti Robbery Squad-SARS with respect to extra jus, extra legal and extra judicial killings as well as torture. It is an incontrovertible fact that SARS is the general overseer of extra judicial killing and torture in Anambra State. The stark truth is that Ezu River is just one out of many killing or dumping fields in the State. The Niger River, for instance, is already angry and saturated with dead bodies killed outside the law by various security agencies in the State led by SARS, which coordinates these secret killings across the State. Even when motley of armed vigilante groups in the State, numbering up to 1,000, kill their captives, they legitimize it through SARS, particularly controversial ones. This is because SARS kills at will and recklessly with impunity. As a matter of fact, it is licensed to kill and torture by the State Commissioner of Police and others before him. Transferring suspects to SARS, which is a routine in the Anambra State Police Command, expressly means a journey of no return. The sole idea of such transfer is for the purpose of infliction of grievous body battering and pretrial executions. Those battered are routinely wasted – killed for constituting nuisance in the cell. Their detention cells are horrible in that ventilation and sanitary conditions are very degrading and torturous. Tortured suspects and those inflicted with body injuries in the course of their arrests are hardly taken to hospital for adequate treatments.
Further, SARS and the entire Anambra State Police Command consider diligent prosecution of their suspects particularly those accused of kidnapping, armed robbery and murder as time wasting. To them, any suspect accused of any of the three violent crimes, which attract capital punishment is entitled to jungle justice by death. They also discretionary mark suspects and other detainees including MASSOB members/supporters involved in non-capital offences and civil disputes, for summary execution. For instance, those arrested in front of their residences, bar joints, along the streets, sporting and entertainment centers, etc, who could not afford summary bail fees, are transferred to the Awkuzu SARS Headquarters and labeled armed robbers and kidnappers with summary death certificates. Their optimum prosecutorial approach ends with Holden Charge-art of arraigning suspects with capital crimes’ accusations in courts of inferior records, usually magistrate courts that lack jurisdiction in entertaining the said accusations, with a view to reminding them to languish in prisons.
Other than Holden Charge, which is the second routine in the treatment of their suspects, torture and pretrial executions remain the SARS major routine. Diligent prosecution and effective criminal investigation of their suspects, owing to blatant lack of modern criminal investigation tools and know-how, are near-absent. Other than torture toolkits, building structures housing the deadly outfit are like ancient prisons or civil war bunkers. There are no crime laboratory, data and records. Most of its operatives lack modern requisite knowledge in crime detection and investigation technology including information technology. Many, if not most of them lack in-service training and experience including internal and external affair concept of human relationship. They look deadly and cannibalistic at all times. They are also merchants of death as they routinely use threat of death and torture to heavily extort money from their captives and their associates/relatives including engaging in dirty jobs and perfect crimes. The Awkuzu SARS Headquarters are also the receiving points of marked suspects from their Nneni, Nnewi, Ekwuluobia, Umunze, Okpoko, CPS-Awka and CPS-Onitsha Units. Citizens arrested in various parts of the State are routinely transferred to them to be tortured and wasted as case may be. Suspects transferred to the State CID for possible effective criminal investigations are sent back to SARS. SARS also receives suspects and other arrested citizens from various armed vigilante groups in the State as well as from the Joint State Security Taskforce and other major police field formations in the Anambra State Police Command. In Anambra State of Nigeria, fear of SARS is the beginning of wisdom. Night life has virtually disappeared in the State’s leading urban cities, no thanks to SARS and its virus.
Statistics Of SARS Killings & Its Roles In The Ezu River Of Death Tragedy:
On 20th of November, 2004, Comrade Ifeanyi Onuchukwu of the Nnewi-based Human Justice International, reported that the SARS operatives then headquartered at the Awka Central Police Station, Anambra State, had on 4th of November 2004, at about 7.15pm up to 8.00pm, carried out mass killing of 20 young detainees, detained for months in their cells. Comrade Onuchukwu was arrested by the Nigerian Secret Police – called State Security Service – for organising a peaceful protest against government hash environmental sanitation policies including imposition and forceful collection of outrageous levies from Nnewi traders. He was transferred to the State Police Command Headquarters, from where he was transferred to SARS in the morning of 4th November, 2004, in the form of armed robbery suspect. The Comrade, who shared same cell with some of the murdered, further reported that the young detainees were carefully selected, brought out of their cells, lined up and shot at close range, after which their remains were conveyed in patrol vans and taken to a parcel of public land at Agu-Awka (very close to the Ezu River of Death), where they were buried in shallow graves with their bodies liquidated with acid substances. Comrade Ifeanyi Onuchukwu said he heard several gun shots during the killing, but was later informed of the mass killing and shallow burial details by one of his cell-mates forced to partake in evacuating the corpses. He managed to get the names and State/community of origin of those massacred from an old detainee, who compiled the names for a SARS officer who forgot to retrieve it. The Comrade who was released on 19th of November, 2004 through the strenuous efforts of the State Rights Community via Barrister Chuka, Obele-Chuka, further informed us that five more detainees were later shot dead after his release, according to his insider contacts. Some of those killed were the detainees that assisted in evacuating the remains of the 20 shot bodies. This is possibly to erase any traces or implications. Several representations made to the then IGP by rights groups including the CLO and Humane Justice International for the heinous crimes to be thoroughly and conclusively investigated, were unsuccessful.
For avoidance of doubt, names and social community origins of the 20 murdered young detainees said to be in their twenties and early thirties are: 1. Samuel Odoh (Nsukka-Enugu State, 2. Ofordike Odoh (Nsukka-Enugu State), 3. Chibueze Ugwueke (Ebonyi State), 4. Ugochukwu Okonkwo (Abagana-Anambra State), 5. Chizoba Mbaebie (Mba-ukwu-Anambra State), 6. Ifeanyi Nwafunanya (Awka-Anambra State), 7. Ugochukwu (Nibo-Anambra State), 8. Ifeanyi Izueke (Enugu State), 9. Ekene Ejike (Oba-Anambra State), 10. Chinedu Okoro (Enugu State), 11. Uche Ubaka(Awka-Anambra State), 12. Charles, 13. Onyeabo Anaekwe (Onitsha-Anambra State), 14. Leonard Obasi (Ugwuoba- Enugu State), 15. Emeka Ofoeke (Ebonyi State), 16. Chibueze Asouzu (Agulu-Anambra State), 17. Obiajulu (Osamala, Ogbaru-Anambra State), 18. Ugonna Nwude (Enugu State). 19. Nduka Okoye (Anambra State), 20. Ephraim Okenyeka (Anambra State).
SARS Invasion Of Umeagbalasi Family In May 2009:
On 15th May 2009, the Chairman of the Board of Intersociety-Nigeria, Emeka Umeagbalasi, traveled to his community-Ezinifite in Aguata, LGA, Anambra State, for the wedding mass of his younger brother, Chimezie and in the early hours of 16th May 2009, at about 6:00am, 12 SARS operatives stormed his house, claiming that the family snatched from one of them a loaded AK-47 Assault Rifle and hid it in the family compound. All seven males in the compound including Emeka, Chimezie, Chinonso and Ebuka Umeagbalasi as well as Uchenna Uzoaga (nephew), Chike Umeosonwunne (an in-law), Donatus Ezeugwu (family friend) and Miss Chinenye Umeagu (cousin) were bundled to the SARS area office in Ekwuluobia. Eight other women including Patricia (Emeka’s mother), Blessing, Chibuzor (bride), Azuka, Uchechukwu, etc, were about to be bundled to SARS office before signals from the then acting CP, Amusa Bello, reached the killer-squads. Prior CP’s intervention, Emeka and his relatives were told to be ready to be disfigured to death. They were shown four fresh graves at the back of the SARS office, where, according to them, stubborn people like them were buried. It was later discovered that one of the SARS operatives abandoned his rifle in another village in his girl friend’s beer parlour after soaking himself in a bowel of liquor. The rifle was later recovered. The Umeagbalasi family members narrowly escaped being butchered if not for surname and connections.
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-Anambra State, went missing in the hands of the Awkuzu SARS operatives over business disputes with their accusers. Till date, their whereabouts are unknown. The leadership of the Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization led by Comrade Aloysius Emeka Attah investigated their disappearance and found that they have been killed extra judicially by SARS.
Investigation Of Nine MASSOB Members Possibly Murdered By SARS On 18TH January 2013:
Sequel to local and international enquiries coming to us in torrents over the authenticity of the claims by the leadership of MASSOB that nine of its members have gone missing in the hands of SARS and might most likely be among some 25 to 30 corpses found floating on the Ezu River of Death on 19th January 2013, we investigated it and found the claims to be credible. The nine names are: 1. Basil Ogbu, 2. Michael Ogwa (Ogba), 3. Monday (Sunday) Omogo, 4. Philip Nwankpa, 5. Ezeh Obumneme (Ndubuisi), 6. Ebuka Ezeh, 7. Obinna Oguejioffor (Offor), 8. Joseph Udoh, and 9. Sunday Offor. They were arrested since 7th December 2012 by the Joint Taskforce Force including the Onitsha Main Market Vigilante Service, led by one Chinenye Ihemko (Okpomkpi) and handed them over to the Onitsha CPS-SARS Unit, which transferred them to their Awkuzu Headquarters and since then, their whereabouts have not been accounted for.
Our investigation revealed that: 1. Basil Ogbu is real. He hailed from Nsukka in Enugu State and lived at 100 Bida Road, Onitsha. He was about 25 years. His wife is Mrs. Uchenna Ogbu, a nursing mother with phone number-08064018819. 2. Monday (Sunday) Omogo is real, formerly of No.10, Minaj Street, Obosi, Anambra State. He hailed from Ohakwu LGA in Ebonyi State and was about 30 years of age. His wife is Mrs. Eucharia Omogo with phone number 08109957940. 3. Michael Ogba (Ogwa) is real. He lived at Johnbosco Lane, Ugwuagba Layout, Obosi. He hailed from Ebonyi State and he was about 35 years. His wife is Mrs. Susan Ogba (Ogwa) with phone number-08135564871. 4. Obinna Oguejiofor (Offor) is real. He hailed from Umuoli-Umoji in Anambra State. He was 20 years. His mother is Mrs. Augustina Oguejiofor with phone number 08068262471. 5. Obumneme (Ndubuisi) Ezeh, age 25, is real. He lived at No. 2, Maifulani Street, Fegge, Onitsha and hailed from Amandugba in Imo State. His mother is Mrs. Phebi Oguejiofor with phone number 07031949088. 6. Ebuka Ezeh, age 27, is real. He lived at No. 5, Anaekwe Street, Fegge, Onitsha and hailed from Amandugba in Imo State. His mother is Mrs. Philomena Ezeh with phone number-08022945380. 7. Philip Nwankpa is real. He lived at Uruowulu Village, Obosi and hailed from Ezza West LGA, Ebonyi State. He was about 30 years. His wife is Mrs. Ekene Nwankpa with phone number-08133021378. The relatives of the remaining two missing MASSOB members-Joseph Udoh and Sunday Offor are yet to be traced. Other missing MASSOB members in the hands of SARS since November 2011 are: Uchechukwu Ejiofor (Imo State), Louis Onwe (Ebonyi State), Abel Obeka (Ebonyi State), Ikechukwu Ononye (Anam in Anambra State), Sunday Obasi and Philip Ubah (Imo State).
We shall continue and conclude in Part Two.
•Being the full report issued on February 19, 2013 by International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law and signed by the Chairman of its Board of Trustees, Emeka Umeagbalasi on the killings in the South East. It was titled: “The Return of Anambra’s Killing Fields: A Criminological Evaluation Of The Ezu River Of Death & Related Tragedies Of Yesteryears (Part One).”