Ezu River and the Floating Corpses

by SOC Okenwa

On January 19th this year the world was served a horrific photographic menu of scores of human bodies found floating on Ezu River in Amansea community of Anambra State. When the local folks discovered the floating corpses they raised alarm but frantic searches within and without revealed no one in the community was missing. Governor Peter Obi, cutting short his trip abroad, visited the scene of horror to bear witness to the tragedy. Days and weeks and a month-plus gone nothing concrete has yet been done in terms of diligent investigation to unearth the source of the decomposing dead bodies found in that river.

Since no one has been declared missing in the neighbourhood or neighbouring villages and towns in Anambra and Enugu states it follows logically, therefore, that the floating bodies must have been those of citizens killed and brought and thrown into the river at wee hours of the night from elsewhere. So who are these ‘criminals’, these young men who met their ultimely death through ‘firing squad’ without trial or judgement? The police normally should be able to tell us but the problem here lies in the fact that the police is being accused of being behind the illegal atrocious killings. In other words the police is the chief culprit!

Hundreds (if not thousands) had been executed by security forces especially in Igboland without necessary questions asked nor answers provided. Exploiting the people’s ignorance of their rights and bowing to intimidation of the gun has conspired to mystify law enforcement in the south-east in particular. Accusations and counter-accusations are flying everywhere between the police and MASSOB on one hand and the government and human rights advocates on the other. The truth must be made to prevail in this sordid incident that calls for our collective indignation and solidarity with the dead.

Though a Senate committee has since visited the horrible site in an investigative effort the Federal Government ought to have constituted a special investigation team to try to unravel the mystery surrounding the gory incident. Daily, Nigerians are being executed extra-judicially by the security forces without any proportionate penalty. The combined forces of corruption and leadership mediocrity has rendered living in Nigeria akin to living in hell! Life is therefore worth little or nothing.

The law enforcement in Nigeria ubiquitously remains, post-colonialism, a brutal exhibition of naked primitive force fit only for the animal kingdom. Poorly trained, equipped and remunerated the police men and women tend to vent their frustration on a larger society they are supposed to protect. Rather than being seen therefore as ‘friends’ they are seen more as enemies worth keeping at arm’s lenght. Even the military are not left out of the shedding of innocent blood in Nigeria. Recently, four students of Nasarawa State University Keffi were shot dead by soldiers sent to quell a peaceful protest by the students over water and power shortage.

The impunity guaranteed by a lawless federation with an absurd centralized police force makes it possible for men and women in uniform to commit crimes every now and then and go scot-free. That was why a A 27-year-old woman, Mary Sunday, has been in the hospital bed at Igbobi Orthopaedic Hospital in Lagos seven months after she was allegedly attacked crudely by her fiancé, Corporal Isaac Gbanwuan, with a pot of boiling stew and a lighted stove! While Mary is still writhing in pain recuperating from the first degree burns she received from the wicked jealousy-induced attack Corporal Gbanwuan is free as a bird working in his station!

Again in October 2009, a 36-year old Friday Orjieh, a breadwinner of his young family, a bureau-de-change operator based in Ikeja, was brutally shot dead at close range by an army officer, Private Aminu Audu, of Op-MESA, a joint military security patrol team in Lagos hired by one Mrs Elizabeth Olubunmi. Though the widow, Adiza Orjieh, had recently won a court case against the killer of her late husband it remains to be seen whether such brutal incidents could be nipped in the bud. Meanwhile the murderer Private Audu and his accomplice Mrs Olubunmi are still at large enjoying the life and freedom they had denied others!

The Ezu River macabre discovery bore the hallmark of police brutality. The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) leadership in Onitsha has brought forward facts and proofs that 18 of its members were among those killed and dumped in the river by the security outfit in Anambra state called SARS. One believes the MASSOB story because thus far the SARS commanders have not proven otherwise what the MASSOB were saying by providing the arrested MASSOB members in their custody.

The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) based in Awkuzu in Anambra State is more of a terrorist organisation, a killing machine than a joint task force against armed robbery, kidnapping and other sundry violent crimes. It must be reformed or disbanded! Much as one is against kidnapping, armed robbery or violent agitation for nationhood (secession) SARS are killing more innocent Igbos than the men of the underworld they are supposed to be tracking and bringing to justice. SARS are operating dangerously as if they were established primarily to kill and maim!

The Commissioner of Police in Anambra state, Bala Nassarawa, must be investigated and redeployed if not sacked outrightly for his incompetence and/or complicity in the Ezu River abominable affair. He knows what the SARS men were doing but he preferred to lie his way out! One does not yet comprehend the reason behind the manifest animosity towards MASSOB by governments and their agencies. The open campaign of hostility is reprehensible to say the least! MASSOB has not done anything more unpatriotic or grievous than what Boko Haram in the north, MEND in the Niger Delta and OPC in Lagos are doing. Their non-violent campaign for Biafra cannot be criminalised when the ‘terrorists’ in the north and in Niger Delta are seeking dialogue or amnesty from the federal government!

When I went home in December 2005 my late mother had warned me dreadfully against late night adventures. One night as I made to drive out of the house in the village with a brother and a friend for a concert up-town featuring the late ‘Ogene’ high-life King, Oliver De Coque, my mother issued a stern warning against returning home late in the night because SARS, according to her, were killing people extra-judicially at night with cases of disappeared villagers been reported often. Of course I heeded her advise and came back home quietly at dawn.

The central police station in Ihiala town in Anambra state (my hometown) was burnt down many years ago and till today it remains so! The town folks were furious and went for self-help when a trigger-happy policeman opened fire accidentally killing a young boy on an errand. In all intents and purposes the Nigerian police force has become “a mindless and unrestrained killing machine…a human slaughtering enterprise” — (apology to Prof. Okey Ndibe).

Even if those young men (nearly hundred) murdered extra-judicially and denied decent burial and dumped like dogs without families in Ezu River were armed robbers, kidnappers or ‘terrorists’ did that justify the abominable way they were treated? Whatever happened to justice that presumes one innocent of any charges until proven guilty? Could that strategy of ‘arrest and waste’ be said to have dissuaded organized crimes in Anambra state in particular and Nigeria in general? Not at all; rather, the high-handedness of the security forces has forced the boys in criminal adventures to become more daring and more violent sparing no member of the police or army seen anywhere around their operations.

By reportedly ordering the mass-burial of the bodies floating on the river even before any postmortem or autopsic examination could be conducted on them to identify who they were and how they were murdered Gove

rnor Peter Obi acted in a haste that suggested cover-up or outright connivance with the police to destroy evidence. By promising to reward any information volunteered by interested parties or members of the public with 5 million Naira without assuring people of protection the Governor sought to trivialise a serious matter involving wasted young lives.

The blood of those wasted souls dumped callously in Ezu River are crying for justice. They deserve justice and justice they must get! Any attempt to sweep their dehumanising case under the carpet (like many unresolved murders across the land before it) must be resisted and challenged. We call for an impartial probe and demand for full disclosure and justice on their behalf. May the good Lord accept their souls and may they repose in peace!

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