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Linus Oota, Lafia
Five years have passed in the dogged effort to secure justice for the family of Mr. and Mrs Emmanuel Olisa Efobi Anakwe, natives of Abatete, Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, whose son, Stephen Anakwe, was murdered by a group of policemen, who at the time served in the Karu Division of the Nasarawa State Police Command.
The ugly incident happened on February 13, 2012, when Stephen, a 36-year-old businessman based in Jos, Plateau State, travelled to Abuja for a transaction. On the night of the fateful day, Stephen decided to hang out with some friends at a popular club, Double Pole Joint, located close to Al-Barka Suites, New Nyanya in Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, after transacting his business in Abuja.
While he and his friends were chatting and sipping their drinks, a police team raided the general vicinity of the club, causing several people to scamper, to avoid being arrested without justifiable reason and then extorted.
One of the policemen in the raiding party walked into the club and saw Stephen still seated and having his drink. Probably infuriated by Stephen’s calm disposition, barked at him. The deceased was said to have wondered why the policeman should shout at him. The policeman slapped him for his show of effrontery. Promptly, Stephen responded in kind. A scuffle ensued between them, and the policeman summoned his colleagues, who surrounded Stephen and beat him black and blue, opening up deep cuts on the right side of his face. With blood streaming from his face, they handcuffed him and took him away in their patrol vehicle and later shot him dead that very night. What happened thereafter, is a major reason most Nigerians pour scorn on the slogan, “Police is your friend.”
At the premises of the Nasarawa State High Court, Stanley Onachona Anakwe, an Apapa, Lagos-based businessman and immediate younger brother to Stephen narrated to Sunday Sun what he learnt in course of his diligent effort to unravel how his brother was murdered.
Stephen said that he spoke last with his brother on February 13 and Stephen told him that he would travel back to Jos the next morning.
Continuing, he said: “The following day, I got a call from my younger sister, who is a student at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Anambra State, and she said that my elder brother’s girlfriend in Jos, Agnes, needed my phone number. I asked her what the problem was, and she said she did not know. I told her to give my number to Agnes. The lady called and said my elder brother had an altercation with some policemen in a bar in Nyanya.
“I cut the call and dialed his two numbers but the calls did not go through; I called the girl again and asked her how it happened. She said two of her friends in Nyanya, Rita and Anna, who were drinking with my brother, where the incident happened, called her and narrated what happened. I requested for their phone numbers and called them. They told me the police killed and buried my brother.
“They said that the misunderstanding which led to the murder happened in the bar. They said that when people were running, my brother refused to run because there was no reason for him to run as he did not commit any offence. One of the policemen came over and slapped him. He slapped the policeman too in retaliation.”
Stanley took the night bus and travelled to Abuja and arrived the next day. He visited the scene of the incident to ascertain the veracity of the information he had received from Rita and Anne. “I was with my friend, Jude Mbor and a lawyer. We went into the bar and ordered for drinks. Then I told Paul, the barman that we heard that an armed robber was shot there. He said that there was no shooting inside the bar; rather what happened took place outside. He said that the police arrested the person and took him away.”
He explained that Paul told him that he actually saw Stephen alive and in handcuff, sitting at the back of the police patrol vehicle operated by New Nyanya police station, while one of the officers drove the red Toyota station wagon belonging Stephen behind the police patrol van as both vehicles drove away from the location beside Al-Barka Suites (a hotel) around midnight. Paul insisted that at no time did they hear any sound resembling gunfire at that material time.
Stanley said Paul expressed shock when at daybreak the same police patrol vehicle came back to the scene to parade the lifeless body of Stephen to onlookers claiming that he was an armed robber.
Armed with all the information he got from eyewitnesses, Stanley inquired further into the matter and in the process came across Daniel, Rita’s boyfriend, who sat at the same table with Stephen. Daniel said that after the initial altercation with the policeman, he said Stephen went back to their table. Then he went to ease himself at ‘Gents’ and when came back, he saw that policemen had surrounded and were beating Stephen.
Stanley continues the narration: “He rushed back to inform Rita and Anna about what he saw, that the guy who bought them drinks was being beaten by policemen, they also ran to the scene but could not do anything because the policemen were armed. They gave him a big cut on the face before handcuffing him. They put him in their patrol vehicle and drove off.’
Stanley asked Daniel if he would be willing to testify in court about what he said and he gave an affirmative response, stating that Stephen never knew him, yet he bought drinks for him.
Visit to Karu police station
Stanley, his friend, Jude Mbor and the lawyer proceeded to the Karu Police Station, where they saw Stephen’s car parked at the station. At the counter, they demanded to see the Divisional Crime Officer (DCO), who at the time was Ibrahim Adamu, and told him that they were looking for the owner of the red car. He responded that the owner was an armed robber who wanted to kill his men but they outsmarted and killed him. Apparently, the DCO accepted what the policemen told him without bothering to investigate the report.
Upon further inquiries at the station on the whereabouts of Stephen’s corpse, the DPO said it had been buried because no hospital or mortuary was open to accept it because health workers were on strike at the time. They said that his phone, a bible and the car were the only personal items recovered submitted by the police team.
On the strength of all the information, the family petitioned the then Inspector General of Police, Ringim on February 18, 2012, and sent copies to the Nasarawa State Police Command, National Human Rights Commission and the Department of State Services. The next day, the Karu police station invited the family; the discussion moved to the state command headquarters and ended up at the Zone $ Command in Makurdi, Benue State.
In their petition, the family demanded for the immediate exhumation of the hurriedly buried corpse and the conduct of a formal autopsy to determine the actual cause of death. The family also demanded that police involved be prosecuted for extra-judicial killing.
At this point, the six police officers involved, namely Inspector Danladi Lenkem, Inspector Edula Ateku, Sergeant Vincent Manu, Corporal Samson Magga, Corporal Musa Audu, and Corporal Christopher Maikasua were transferred out of Nasarawa State Police Command. About three of them joined the Mobile Police in different units to cover up their crime and escape justice.
But through the help of some non-corrupt officers, the family was able to bring all the affected police officers together as well as the witnesses to give their own statement at the Zone 4 Command of the police before the family’s demands in the petition was granted.
How the corpse was exhumed
The AIG of the zonal command assigned three police officers to investigate the case, approved the warrant of exhumation, and directed the DPO Karu to give all needed assistance to the family including identifying the particular grave where Stephen was buried.
At Karu cemetery, police dug six separate graves. Stephen’s corpse was found in the third covered grave. The family had to hire non-indigenes to exhume the body, as it was taboo for a Karu native to do it. The Etsu Karu endorsed the letter of exhumation.
Stanley explained: “We got four boys and bought chemicals because of the odour. I actively participated in the exhumation because at a point all the boys ran away due to the odour. Immediately we opened the grave, I saw and recognized the toes of my brother. The e xhumation took place on the 28th of January 2012
Stanley takes up the tale: “We hired a hearse and took the corpse to Federal Medical Centre, Keffi, but we were told that the body had decomposed so much. They said they didn’t have enough chemicals to preserve the body. We were directed to the Medical Center Uke, Karu, where the mortician accepted to preserve the corpse. We got a consultant pathologist at Asokoro hospital, Dr B.N Duduyemi, who performed the autopsy at Uke under the observation of the CIDs and a police photographer. The autopsy report showed that he was shot from the back. He was injured on the right hand side of the eye. Based on the autopsy report, we applied for release of the corpse for re-burial.
Police cover up
After the six-month mourning period, Stanley said he went back to the police who had earlier promised to investigate the case. Instead they began to toss him around. He spent four months shuttling between Lagos and Makurdi, trying to get the police to prosecute the police officer involved in the killing of Stephen. He said he was prevented from seeing the AIG.
His words: “But I did not relent in my efforts to ensure that justice was done. Finally I met the AIG and he ordered that the accused policemen be arrested from their various units in the force. An orderly room was conducted and they found guilty and dismissed from the police service and charged to court.
Sergeant Vincent Manu who actually shot the deceased to death told the court under cross examination on January 9, 2018, that they were on patrol on that fateful day and on reaching Tangla hotel, the patrol team saw a vehicle coming from the direction of the hotel about 11pm, on the un-tarred road that links to the main road.
“We sighted a vehicle coming from the Tangla hotel with the lights dimmed, flashing on and off. We stopped the patrol car shot distance from the car. We alighted with our guns and advanced in the direction of the car.
Inspector Samson Maga and myself were in front; Inspector Danladi Lenkem and Corporal Musa Audu were behind us. Inspector Edula Ateku and Corporal Christopher Maikasua were in the patrol vehicle, a Toyota Hilux. The deceased came out with a polythene bag and brought out a pistol, which he pointed at us. Inspector Maga who was closer to him shouted that the man was holding a gun.
“Viewing the action of the deceased, I presumed he was an armed robber because he had a gun. I shot him in the chest and he died immediately. I shot him to save the life of my colleague and for self-defence in line with Order 237 in our laws concerning the use of firearms.
“We took the dead body back to the Karu police station and explained to the DPO how the deceased tried to kill us with a gun but we outsmarted and killed him to save our lives. We continued with our patrol duties and closed the next day by 6am. We submitted our report and closed for the day. That is all I know about what happened,” he said.
Inspector confesses in court before dying
Earlier in the course of trial, one of the accused policemen, Inspector Edula Eteku, 56, who is now late, confessed in court on Wednesday, July 13, 2017, the submissions of the all the accused persons were mere lies. He said that they deliberately killed the deceased in cold blood about night. He said that he could not explain how it happened but affirmed that the deceased was not an armed robbery and had no pistol as he was relaxing with friends in a drinking joint on that fateful day. He said that the claims of the accused were simply to cover the crime they committed.
After making this confession, he fell sick on August 6, in Lafia Prison, where all the accused persons were remanded. He was rushed to Dalhatu Specialist Hospital, where he was admitted. It was learnt that he complained of pain in the stomach and waist and severe headache. He lost appetite and eventually died on August 18, 2017, at the hospital. Prior to being involved in the crime, he was preparing for his retirement. He joined the police force in 1982 as a constable and rose through the ranks to become an inspector.