ONITSHA – The International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety) has given detailed background account on the killings and burning down on Monday of the Oraifite, Anambra State home of Ifeanyi Ejiofor, lawyer to Nnamdi Kanu, leader of IPOB.In a report sent to Sundiata Post on Wednesday, Intersociety said it was inundated with several calls to ascertain the true picture of the mayhem that took place Monday afternoon at the ancestral home of Ifeanyi Ejiofor (Onowu) in Umunakwa, Ifite-Orafite, Ekwusigo Local Council of Anambra State.
The report was signed by Uju Joy Igboeli, Chinwe Umeche, Ndidiamaka Bernard, Samuel Kamanyaoku and Emeka Umeagbalasi, chair of Intersociety. The state reads:
Right Of Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor As A Legal Practitioner In Nigeria
Recall that Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor is a Nigerian practicing lawyer of 15 years standing. He was called to Bar in 2004. Under the Nigerian legal practice and legal system, every licensed legal practitioner including Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor can practise law anywhere in the country; and under ‘human rights legal practice’ in the country, any licensed legal practitioner including Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor can defend any citizen falsely or legitimately accused of breaking criminal law of the country or any part thereof.
This is irrespective of the gravity of the accused crime(s) or whether his client(s) is falsely or validly accused of “acts of terrorism and terrorism financing”. In doing so, such a lawyer, by practice and profession, is shielded from being accused or made a party to the crime. It must also be pointed out here that the Nigerian Bar Association; not the Nigeria Police Force or the Army, is tasked with sole mandate of regulating the conducts of licensed practicing lawyers in Nigeria.
Specifically, the NBA’s Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee is charged with the responsibility of disrobing or suspending or fining a lawyer who is found, after proper investigation, to have engaged in unprofessional or unethical practices. In Nigeria, too, crimes are defined and categorised by penalties and generally categorised into: (a) felonies which carry capital punishment as maximum and three years as minimum; (b) misdemeanors which carry three years imprisonment as maximum and one year as minimum; and (c) simple offences which carry six months as maximum.
Detailed Background Of The Oraifite Police & Military Mayhem
Ifeanyi Ejiofor is bereaved and mourning till date; having lost his beloved elder step-brother, the late Rev. Louis Chukwukpelum Ejiofor. The barrister had relocated to Oraifite from his Abuja base since 24th Nov 2019 and on Tuesday, 26th, a night vigil was organised for his late brother. On Wednesday, 27th November, his brother’s body was committed to mother earth, followed by condolence visits till Sunday, 1st December when the family had a thanksgiving church service, after which the condolences continued till date. The condolences attracted present and past public office holders, senior lawyers; human rights leaders, pro Biafra and other regional activists, captains of industry and numerous others.
For purpose of ensuring security during the funeral, the Ejiofor Family secured the services of both conventional (police) and ‘unconventional (vigilante and unarmed private guards, popularly called “bouncers”). Under Nigeria’s Private Guards Act of 1986 (now Private Guards Act of 2004), any Nigerian citizen can seek and retain the services of such guards. Also by the Firearms Act of 2004, any Nigerian citizen can validly or by licence, operate or seek, for purpose of personal security, the services of bearer(s) of ‘un-prohibited firearms’, provided their firearms fall under Pump Action or Double Barreled guns and not “prohibited firearms” such as assault or military rifles.
Apart from being the lawyer of the unarmed Indigenous People of Biafra, controversially proscribed by the Buhari and Osinbajo led Federal Government of Nigeria, Ifeanyi Ejiofor is also, professionally speaking, the legal adviser of ‘Otu-Eke Cultural Masquerade Group’ in his Oraifite hometown. Some time ago, the masquerade group had issues among its members, leading to a split and formation of a rival “Otu-Afor Masquerade group”. The two rival masquerade groups derived their names from ‘Igbo’s Eke and Afor market days’.
To forestall the repeat of what ignited the earlier dispute (i.e. unethical and violent conducts during ceremonial activities), Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor in his capacity as the former’s legal adviser was hired to trade-mark the group’s masquerade regalia at the Fed Ministry of Trade & Investment, so as to differentiate the ‘Otu-Eke Masquerade’ from their rival ‘Otu-Afor’. The said regalia were later trade-marked at the said Ministry. Since then the relationship between the two has remained cat-and-dog, with some troublesome rich men in the community said to be fueling the crisis.
On Saturday, 29th November there was a funeral outing in the town where the deceased was said to have belonged to the two factions of the masquerade. The two factions were invited by the deceased family. Somewhere, a misunderstanding broke out leading to scuffles or fisticuffs; forcing ‘the Otu-Eke faction to leave the funeral venue in protest. In the process, a member of the ‘Otu-Eke Masquerade was attacked and taken to undisclosed location; angered by same, members of the group regrouped, stormed the venue of the funeral and scattered tents, chairs, foods and drinks mobilised for same. In the end, each faction had a member apiece attacked and taken to their respective chambers or hideout.
Not done, the factional ‘Otu-Afor Masquerade group’ lodged a complaint of ‘abduction’, ‘malicious damage to property’ and ‘assault-occasioning harm’ at the Oraifite Area Command/Divisional Police Station. Among those named as culprits by the ‘Otu-Afor faction’, Ifeanyi Ejiofor was included and roped in as a culprit. As early as 6am on Monday, 2nd December, the Oraifite Area Commander and his DPO, with 16 other armed police personnel had stormed Ifeanyi Ejiofor’s ancestral home and demanded to see him.
The lawyer’s elder brother was handy but the lawyer was not around. As a matter of fact, Barrister Ejiofor specifically left his house earlier for his Nnewi office for the day’s court session, but was put on phone by his elder brother to speak with the Area Commander, who spoke to him and claimed that ‘they were looking for one “Udene” being harboured as a bouncer-security’ and that he is wanted for offences elsewhere. An agreement was reached and assurance given to the effect that Barr Ejiofor would come and see them before 11am same morning and sort out the issue including releasing the said wanted “Udene” to the Area Commander and his DPO.
Sadly, before the agreed time could come to pass, truck-loads of armed police personnel said to be led by the Oraifite Area Commander, ACP Oliver Abbey and the Ichi SARS Unit Commander, ASP Joseph Akubo, had violently stormed the ancestral home of the Ejiofors and forcefully broke into same. The police narrative was instantly changed from “looking for one “Udene” to “looking for one Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor for case of abduction, malicious damage to property and assault occasioning harm”.
On being told that the barrister was not yet back, the armed police personnel fumed and opened fire, shooting in different directions and at close range too. The Ejiofor family compound was turned into a war zone. Targeting scores of co-mourners and bouncer-security guards left behind, numbering not more than 20 in all including house errand boys; bullets rained in different directions, with many scampering for safety including the widow of Barrister Ejiofor’s late elder brother, who is still mourning. As if that was not enough, too, the riotous and culpable armed police personnel grabbed one of the unarmed bouncer-security guards and smashed his fore head with thick plank, forcing him to slump and die instantly.
The resort to lynching followed local bullet resistance charms used or worn by the unarmed bouncer-security guards when they were severally shot at. In the end, two bouncer-security guards and two ‘common’ others were killed on the spot, with others sustaining gunshot injuries. The two slain bouncer-security guards were rescued by their colleagues and hidden while two others were made away with by the police. Photos of the two slain citizens are attached below.
The controversially reported killing by “Ejiofor’s men” of “two senior police officers” inside the barrister’s family compound has remained independently un-authenticated; likewise reports of killing of more defenceless citizens when soldiers invaded the family houses and set the six houses and properties ablaze. The Nigeria Police, Anambra State Command must prove that the duo died and got killed in the barrister’s place by his loyalists or by himself. We have further checked the profile of the ACP which the Police said was “killed in Barr Ejiofor’s house by his loyalists or himself”. He is known to NPF as “Oliver Inoma-Abbey, with appointment number AP36037 (number 167 in the NPF list of ACPs), born in Bonny, Rivers State on 15th July 1963, joined NPF on 1st July 1986, promoted to ACP on 21st Nov 2016, retires on 1st July 2021, held HND in Estate Management and appointed Area Commander, Oraifite Area Command on December 11, 2017”.
Police ‘Cut-and-Join’ Account
The Anambra State Police had in later part of same Monday, 2nd Dec, issued a ‘cut-and-join’ statement, riddled with controversies and unanswered questions. The Command controversially said as follows: “on 2nd Dec 2019, at about 11.30am, there was a formal complaint against one Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor ‘m’ (a member of the proscribed IPOB) in Oraifite on alleged case of abduction, assault occasioning harm and malicious damage to property. Following the report, the Police patrol teams led by the Area Commander of Oraifite, ACP Oliver Abbey mobilised and rushed to the scene in order to arrest the suspect who declined Police invitation”. Recall that the same Area Commander and his DPO were in the same house of Barr Ejiofor before 6am of the said date.
The Anambra Police ‘cut-and-join’ account continued: “however, as soon as Police arrived the house, armed men suspected to be IPOB members descended on the Police, set ablaze one Patrol vehicle and attacked them with rifles and machetes. As a result of the attack, two police officers whose identities are being withheld were killed by suspected IPOB members while others were inflicted with machete cuts…”.
“Consequently, the Command deployed reinforcements from the State Headquarters comprising PMF, SARS and Special Anti Cult units in conjunction with the Army/other sister agencies who cordoned off the area to fish out the culprits…”. The Police later issued another statement and gave the names of two officers it said were killed as “ACP Oliver Abbey” and “ASP Joseph Akubo”. The Command further issued arrest warrant against the chief victim and maintained criminal silence over the havoc it wrecked with soldiers in the family of the lawyer, his siblings and neighbours.
Burning Of Six Modern Houses & Other Atrocities:
Moments after the Anambra CP’s ordered reinforcements arrived the said family houses, soldiers of 302 Artillery Regiment, Onitsha and Police SARS and Anti Cult, joined by PMF personnel and others went on rampage and burnt to ashes not less than (a) ten ‘provision’ stores located close to the Family House. The burnt stores were stocked with goods valued at millions of naira.
Other properties burnt down were (b) six modern buildings located within the premises of the Family Home including household properties and a storey building/house of late Reverend Louis Ejiofor and his widow, (c) a car and a motorcycle parked in the premises, (d) all livestock in the Family House including goats, dogs and fowls and (e) house of a neighbour who supplied music and entertainment during the funeral. Apart from rendering the mourning widow of the deceased and the aged mother of Barrister Ejiofor and other members of his nuclear and extended family homeless, the total burnt properties are conservatively valued at over N100m. The owners of the 10 burnt stores were also made destitute over night.
Suspicious Burning Of A Police Vehicle & Two Unknown Corpses:
While the Anambra State Police Command claimed that “a Police Patrol vehicle was burnt together with two officers beyond recognition at Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor’s house”, findings showed that the said vehicle and two yet-to-be independently identified corpses were suspiciously set ablaze along “Nkwo-Oraifite to Nkwo-Nnewi (Nkwo-Nkwo) Road”; a far distance from Barr Ejiofor’s ancestral House.
24 Questions For Anambra State Police Command, IGP & COAS
When has it become a crime for a lawyer to defend his or her client(s) in Nigeria no matter the offence gravity?
Is there any law in Nigeria that makes a practising lawyer a party (or a criminal) to an offence accused of committed by his or her client(s)? When have the Nigeria Police Force including Anambra State Police Command and the Nigerian Army become the NBA and its Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee and taken over their functions? Assuming, but not conceding to the fact that “IPOB is a terrorist organisation”, when has it become the operational and law enforcement norms of the Police and the Army for a defence counsel of a “terror” suspect to be roped or violently treated as “a terrorist”? How many lawyers defending Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists or herdsmen jihadists in the Northeast or North-central have had their houses and properties burnt to ashes by security forces anywhere in Nigeria?
Others: Assuming but not conceding to the fact that the said two police officers were “killed and in Barrister Ejiofor’s house and by his loyalists or himself”, when has it become a police or military operational or law enforcement guide or ethic for service personnel that died in the line of duty to be retaliated by wrecking havoc such as burning down houses and other properties or shooting and killing at will? Are personnel of the Nigeria Police Force and the Military now created and catered for with tax payers’ resources to be saved from dying in the line of duty? Are they created to defend and cater for themselves or for purpose of securing vulnerable and defenceless general and individual citizens of the country? When has arresting a suspect of offences of “affray-abduction”, “assault occasioning harm” and “malicious damage to property”; turned into mindless burning of properties, shootings and killings?
In the instant case, was the Nigeria Police hired to kill and destroy or invited to investigate and prosecute the three named lenient offences? What were the Oraifite Area Commander and his DPO doing in the Family House of Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor as early as 6am on Monday, 2nd Dec 2019, only to turn-coat and claimed that they “received a formal complaint at about 11.30am”? Were the said two police officers truly killed? Were they truly killed in Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor’s house and “by his loyalists or himself”? If truly killed, who killed them and where, when and how were they killed and where are their corpses? Where are corpses of the two defenceless citizens (‘Mission’ and Mathew) shot and killed by the Police in Barrister Ejiofor’s house? How come the “two senior police officers were said to have been killed in the barrister’s house and by his loyalists or himself, with a Police Patrol vehicle burnt”; yet the same vehicle and unknown two corpses were found burnt along “Nkwo-Nkwo Road”, far away from the lawyer’s house?
The Rest: Was it a foul play or cover up attempt? Is it correct to allege that the vehicle was burnt by the culprit police personnel so as to maliciously rope in the chief victim? Is it also not correct to allege that the two corpses burnt beyond recognition were the same two slain bodies of innocent citizens shot, killed and taken away by the culprit police personnel from the lawyer’s house? Is it not correct to allege that the mayhem in Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor’s house was the handiwork of service agents of the Federal Government in furtherance of their hate policy against the Igbo Ethnic Nationality? Is it not correct to say that what started as mere intra communal misunderstanding was hijacked, fueled and escalated by the referenced so as to rope in the innocent lawyer with spurious capital offence accusations?
Why is the Anambra State Police Command shielding itself or keeping criminal mute over the mayhem its personnel and soldiers perpetrated including burning of six modern houses and other tens of millions of naira worth of properties as well as killing, maiming and traumatising defenceless citizens including the mourning mother and the widow of the deceased? Where has the conscience of Police and Military personnel in Nigeria including the referenced culprit service personnel gone, to the extent they no longer value and respect the dead? Are they not going to die someday and expect to be given befitting burials and funerals?