By Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu
There is always something that makes the Nigerian lose faith in the Nigeria Police. In spite of efforts to reform the Police and make it amenable to proper conduct, operatives of the force often act in a manner suggesting that they do not care. And, sometimes they make people who served the country dedicatedly as policemen; wonder if what Nigeria now has is the same as the Police force that was bequeathed to them by the likes of Kam Salem, Sunday Adewusi, and Etim Inyang, all of blessed memory.
Recently in Imo State, a young girl, named Miss Ogochukwu Viola Anele, was murdered in cold blood. Her distraught and traumatised father, Cosmas Anele, a retiree, was subsequently ‘forced’ by the Police to cough out N60,000 before they could take him to the scene of the crime and also, to the mortuary where her body lay freezing. This has doubled his pain.
As Mr. Anele, a resident of Umudagu, Mbieri, narrated in a video that has gone viral on social media, Ogochukwu, his second daughter and a graduate from the Imo State University, who worked with a payment company, could not return home penultimate Tuesday. He said that Ogochukwu had earlier in the day, at about 2 pm, communicated with her mother on the telephone and assured her that she would be back. “She usually returned home at 6 pm”, he said. But on that fateful day, she failed. She could not make it home. That was the beginning of heartache for her family.
According to her father, the family went into prayers hoping to see her back home. They kept the vigil and prayed. They also called her telephone line which rang out until it stopped ringing. Her siblings could no longer keep the vigil and went to bed unsure of what had happened to their sister. They only hoped that she would be home by daybreak. The next morning, her distraught father left home and went searching. He reported a case of a missing girl at the nearest Police station. He also took his search to the office of the Department of State Services (DSS) hoping that his daughter would be among some persons said to have been detained at the place. He could not find her there. Mr. Anele said he was on his way to the Police Station on Mbaise Road (Fire Service) when his other kids called to inform him that someone had responded to a call made to Ogochukwu’s phone. He was eager to hear the ‘good news’ –that Ogochukwu was safe. The call came from the Police Station at Iho, in Ikeduru local government area of the state. That was when his fear heightened. He wondered how she ended up at faraway Iho. So, he raced down.
That call was the beginning of the reality that Mr. Anele and his family now live with. As he explained, he was directed to go back to the State Criminal Investigations Department where the news of the murder of his daughter was mistakenly broken to him by the officer in charge when he asked “are you the father of the deceased girl?” That was how Mr. Anele got to know that his daughter, Ogochukwu, was gone, not as dictated by her maker, but as forced on her by a man in whose house her blood was spilled.
News of the fate that befell Ogochukwu broke her father. He was lost for words. However, he managed to ask to see her body to actually confirm it was her. In this state of utter vulnerability, the Police pounced like hyenas on a carcass. As Mr. Anele said, the police demanded N60,000 before they would lead him to the scene of the crime and to the morgue. N60,000? Yes, N60,000! He tried to strike a bargain -N30,000? N40,000?, N50,000? “But they refused and insisted on N60,000”. Eager to get into details of the fate that befell his daughter, Mr. Anele said he grudgingly made a transfer. Then, the doors opened. He was led out to a house where all he saw was “blood everywhere”. He broke down further and cried. It was the blood of his daughter wastefully spilled all over the floor. It was at this point that he was made to know that the man, who accompanied them on the trip, was the occupant of the room. Indeed, he was the alleged murderer. He had no explanation to make. Afterward, he was led to see her remains at the mortuary.
This was how Mr. Anele eventually confirmed that his daughter, who left for work two days earlier, and promised her mother at about 2 pm, that she would be back home that evening, and will never return to them again. She now can only be delivered to the family as mortal remains and in a coffin. But, the cause of death had to be determined. And so, Mr. Anele was made to attend an autopsy on the body of his daughter. He had no medical or legal representative at the autopsy. But, as he said, the accused person came along with a medical representative at an autopsy that was conducted by a government pathologist. Mr. Anele now suspects clandestine moves to cover up the alleged murder and deny his murdered daughter justice.
The question is: why would the Police demand, and collect, N60,000 from a grieving father who is yet to even see the body of his allegedly murdered daughter? This suggests that there is no humanity in policing despite efforts to give the force some form of the human face. Anele’s pain is compounded by the behaviour of the Police in handling the matter. What the pensioner seeks is to get to the root of how his daughter ended up murdered in the man’s house. Was she kidnapped by the accused? Was the accused acting alone? Was Ogochukwu murdered for ritual purposes? These are questions ringing through the family of Mr. Anele, and members of the extended family, as they struggle to unravel the mystery behind Ogochukwu’s painful death. However, their hurdle towards getting the right answers seems to be the police which seems more focused on making as much money as they can from the process than providing the grieving family a shoulder to lean on.