The death of Chidubem Ezenwa, a 24-year-old indigene of Aguleri, Anambra East Local Government Area and Delta State-based BUSINESSMAN, in police custody last month, has aborted the hope of members of his family.
Ezenwa died in the police cell after he was picked up on an allegation of cultism, which his friends claim was all trumped up.
He was alleged to have been engaged in a scuffle with some other inmates in the police cell of Rapid Response Squad RRS), Awkuzu, where incidentally he was beaten to death by inmates, who were already awaiting trial for another murder which they had committed.
For Chidubem, the circumstances that led to his death were even more heartrending, considering the avoidable circumstances that trailed his death.
His relatives are calling for justice, but his father believes his son is still alive, considering that police authorities have denied him the corpse of his son.
Chidubem’s father, Mr Sunday, during Dily Post’s visit to his compound narrated the circumstances that led to his son’s death.
He said, “My son, Chidubem Ezenwa is a businessman in Asaba, Delta State. He sells phone accessories, recharges phones and other cable TV services, and also charges phones. He has a shop there in Asaba.
“Three weeks ago, he was called by his friend, Chukwunonso Udezue to tell him that their mutual friend, Chiboy, had a motorcycle accident. He sent N50,000 for his friend to receive medical attention. Later they called him again to say that his friend’s health was not improving. He came home and moved to the hospital to see him.
“He had already negotiated with the doctor for a change of hospital for his friend, when his friend died. My son and his friends were told not to join them to the mortuary, because of their closeness, to avoid trauma. They went to Angel Hotel to wait.
“Angel Hotel is where my son always stays anytime he comes home. You can see that I do not have a house. This one is already collapsing, so my son prefers to stay in a hotel when he comes home. He has already promised me that he will build a house for us and take us out of here.
“They were in the hotel, when one of them, while reminiscing on their friend’s death, broke a bottle. They later paid for the bottle when the hotel management protested, but the President General of the community, Barr Ifeanyi Iloakasia called on the police and got them arrested, and in the process he died.
“Up till now, we have not been told anything about our son, and the police have not released his body to us, assuming he is dead already. We cannot accept that our son is dead. They should release his body to us if he is dead.”
Chidubem’s friend, Chukwunonso Udezue, who broke the bottle that caused their arrest, also narrated the pathetic death of his friend.
He said: “I called my friend, Chidubem to tell him that our friend Chiboy, who had an accident, was not improving. He initially told me that he would not come home because his business needed his attention. He had earlier sent money for treatment, but I was surprised when he later came home.
“Our friend, Chiboy later died, and while he was being taken to the mortuary, we, his friends, including Chidubem, were advised to leave the hospital, to avoid trauma.
“We went to Angel Hotel, feeling very bad, and in the process, I told Chidubem that it is bad that Chiboy who was always in the hotel with us was no longer alive. While we were drinking, I got annoyed and smashed some empty bottles. The manager of the hotel started harassing us, saying that we can scare away his customers.
“Chidubem pleaded with him and paid for the bottles we broke. He later told us he was leaving for Asaba, that he was not happy. He entered a bike and left for the motor park. But unknown to us, the President General of Aguleri community, Barr Ifeanyi Iloakasia was in the hotel. He called the police to come and arrest us. So when the police came, we called Chidubem and told him the latest development, so he (Chidubem) came back, and told the police that he had paid for the broken bottles.
“On sighting him (Chidubem), the police operatives held him and started beating him. He was kicked in the chest many times by the DPO of Otuocha Police Station and he kept crying. I was also brutalised by the policemen; you can see the injuries on my legs. They took us to the police station, and later transferred us to SARS (RRS), Awkuzu.”
He narrated that in the cell, Chidubem was already feeling weak because of the injury he sustained, but they were still beaten in the cell by other inmates until Chidubem gave them N4,000.
He said: “Because the cell was overcrowded, and Chidubem was not feeling good, I had to stay awake all night to fan him. Later at night, he started wailing that he needed water. We begged other inmates to give us water that we will give back to them when we buy ours the next morning, but they refused.
“He snatched one from one inmate and drank, and they started beating him and he passed out, and was taken out of the cell to hospital. That is what we know.”
Mr Sunday Ezenwa, Chidubem’s father told Daily Post that since the incident, police authorities were yet to tell the family of the fate of their son.
He blamed the President General of the community for his woes, saying that if he hadn’t involved the police, his son would still be alive.
“I cannot believe that my son is dead. My only hope, who promised to build a house for me and take me out of here. They should just release my son to me, wherever he is. He is not dead,” he said.
Angered by the incident, relatives of the deceased, mostly women of the community, staged a protest against the President General.
They called on him to bring back their brother, saying he did nothing wrong to warrant being handed over to the police.
The placard-wielding protesters wailed, rolling on bare ground, over the death of the 24-year-old, who they said carried the hope of his family.
The President General of Aguleri community, Barr Ifeanyi Iloakasia, during an interview gave a different story of what happened.
He denied any complicity in the matter, saying that he only called in members of the Anambra Vigilante Services (AVG), when Chidubem and his friends started breaking bottles in the hotel and chasing many people around.
“I was in the hotel that day. I saw these boys breaking bottles and chasing guests around. They even threatened to beat up the manager of the hotel who tried to stop them. I was not the one that called the police, there were several other people in the hotel that day, and anyone could have called the police.
“I was there for a meeting, but when my partners saw the level of violence, they entered their cars and escaped. I called our town security, which is headed by Chidubem’s relative from the same village. If I meant harm, I would not have called their own brother. But the police came in, and the DPO told us that the boy and his friends had been on their wanted list for cultism, and they took them. How is that my fault?
“I know that someone is instigating them that I was responsible for their son’s death, just to get at me. I know who the person is, and they have been sending me threats, and unknown people have even been lurking around my family compound, and my own compound too.”
When asked if the boy was still alive, and what he is doing to help him return, either dead or alive as his subject, Iloakasia said: “What I know is that the boy is dead.
“The police told me he is dead and is in the mortuary now. His parents don’t want to accept that he is dead, they rather choose to believe that I kept him somewhere to do rituals with him. That is laughable.
“As for releasing the body, I know that if they apply, the police will release the body to them. I can do it because he is my subject, but since they choose to accuse me wrongly, I have decided to stay away from the matter entirely.”
DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, spokesman of the Anambra State Police command, told our correspondent that the command was aware of the matter.
He said: “The Command is sad with this development. The suspects who beat up Chidubem were in cell for murder, kidnapping and robbery case.
“They were being detained on charges of murder, and while in custody, they committed another murder. The command has also added another murder charge to the suspects. They have been arraigned at Otuocha High Court.”