The news of the sudden death of an auto mechanic artisan, Chima Ikwunado, while in the custody of the Eagle Crack (E-Crack) unit attached to the Mile 1 police station in the Diobu area of Port Harcourt, the capital city of Rivers state, left the Nigerian social media space in shock on the 16th of January, 2020.
Chima, a young mechanic artisan was allegedly tortured to death while in police custody on the 23rd of December, 2019 and falsely framed for armed robbery and cultism alongside four of his colleagues in what originally should have been a traffic offence.
The news went viral after activist Comrade Phils re-posted the story on his Facebook wall on January 16th, 2020 after speaking to the client and the cousin of the victim. The news trended with the hashtag #JusticeForChima as number one topic on Twitter Nigeria for the whole day and made media headlines on major online news platforms, TV and radio stations across Nigeria.
The police Public Relations Officer, Nnamdi Omoni, in a public response claimed the victim died from high sugar level while in their custody according to an autopsy report. A response the victim’s family rejects and refutes with evidences that suggest that the police may have been complaisant with facts regarding the case.
In a bid to unravel the truth, REPORT AFRIQUE spoke to the family of the deceased and the some of the parties involved in the case in an exclusive interview in Port Harcourt.
See interview below:
According to family members and the deceased’s client, Chima and his colleagues – Victor Ogbonna, Osaze Friday, Ifeanyi Osuji and Ifeanyi Onyekwere- (currently remanded at the Port Harcourt prisons for false charges) were arrested by the police around 7pm on the 19th of December, 2019 at Chinda Street in Agip area of the city while driving one-way in a red Toyota Camry car with registration number JRV 295X and a Toyota Corolla with registration number KSF 639CE. Contrary to the claims contained in the charge sheet presented to the court by the police, One of the owners of the cars, Mr Eradiri Erepamo, said the two cars were given to Chima and his colleagues by himself and the another client of deceased for repairs. Mr Eradiri said he was shocked to hear from the police that Chima had robbed the same car which he willfully gave to him (his mechanic for more than four years) to repair.
Chima’s cousin, Mr Obinna Ezirim, amid tears, recounted the horrible ordeal his family went through in the hands of officers at Mile 1 Police station while Chima was still in custody. He narrated that on the only day he was allowed to see Chima, he met him in a terrible state of health as he bled from wounds allegedly inflicted on him by the police using sharp weapons.
“Chima told me that they used something to stab his legs and his legs were broken. We should find a way to bring him out from here that this people will kill him the way they are maltreating him. That he is not a thief but only a mechanic.” Obinna narrated.
Despite verifying and releasing the alleged stolen cars to the owners on the 30th of December, 2019, the police still charged Chima’s four colleagues with armed robbery and cultism on the 9th of January, 2020. They are currently remanded in prisons. The next court sitting on the case is scheduled for hearing on the 27th of February, 2020.
Deceased Declared to Be at Large
The charge sheet presented to the court by the police shows that late Chima Ikwunado was declared to be at large without any mention of his arrest, detention nor death. The family claims this was part of the plan by the police to hide the facts of his death from the family and the public. An action, they say, shows the police is guilty of torturing Chima to death while in their custody.
The victim’s family accuses SP. Benson Adetuyi (Commander E-Crack)
and Inspector Sam (IPO) both attached to the Mile1 Police Station, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria of being responsible for the death of their son and the false charges leveled against his him and his colleagues.
The police said they had begun an investigation into the matter but it is not clear if the officers involved have been detained.
Pregnant Wife and Aged Father
Late Chima is survived, among others, by his pregnant wife and aged father, Mr Kelvin Ikwunado. The wife who is said to be seven months pregnant is reportedly hospitalized since the news of her husband’s sudden death at the hands of the police.