Lotachukwu Ezeudu: Memo To The Police And Prisons

Opinion

Both the Inspector-General of Police and the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Prisons ought to take an urgent interest in the sad saga of Lotachukwu Ezeudu, a 19-year old Accountancy student at the University of Nigeria (Enugu Campus) who was kidnapped in September 2009 and has not been seen since. Thanks to the unyielding devotion of young Lota’s parents, the tenacity of police investigators and the diligence of prosecutors at the Enugu State Ministry of Justice, most of the suspects in his kidnap have been identified and arrested. Even so, certain developments in the case threaten to cause further serious dents to the already terribly tarnished image of the police and prisons.

One of the suspects in Lota’s kidnap is a young man named Uche Moses Amajor and declared wanted in connection with the case, Moses, whose father is a businessman and the owner of Prosper Hotel in Trans-Ekulu, Enugu, went underground for a year and a half, eluding police investigators. It was only in April this year that his parents finally surrendered him to the police.

And then the story became trickier—in a really sordid, disturbing way. First, one Mahmud Isah, the Area Commander of the Funtua Police in Katsina State, reportedly signed a letter stating that the suspect, Moses Uche Amajor, had come to the station on 25 September, 2009 to file a report that armed robbers had stolen various documents from him. If that report were true, then Amajor would have produced proof that he wasn’t in Enugu on 26 September, the day Lota was kidnapped. That would have amounted to a perfect alibi.

Except that the investigators in Enugu insist that Moses Amajor was indeed in Enugu and participated in a heinous crime. If their account is true, it follows that (a) perhaps the “alibi” letter from Funtua police was forged (in which event the person who produced the letter ought to be arrested and prosecuted) or (b) that a senior police officer in Funtua consented to give a false statement with the aim of misleading the law and miscarrying justice. That calls for a serious investigation by the IG of Police. If he finds the officer guilty, he must order his immediate firing, arrest and prosecution. Police officers who give cover or comfort to criminals worsen the already bad image of the police and are a menace to society.

Meanwhile, the Inspector-General should also order an investigation into the whereabouts of Sam Chukwu, a Divisional Police Officer (DPO), who has been named as a suspect in the kidnap. On several occasions, Mr. Chukwu has failed to show up in court to face charges. Is it not time the IG ordered a wide search to nab him wherever he is hiding?

More recently, a doctor at the Nigeria Prison Service reportedly wrote a statement to the effect that the same Moses Amajor was suffering from hepatitis. The prison doctor then recommended that the suspect be released to seek treatment on his own.

The report is troubling and not only because prosecutors question its veracity. A man accused of a crime as grave as kidnapping should never be released to fend for himself. Even if Moses Amajor is infected with hepatitis, he is not a threat to other prisoners or prison staff unless there is somehow exchange of blood with them. Surely, the prison authorities can ensure that he does not jeopardise others through blood contact. If necessary, he should be held in a secluded space.

At any rate, the Comptroller-General of Prisons should order a second set of tests to ensure that the diagnosis of hepatitis is sound and not another attempt by Amajor to dribble his way to freedom.