A new civic organization, Front Against Human Rights Abuses (FAHRA), has decried the fact that Nigerian police authorities have promoted and kept in service a police officer, Sam Chukwu, who was declared wanted by an Enugu High Court judge in relation to a kidnap and murder case.
Speaking to a correspondent of SaharaReporters, one of FAHRA’s founders, Peter Oguejiofor, described Mr. Chukwu’s continued membership of the Nigerian police, where he currently holds the rank of Assistant Commissioner, as “a slap on the face of the judiciary and evidence that some people at the helm of affairs in the police are agents of criminals.”
Sam Chukwu, a former Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Awkunanaw, Enugu, stands accused as the mastermind of a gang of junior police officers who once carried out heinous acts of terror in and around Enugu, the capital of Enugu State. Some prosecutors at the Enugu State Ministry of Justice believe that Mr. Chukwu had a hand in the Sept. 26, 2009 kidnap and murder of Lotachukwu (Lota) Ezeudu, a then 19-year old 2nd year accountancy student at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Enugu campus.
The victim was the only son of Bona and Ngozi Ezeudu. Bona Ezeudu is a well-known painter and sculptor and has held solo exhibitions all over Nigeria, in several African countries as well as in Europe.
In 2012, Justice Afam Nwobodo of the Enugu High Court ordered that then DPO Sam Chukwu should stand trial in the Lota Ezeudu kidnap and murder case. Sam Chukwu's son, Nnaemeka Chukwu, was by then in prison custody on account of his alleged role in the kidnap of Lota Ezeudu. Instead of arresting Mr. Sam Chukwu, police authorities in Enugu claimed that the police officer had eluded them and gone into hiding. Justice Nwobodo then signed a warrant for Mr. Sam Chukwu’s arrest.
“Wanted person” posters of Mr. Chukwu were posted in Enugu and his hometown of Aninri, in Awgu local government area. Despite those posters, Mr. Chukwu neither presented himself in court nor did the police arrest him. Instead, police authorities in Enugu maintained for more than two years that they did not know his whereabouts.
According to Mr. Oguejiofor, the duplicity of the police was exposed when, on July 17, former Inspector General of Police (IGP0, Mohammed Abubakar, reinstated the fugitive Sam Chukwu, promoted him, and posted him to the headquarters of the southeast zonal Command of the Nigerian police.
“Where did the then IG, Mohammed Abubakar, find the same man the police had claimed was on the run?” asked Mr. Oguejiofor. He added, “Why would a serious IG of Police promote a man he clearly knew was wanted for a grave crime?”
The co-founder of FAHRA disclosed that his group would consult with other local and international human rights groups to file a lawsuit to compel Mr. Chukwu to appear before the Enugu High Court to face trial. According to Mr. Oguejiofor, the coalition of human rights groups would also petition the National Assembly to investigate why past and present top police figures kept shielding and elevating an officer accused of a grave crime.
“Unless Sam Chukwu submits himself to the authority of the law court and is cleared, his alleged crimes will remain a big stain on the image of the police. In fact, the fact that a man who could be guilty of being a kidnapper and murderer has such a high post in the police makes the Nigeria police a laughing stock,” said Mr. Oguejiofor.
In 2014, the Police Service Commission, led by former IGP Mike Okiro, approved the promotion of Mr. Sam Chukwu to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police. Mr. Chukwu was then deployed to the Nigeria Police Headquarters (Annex) in Lagos.
“It is a matter of official impunity,” said the FAHRA official, adding, “Why would the police promote an officer who has ignored a judicial summons to appear before a court?”
In a prior report, prosecutors in the Ministry of Justice told SaharaReporters that evidence at their disposal pointed to Mr. Chukwu, who was then stationed at Awkunanaw, Enugu State, as the sponsor of a group of junior police officers who carried out kidnapping and murders in the state capital of Enugu as well as surrounding towns. Prosecutors have named two of such criminal-minded junior officers, Desmond Chinwuba and Ernest Okeke, as major suspects in the kidnap of Lota Ezeudu.
Mr. Okeke is among several suspects currently undergoing trial in the Lota Ezeudu case. Other suspects at the trial include Mr. Chukwu’s son, Nnaemeka, and Uche Moses Amajor, whose father owns Prosper Hotel in Trans Ekulu, Enugu. A principal suspect, Desmond Chinwuba, who hails from Mr. Chukwu’s town, went into hiding as investigators began to uncover his role in the kidnap of Ezeudu. Both Okeke and Chinwuba were suspended from the police on account of armed robbery, and were living at the home of Mr. Chukwu at the time they reportedly plotted the kidnap of Ezeudu, a secondary school classmate of Nnaemeka Chukwu, the son of Mr. Chukwu.
After former IGP Abubakar posted Mr. Chukwu to the headquarters of the southeast command in Umuahia, Abia State, to become the zone’s provost, a lawyer with the Enugu State Ministry of Justice reacted angrily. The official told SaharaReporters, “That move by the former IG was proof that the police authorities were behind Sam Chukwu in his criminal enterprise. If it were true that Sam Chukwu went into hiding and the police didn’t know his whereabouts, he would have been declared a deserter and lost his job. But the fact that [former IGP] Dikko Abubakar promoted him and gave him the post of provost proves that the police knew all along where the fugitive officer was.”
Several senior police officers in Abuja have told SaharaReporters that they were dismayed when former IGP Mohammed first elevated Mr. Chukwu and when the Police Service Commission again promoted the fugitive.
“We had expected that, with the election of President Muhammadu Buhari, that the kind of impunity represented by the likes of Sam Chukwu would be a thing of the past. Instead, a man who has defied a court is left to wear and soil the name and uniform of a senior police officer. We will do everything in our power to bring him to book,” said the FAHRA co-founder.