SaharaReporters has learned that Assistant Commissioner of Police Sam Chukwu remains at his post at Nigeria Police Headquarters (Annex) in Lagos despite the officer’s disobedience of a judicial summons to appear before an Enugu State High Court to be questioned on charges that he masterminded a ring of criminals who kidnapped and murdered then 19-year-old Lotachukwu (Lota) Ezeudu in September 2009.
A police source in Enugu and prosecutors in the Ministry of Justice told SaharaReporters that evidence at their disposal pointed to Mr. Chukwu, who was then stationed at Awkunanaw, Enugu, 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 Lotachukwu, then a second year accountancy student at the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus.
Mr. Okeke was arrested and is currently in prison custody along with other suspects in the kidnap and murder of Lota Ezeudu. Other detained persons 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 plotted the kidnap of Ezeudu, a secondary school classmate of Nnaemeka Chukwu, the son of Mr. Chukwu.
In 2012, Justice Afam Nwobodo of the Enugu High Court signed a warrant for Mr. Sam Chukwu’s arrest. The judge issued the arrest warrant after the police officer, who was then the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) at Awkunanaw, ignored the court’s summons to appear to face trial in relation to the Lota Ezeudu case.
A source at the Ministry of Justice told SaharaReporters that police authorities in Enugu and Abuja seemed bent on shielding Mr. Chukwu from exposure and trial. “After the arrest warrant was issued, the police told Justice Nwobodo that they could not produce Sam Chukwu. They claimed that the [then] DPO managed to escape from his home when they went to arrest him,” the source said.
“Wanted” posters of Mr. Chukwu were posted both in Enugu and his hometown, Aninri, in Awgu local government area, but he neither presented himself in court nor got apprehended by the police.
Yet, in July 2014, just before the end of his tenure, then Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, reinstated the fugitive Chukwu to the police and posted him to the headquarters of the southeast command in Umuahia, Abia State, to become the zone’s provost. “That move by the former IG was proof that the police authorities were behind Sam Chukwu in his criminal enterprise,” an official of the Enugu State Ministry of Justice said. He added: “If it was 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.”
Despite Mr. Chukwu’s status as a fugitive and his alleged role in the kidnap of Lota Ezeudu, in 2015 the Police Service Commission (PSC), chaired by former IGP Mike Okiro, approved another promotion for him. The commission then posted the fugitive officer to the headquarters annex in Lagos.
Two senior police officers in Abuja told SaharaReporters that they and many other officers were shocked by the actions of former IGP Mohammed, who first elevated Mr. Chukwu, and the Police Service Commission. “It destroys the image of the police when a man like that [Sam Chukwu] is given promotion. Even if he didn’t do what he was accused of doing, he should first go to court and clear his name before he should be promoted,” one of the officers said.
The other source accused Mr. Okiro and immediate past IG, Suleiman Abba, of pushing the Police Service Commission to approve Sam Chukwu’s elevation to the rank of assistant commissioner.
Another senior officer in Lagos said he was not surprised that Mr. Okiro has been rewarding Sam Chukwu with promotions. According to him, Mr. Okiro was notorious for being cozy with officers who abused their office by perpetrating criminal acts.
The officer disclosed that Mr. Okiro went to great lengths to protect the late Vincent Orubebe, a notorious police officer known for highhandedness and corruption during his tenure as head of the special anti-robbery squad in Lagos. SaharaReporters earlier reported how Mr. Orubebe, who was notorious for carrying out the extra-judicial execution of numerous people, including innocent men he arrested for cash, was suspended from the police after police authorities discovered that he accepted bribes from a gang of criminals to release one of their members from detention.
“As soon as he became IG, one of the first things Sir Okiro did was to recall Orubebe to service,” said the police officer. However, fate intervened as Mr. Orubebe died suddenly the day he was due to resume duties.
The source accused Mr. Okiro of promoting and protecting criminal-minded officers because of the huge amounts of cash they send to him. “He [Mr. Okiro] likes to give a lot of money to churches and priests and he wants people to see him as a good Christian, but he is the same man who supports any known criminal in the [police] force,” the source stated.
A court official in Enugu told our correspondent that he hopes the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, “will do the right thing by ordering Sam Chukwu to present himself to court.” He added: “The current administration should also ask police authorities to suspend Mr. Chukwu until he is cleared of the charge of masterminding kidnappers and other violent criminals during his long years in Enugu. “We should not wait until this man [Mr. Chukwu] retires and collects his retirement benefits before he is made to submit to the judicial process.”