POLICE BRUTALITY: Chima Ikwunado’s Death Must Not Go Unpunished

Chima Ikwunado


Late last year, a mechanic, Chima Ikwunado and four of his apprentice mechanics were arrested by Policemen in Port Harcourt. Their offence was that they drove against traffic. They were all taken to Mile 1 Police Station by one Superintendent Benson Adetuyi believed to be the commander of E-Crack team. Of course they committed an offence by driving against traffic while test driving two vehicles. While not condoning this particular traffic offence due to the danger it constitutes to other road users, one expects the police to overlook such an offence which is usually the case especially once money changes hands, that was not the case in this instance.

Suddenly, a charge of armed robbery and cultism was preferred against them and they were charged to court accordingly. The case gets curiouser when Chima died in police custody after 10 days. The police claimed that he died of high blood sugar after conducting an autopsy. The police story seems far fetched. As Nigerians, the police have not given enough confidence for us to believe any claims they make. They twist cases against you most of the time especially if they know you are from the lower social strata. Mind you, I have some fine upright police officers whose integrity could be banked. They are just few in the whole basket of rotten apples. Thus, I will simply say the police lied in this matter as they usually do when a case turns awry. Accidents have happened in this country caused by policemen on road blocks where they simply disappear from the scene. Instances of people being shot by the police are rife especially when they have a large cache of money in their possession. Thankfully such instances are becoming fewer with the self-regulatory policies embarked upon by the hierarchy in recent years.

Back to Chima. What happened to him is still a reflection of the rot that has pervaded our society not only among our security operatives but in all other social strata. Looking at the case dispassionately. This man was arrested for an offence, I am not a lawyer but in most cases once you are arrested like that, you may be cautioned and if not, you are booked for the offence. Traffic offence is a bailable offence. But in this instance, the traffic offence has suddenly graduated into a robbery and cultism charge.

How come? Was he arrested for robbery or caught stealing somewhere? That is not the case. One Chinedu Ezenwanli, has come out to lay claim to the ownership of the vehicle Chima was accused of stealing. He said his vehicle was not snatched at gunpoint as contained in the police charge. “ I gave my Toyota Camry with registration number… to one Chima Ikwunado to fix…Chima was my mechanic and I have known him for more than two years” He said he got worried after calling Chima several times and he was not picking. “I got worried as to what must have happened because he was my trusted mechanic”. Ezenwanli’s ownership of the vehicle has not been in dispute and I gathered that he has even retrieved the said vehicle from the police custody.

So where did the case of robbery emanate? The police obviously came up with a trumped up charge to cover their track. This man died after 10 days in police custody, how come he was not granted bail? We all know Chima did not “settle” probably because he felt a righteous indignation over the action of the police. Why then pay your way out of that situation. As it is always the case, I am sure he must have offered something which was rejected. In any case this is a minor crime that should be the forte of traffic policemen or road safety officials. Only if he had known.

Let us even look at the defense offered as the cause of death; high blood sugar. What the police is saying here is that he was diabetic. You do not suddenly die of diabetic. Medical investigation reveals that death only occurs when the blood sugar gets very high and this happens over time and it comes with increased thirst and frequent need to urinate, headache and tiredness. The person so afflicted would know. In the case of Chima, did he not complain to his custodians that he was feeling unwell? He probably did, but he was ignored until he died, that is if he was not also being battered to force a confession out of him.

A sad development, Chima was said to have just been married about six months earlier and was an expectant father at the time of his death. His wife has become a widow overnight while his unborn child has been deprived of a father. Chima needs justice. The case should be investigated thoroughly. The perpetrators should be punished to serve as a deterrent to others. It is the inability to ensure justice for victims that leads to these extra judicial crimes still continuing. The family should equally go to court to seek for damages. Investigating this “crime” should not be left to the police alone in order to avoid cover up. It should include human rights activist and upstanding members of the society. The Rivers State government should also take interest in the matter, if there would not be official complicity. Chima was a tax-paying citizen and he has a right to life and the protection of the government of his State. It is only when we take steps like this that we can then start to sanitise our society.

As noted earlier, it is not only among security operatives that we have issues like this. The health sector is also in bad shape. Many avoidable deaths occur in most of our hospitals be it public or private due to negligence by health workers. People have been left unattended to in hospitals till they died. Accident victims that could be saved are allowed to die because a nurse or a doctor could not be bothered. Most practice their Hippocratic oath in the breach.

I recall a particular incident a few years back. A colleague had been involved in an accident along the Airport road, Lagos. He was rushed to the Accident and Emergency section of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH). The Doctors were on duty to take care of him in their halfhearted attempt of not being accused of not doing their work. He eventually died after more than 24 hours. He had internal bleeding. Because I was there, I had earlier asked them to check whether he was not bleeding internally, they could not be bothered. Imagine the sorrow, that someone died due to something that could have been prevented if someone had been a bit more diligent.

In better climes, you cannot be involved in an accident, be alive for over 24 hours and succumb to your injuries. These are areas of our society that we should look into. We should wield the big stick when these infractions are discovered. That is the only way we can prevent recurrence. This is the only way we can have that society we all desire.