The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) is saddened and dismayed by the return of CSP James Nwafor of the Nigeria Police Force as the Officer-in-Charge of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (OC/SARS) of the Anambra State Police Command. According to official records of the Nigeria Police Force, CSP James Nwafor with Force Entry Number AP31343, hails from Ezza North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, Southeast Nigeria and was born on 1st January 1961 (55yrs +). He joined the Nigeria Police Force on 1st April 1983 and was promoted to Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) on 30th January 2013 and will be due for statutory retirement on 1st April 2018. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree (B.Sc.) in Public Administration.
CSP James Nwafor disastrously held sway as Officer-in-Charge of Nnewi SARS Annex until 2012 when he took over from CSP Felix Kigigha as OC/SARS Anambra State. Following routine posting exercise by the NPF, coupled with a barrage of petitions against his atrocious policing activities; CSP James Nwafor was transferred to Bauchi State in early January 2016. He later worked his way to Enugu, from where he was brought back to Anambra State by Governor Willie Obiano and some rich persons with questionable characters. CSP James Nwafor fully resumed duty for the second time as Anambra OC/SARS yesterday being 12th of September 2016. He reportedly worked his way out of Bauchi State barely one month after he was transferred to the State and while in Enugu, two attempts were reportedly made to make him the OC/SARS of Enugu and Delta State Police Commands, respectively, but were strongly resisted by “internal protests”. A signal from the Force Headquarters making him the second time OC/SARS Anambra State was reportedly given more than two weeks ago but got delayed following similar internal protests and open-source protests by various rights groups. As the protests were on, a number of kidnap activities took place. They are strongly believed to have been politically motivated to pave way for CSP James Nwafor’s resumption as Anambra OC/SARS.
From overwhelming pieces of testimonial accounts of those who are victims of incessant arrests, long detentions without trial, indiscriminate pre-trial and custodial killings, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments including extortions, disappearances and trumped up charges, of the SARS murderous activities under CSP James Nwafor; the OC/SARS has been labelled by the mainstream human rights community within the State and beyond as Chief Killer & Torturer in the Anambra Killing Fields. His return to the State for the second time as OC/SARS is a disaster and a grave threat to the fundamental human rights of the citizens of Anambra State particularly the artisan and trading public. Documented accounts of CSP James Nwafor’s policing atrocities are not only torrential but also mountainous.
We have always maintained and insisted that in combating violent crimes, law enforcement authorities and personnel must ensure at all times that right approaches and laid down procedures are strictly applied; failure of which expressly amount to jungle justice or trial-by-ordeal; a stock-in-trade of policing atrocities. Combating violent crimes also strictly require using right instruments including ICT-powered intelligence gathering and networking as well as well trained and ICT-compliant personnel and well equipped crime laboratories for the purpose of scientific investigation of crime scenes, crime objects and parties to crime. Where these are unavailable; crude crime control becomes indiscriminate and riotously applied. That is to say that the latter has become the stock-in-trade of CSP James Nwafor and his murderous SARS. It is totally wrong to arrest a citizen unarmed and killed him or her with arm. Also competent and efficient criminal investigations are a warehouse of criminal and convictable evidence and a passport to speedy trial and conviction.
It is therefore saddening and shocking that out of over 450 serving CSPs in the Nigeria Police Force including those with field and academic expertise in law enforcement, crime prevention and intelligence policing, it is only CSP James Nwafor that is found “competent” to be permanently attached to the Anambra State Police Command as its OC/SARS. This is after he has served disastrously for over six years as Unit and State OC/SARS in Anambra State with a basketful of atrocities and after over eight years as a police officer in one posting.
As a key partner in the Anambra Project and leading public security and safety advocacy rights group in Nigeria, we are aware that whatever impact made or success recorded in controlling violent crimes in Anambra State did not result from incessancy of torture, long detention without trial, disappearances and pre-trial and custodial killings; rather, such an impact or success came as a result of effective intelligence supplied by the Anambra State Directorate of DSS and some hard-working non-combatant under-cover agents or disguised intelligence suppliers or “informants”. Through ICT-powered Sniffer Programs and Keystroke Loggers, the Anambra DSS has been able to deploy effective and ICT-powered intelligence gathering to unmask the activities of violent criminals. In addition to these is the use by the DSS of ICT-powered Tracking Machines to interrogate and track electronically suspected kidnappers and other violent criminals’ movements and mobile phone uses, leading to their arrest and hand over to SARS, which routinely tortures and “travels them”.
Sadly and disappointingly, none of these is at the disposal of CSP James Nwafor and his murderous SARS. It is therefore not by extra-judicial killing or torture or extortion or disappearances that some suspected kidnappers or armed robbers were arrested inside an aircraft or in their hidden hotel rooms and other hideouts including where their victims are held. These were achieved through coordinated and effective intelligence gathering and exchanges. Through CSP James Nwafor’s atrocious policing methods, dozens, if not hundreds of innocent citizens have been murdered in custody.
These atrocious practices are routinely carried out through grievous torture and other animalistic treatments of the arrested suspects. Most victims are gravely tortured to admit being armed robbers or kidnappers after they failed to pay huge extortionist sums asked of them at the points of their arrests. Late evening and early morning indiscriminate arrest of citizens retiring to their homes from their trading or job places or those going to or returning from their church activities, are a routine under CSP James Nwafor’s atrocious SARS. Those at eating and drinking joints are not left out too. The sole intent behind these arrests is extortion and it is those who cannot afford the huge extortion sums at the points of their arrest that are transferred to the Awkuzu SARS headquarters as “armed robbers” or “kidnappers”.
There, they are routinely tortured gravely to admit committing violent crimes such as “armed robbery” or “kidnapping”; which they never committed. In most cases, those citizens are tricked by CSP James Nwafor into confessing crimes they did not commit with a promise to “release them free of charge if they confess or admit”; only for them to be shot dead instantly after they have confessed under threats or duress. Those killed are described as “those who have been travelled”. The outlook of the SARS headquarters at Awkuzu express depicts “torture chambers” and its cells are marked with torture signs; from “grave”, “graver” to “gravest”, with “cell 5” as the gravest or “cell of death”. Death inscriptions such as “welcome to hell” and “sign your death warrant” are also a routine.
Torture methods commonly in use at the Awkuzu SARS headquarters as well as at its various units or annexes at Nnewi, Onitsha, Okpoko, Nneni, Ihiala, Ekwulobia, Awka, etc include suffocation, strangulation, cutting of fingers, insertion of hot needles into citizens’ private parts, fingers and ears; hanging using ceiling fan hooks; beating using fists, booths, planks, clubs and metals; and shooting of citizens’ legs, waist and arms using live bullets. Where such tortured citizens died on the process, they are taken out late night and shallowly buried or dumped inside the river with most of them tied with heavy objects so as to make their bodies sink without floating. Those injured in the course of their torture are dumped in the cell without treatments and left to bleed to death.
Totality of these characterized CSP James Nwafor’s atrocious era as OC/SARS in Anambra State. SARS under CSP James Nwafor also served and is still serving as a lucrative source of blood money and major “returns channel” for Anambra State Police Command and above. Rich persons with dubious characters and rotten integrity routinely use CSP James Nwafor’s SARS to advance their business interests and suppress their opponents and the downtrodden. The management of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), substantially owned by Emeka Offor is noted as one of such entities that routinely use the atrocious services of CSP James Nwafor’s SARS to clamp some of its senior and subordinate staff as well as dozens of power consumers into long detention without trial over mere accusation of “diverting or tempering of prepaid meters”; a responsibility statutory given to the authorities of the Nigerian Security & Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) by the law. While in SARS detention for weeks, those citizens were routinely tortured, degraded and denied bail or trial.
The atrocious records of CSP James Nwafor are too numerous to be exhausted. One of his numerous atrocious records was his roles in the Ezu River saga of 19th of January 2013 during which up to 40 or more lifeless bodies of young citizens were seen floating on Ezu River in Amansea area of Awka, the Capital City of Anambra State. While some of the lifeless citizens were obviously tortured and killed in custody before they were dumped inside Ezu River, others were taken alive to the River, shot and killed on top of the River’s Bridge before they were pushed into the River. Several portions of the Bridge were stained with blood of the shot victims.
Investigations carried out by this Organization, which solely and deeply investigated the Ezu River saga strongly linked the massacre to Awkuzu SARS under CSP James Nwafor. Later findings showed that about 20 of the lifeless bodies were killed at the Nnewi Annex of SARS under the instructions of CSP James Nwafor. Nine members of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) were also among the lifeless bodies found floating on Ezu River. The names of nine MASSOB members are: Basil Ogbu, Michael Ogwa, Monday Omeogo, Philip Nwankpa, Ezeh Obumneme, Ebuka Ezeh, Obinna Oguejioffor, Joseph Udoh, and Sunday Offor. They were arrested on 7th December 2012 by Anambra State Joint Taskforce Force through the Onitsha Main Market Vigilante Service led by Chinenye Ihemko(Okpomkpi) following a protest near Onitsha Main Market over killing of their members by the Police and handed over to SARS Unit attached to the Onitsha Central Police Station (CPS) which transferred them to Awkuzu SARS Headquarters at the request of CSP James Nwafor.
We investigated further the identities of the nine MASSOB members and found that: (a) Basil Ogbu was real. He hailed from Nsukka in Enugu State and lived at 100 Bida Road, Onitsha. He was about 25 years and his wife is Mrs. Uchenna Ogbu, then nursing mother with phone number-08064018819; (b) Monday Omeogo was real, formerly of No.10, Minaj Street, Obosi, Anambra State. He hailed from Ohakwu LGA in Ebonyi State and was about 30 years of age. His wife is Mrs. Eucharia Omeogo with phone number 08109957940; (c) Michael Ogba was real. He lived at Johnbosco Lane, Ugwuagba Layout, Obosi and hailed from Ebonyi State and he was about 35 years. His wife is Mrs. Susan Ogba with phone number-08135564871; (d) Obinna Oguejiofor was real. He hailed from Umuoli-Umoji in Anambra State and was 20years. His mother is Mrs. Augustina Oguejiofor with phone number 08068262471; (e) Obumneme Ezeh was real and 25 years of age. He lived at No.2, Maifulani Street, Fegge, Onitsha and hailed from Amandugba in Imo State. His mother is Mrs. Phebi Ezeh with phone number-07031949088; (f) Ebuka Ezeh was real and 27 years old. He lived at No. 5, Anaekwe Street, Fegge, Onitsha and hailed from Amandugba in Imo State. His mother is Mrs. Philomena Ezeh with phone number-08022945380; (g) Philip Nwankpa was real. He lived at Uruowulu Village, Obosi and hailed from Ezza West LGA, Ebonyi State. He was about 30 years. His wife is Mrs. Ekene Nwankpa with phone number-08133021378. We were unable to trace relatives of the two remaining MASSOB members as at then.
Sadly, the Ezu River saga was politically and pathologically manipulated on account of undue interferences and extensive State-actor manipulations. For instance, there was a makeshift autopsy carried out by the then Government of Anambra State headed by Mr. Peter Obi. The autopsy was acutely selective and unpopular. The worst of it all was legislative interferences by various Senate Committees at the instance of Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige, which claimed to be “investigating” the saga; whereas they harboured an intention to exonerate CSP James Nwafor and his SARS of obvious and circumstantial culpability. As expected, the Senate Committees later released a watery and highly cover-up report claiming that the 40 or more lifeless bodies were not traced to SARS; yet the Report failed woefully till date to mention the origin and killers of the lifeless bodies despite the availability of overwhelming pieces of circumstantial and obvious evidence linking the atrocious act to CSP James Nwafor and his SARS. Our investigation then found and still finds: (a) CSP James Nwafor and his SARS of: first degree culpability; (2) then CP Bala Nassarawa: aiding and abetting; (c) then Government of Anambra State headed by Peter Obi: abetting; and the Senate Committees: abetting, suppression of facts and perjury.
It is on account of the foregoing that we (Intersociety) join other rights groups in rising in strong opposition to CSP James Nwafor’s midwifery of Anambra SARS for the second time after years of his inglorious epoch as Anambra SARS Officer-in-Charge. We particularly salute the courage of the International Human Rights and Equity Defense Foundation (iH-REF), led by Mr. Uche, Justus-Ijeoma, which recently took a bold step concerning the matter through its letter to the IGP, dated 31st of August 2016. We understand that CSP James Nwafor’s inglorious return was at the insistence of the Government of Anambra State headed by Governor Willie Obiano and some rich persons with questionable characters. We see this as a gubernatorial blunder and cementation of gross rights abuses that have become the stock-in-trade of SARS activities under CSP James Nwafor. CSP James Nwafor ought and should be thoroughly investigated and put on trial having been gravely implicated in sundry rights abuses, captured in several rights groups’ reports and publications including those of Amnesty International, UK. The IGP is hereby called upon to withdraw CSP James Nwafor immediately from Anambra State as OC/SARS and put him under thorough investigation for sundry policing atrocities above highlighted.
Governor Willie Obiano on his part is totally condemned for taking laws into his hands by engaging in “pre-trial and pre-judgment” demolition of properties belonging to suspected kidnappers and their accomplices. This is a bad legacy inherited from the former administration of Governor Peter Obi. We condemned then and still condemn the Obi’s administration for bequeathing to the State such infamous practice. The 1999 Constitution and other laws of the land never grant governors or the president powers to demolish before judgment any property associated with violent crime in Nigeria or any part thereof. Even if a State Law sanctions it, it stands expressly null and void on account of its inherent inconsistency with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and other Laws of the Federation. A property linked with alleged commission of violent crime can only be sealed for purposes of criminal investigation and possible prosecution through a valid order of a high court. Crime suspects and properties so associated, no matter the gravity of criminal accusation are still innocent until the trial courts say otherwise.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Mobile Line: +2348034186332