By Lawrence Njoku, The Guardian
About a year after he was brutally murdered in cold blood, the remains of Mr. Chinedu Nnaji still lies in the mortuary.
Nnaji, 35, was ambushed and killed on December 17, last year, where he had gone to inspect the controversial Egbrigba, Ugwuonyia land, alongside other kinsmen in their Amechi-Uwani area of Enugu South Local Government Area.
The land has been in dispute for some time now between the natives of Umunenshi and Umuewoukwu communities. It was gathered that Nnaji, alongside other kinsmen, were delegated to visit the contentious property by the community to ascertain a portion to construct community town hall.
They were said to have been attacked with guns and other dangerous weapons by the youths of Umuewoukwu. Nnaji was reportedly beaten and thrown into a gutter where he died. The police picked him up from the gutter and deposited his remains at the morgue.
Investigations by The Guardian revealed that a disagreement between the police in the state and the community of the deceased-Umunenshi, over the outcome of the autopsy carried out to ascertain the cause of his death, might have delayed the burial.
It was gathered that while other kinsmen of the victim, who witnessed the incident and the Umunenshi community, are insisting that their son was murdered by Umuewoukwu youths, who attacked them on the land, an autopsy conducted on the deceased by the police attributed his death to natural cause: cardiac arrest. The autopsy was said to have been carried out by Pathologist Wilson Akiwu in January, this year.
But the Umunenshi community had cried foul over the autopsy result, accusing the police of complicity and attempt to undermine justice.
They faulted the autopsy report on the ground that it was carried out in the absence of the representatives of the community.
They insisted that a top police officer in the state had become a stumbling block in the way of justice as well as the prosecution of four suspects arrested in connection with Nnaji’s death.
The community stated that the officer allegedly secured a piece of land from the Umueowukwu community to compromise the case.
Addressing reporters in Enugu, counsel to the complainants (the Umunenshi), Sunday Anyanwu of Chieze Chambers, alleged that the police had taken sides with the assailants who were later picked in the murder case.
Anyanwu accused the Commissioner of Police, Adamu Mohammed of complicity, saying that he has “decided to compromise the case and peace of the state and the component units for pecuniary interests”.
The lawyer exhibited documents including various police reports and petitions to the Force Headquarters, Abuja, wherein he restated his case against the police boss.
Anyanwu alleged that they knew that the matter was being compromised with the alleged gift of three plots of land, which was later sold to a third party at about N9 million.
“That was all the police needed to release on bail four of the suspects who were already in prison custody over murder charges. They have now jumped bail while the police have not made any effort to re-arrest them”, Anyanwu stated.
He alleged that a team of police prosecutors, which came from Force CID, Abuja on Monday, October 12, 2015, were presented with a fait accompli when none of the suspects on bail was available for arraignment.
“Although my series of petitions to the high command in Abuja had made it take over the matter, the CP is determined to ensure the suspects are not arraigned or prosecuted even as the deceased whose remains are yet to be interred, has continually been denied justice”, he added.
Sharing a text message in his phone wherein one of the police prosecutors from Abuja highlighted the seeming meddlesomeness of the top police officer, Anyanwu said: “Already, charge against each of their sureties have been entered and have been forwarded to Chief Magistrate Court 8, Enugu”.
“This followed their inability to produce the four suspects in court. Each of them, Rev Fr. Ani took Christian and Okwudili on bail while Innocent Ugwu took Afam and Dominic”, he said.
He said the community had on September 9, applied for the release of the body for burial, stressing that it has not received a response to that.
“It is almost one year, the remains of Chinedu cries for justice and it is only justice that will make him rest in peace”, Anyanwu added.
Responding, however, to the issues, the Police in Enugu exonerated the CP of blame in the matter, dismissing the allegations of the lawyer as untrue and unfortunate.
The Police Public Relations Officer in Enugu State, Ebere Amaraizu, said the matter had long been handled, stressing that the commissioner neither received nor was offered any gift from the communities.
“The matter is not with State Command. It was investigated by Abuja. But you must know that there are processes of releasing corpses under investigations. If investigations are concluded, the owner is free to carry their corpse after application, but if it is not concluded, the corpse is not released. It is an Abuja matter, so they should take it from there,” he said.