Woman narrates how ‘notorious’ SARS officer ’caused brother’s disappearance’

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A woman, Obianuju Iloanya, has explained how her older brother, Chijioke, was last seen in 2012 when he attended a child dedication at Ajali, Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State.

She is accusing the Anambra office of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) which was headed then by a recently sacked aide of the Anambra governor, James Nwafor, of being behind the mysterious disappearance.

Governor Willie Obiano, on Thursday, at the #ENDSARS protest ground in Awka announced the sack of Mr Nwafor, his Senior Special Assistant on Security Matters.

A rattled federal government panel on police reforms, in the aftermath of the daily protests rocking the nation, has recommended the dismissal and prosecution of several police officers accused of rights abuses but this is yet to appease the protesters.

PREMIUM TIMES has not been able to reach out to Mr Nwafor but a police spokesman said investigations into his activities have been carried out in the past by the police and another one is ongoing by the state government.

Mr Nwafor, in 2012, was the Officer-in-Charge SARS, Awkwuzu, Anambra, where protesters calling for police reforms recently stormed. He was appointed in 2018 by the Anambra governor after he retired.

Allegations

According to Ms Iloanya, on November 29, 2012, “Chijioke insisted he would go for his friend’s child dedication in Ajali even when their mum asked him not to”.

“It was at this child dedication that officers from Ajali police station rounded up everyone who was at the celebration including Chijioke, from where they were transferred to the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) Awkwuzu,” she said.

Ms Iloanya said “the last time any member of the family saw Chijioke was the day her parents went to SARS office in Awkwuzu. Our mum saw her son in their premises, (but) the officer in charge, James Nwafor, denied he was there. Some officers said he was bluffing and told my parents he wanted them to bring money.”

Ms Iloanya said her parents could not afford to make any offers because they had no money.

“I was only 17 when Mr Nwafor told my parents that he had killed my brother; he looked my dad in the face and told my dad, he could not do anything.”

Eight years later, the Iloanya’s are yet to get closure on the whereabouts of their son and brother.

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“We went to Mr Bala Nasarawa who was Anambra State’s Commissioner of Police at the time, who called Mr Nwafor to ask if my brother was at the station. Mr Nwafor claimed they had a shootout with armed robbers and my brother was likely one of them and so he was not in their custody. The commissioner turned back to us, saying his hands were tied and he could not do anything.”

She narrated how traumatic it was for her parents to go in search of her brother at the Ezu river when it was rumoured that SARS had dumped some bodies.

“When we heard that SARS had dumped some bodies at Ezu river, my dad went to search for my brother but he was not there, it was such a hard time for us.”

Ms Ilonya told PREMIUM TIMES, “the governor sacking him is not enough, I want him prosecuted, he has to be brought to book. I want answers.”

PREMIUM TIMES spoke with Abdul Mahmud, a human rights lawyer who represents the family.

He said the family wrote a petition to the Inspector General and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in August stating the circumstances surrounding the disappearance.

According to Mr Mahmud, “Mr Nwafor had some months back admitted to killing Chijioke but changed the facts and also named other officers who were also involved.”

“The NHRC last month had acknowledged the petition, stating that it had written to the IG to deal with the subject of our petition: arrest and investigate James Nwafor and possibly bring some sort of criminal trial against him. We have not heard from the Inspector General of police,” he said.

Mr Mahmud also narrated how his colleague “was asked to pay if he wants the letter to get to the IG’s table”.

“The correspondence office that receives letters on behalf of the IG told my colleague who went to physically submit the letter, that if he does not bring N10,000, the letter will not be pushed to the office of the Inspector General.”

PREMIUM TIMES is yet to authenticate this claim.

“We are not only dealing with the issue of impunity in the police but also the culture of corruption that has eaten deep. In the office of the Inspector General of Police, an officer could demand a bribe for a petition written against the IG of police…”

He commended the state governor, Mr Obiano, for sacking Mr Nwafor. However, he insisted the sack was not enough.

Haruna Mohammed, spokesperson of Anambra State Police command, told PREMIUM TIMES that “Mr Nwafor is no longer with the police”.

“Mr Nwafor now works with the state government which has set up a panel to investigate the allegations against him,” he added.

Mr Mohammed said: “if they set up a committee, the people who have complaints against him will file a formal complaint so that the matter will be investigated; he is no longer in the police, he is now with the government.”

He admitted that many allegations had been levelled against Mr Nwafor in the past and had been investigated “with a recent investigation carried out by the Police Complaint Response Unit (PCRU).”

When asked what the outcome of these investigations were, he said “the investigations were not carried about by the state command but by (force) headquarters.”



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