News Update

A Family’s Dashed Hopes

… Murder Suspects Kill Man in Police Cell

In a family of five children, being the first child and born to peasant farmers, Chidubem Ezenwa was already showing signs of being the hope of his family. But he was mauled to death inside the ‘safe’ custody of a police cell, reports Ikeugonna Eleke.

‘My son is my only hope. He promised me that if God keeps him alive and continues to prosper him, he will buy a land in this Aguleri and build a good house for me where my wife and I and his younger siblings will relocate to and be able to live well.

‘Today, that hope has fizzled into the air and my world is crumbling in my very presence. I don’t know what I did to deserve this. They said Chidubem is dead, but I can never accept that. That was not the agreement I had with him. If they know where my son is, let them bring him to me. I’m talking particularly to the President General of Aguleri Community, Barr Ifeanyi Iloakasia. He should provide my son because he is the one who ordered for the arrest of my son.’

Those were the bitter lamentations of Mr Sunday Ezenwa, a peasant farmer, when Fides visited his compound in Aguleri. In front of his fast dilapidating house, family members gathered; some struggling hard to console him, a man in his early 60s. Other relatives and sympathizers stood and looked forlornly, clearly dazed by the news of the death of Chidubem, a 24-year-old boy.

What Led to Chidubem’s Death

Fides travelled from Awka to Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government Area to speak with the family, where a relative of Chidubem narrated the story of his death. Chidubem’s father, Sunday; and his son’s friend, Chukwunonso Udezue, who spoke to our reporter narrated the incident that led to his death.

A distraught Mr Ezenwa said: ‘My son, Chidubem Ezenwa, is a businessman in Asaba, Delta State. He sold phone accessories, recharged phones and other cable TV services, and also charged phones. He had a shop there in Asaba.

‘Three weeks ago, he was called by his friend, Chukwunonso Udezue, and told that their mutual friend, Chiboy, had a motorcycle accident. He sent in N50,000 for his friend to receive medical attention, but later they called him again that his friend’s health was not improving. That weekend, he came home and moved straight to the hospital to see him.

‘He had already negotiated with the doctor for a change of hospital for his friend, when suddenly, they heard that his friend had a problem in the ward. He was later announced dead. His friends were told not to join them to the mortuary because of their closeness, to avoid trauma. They went to Angel Hotel to wait, while the body of their friends was taken to the mortuary.

‘Angel Hotel is where my son always stayed anytime he came home. You can see that I do not have a house. This one is already collapsing, so my son preferred to stay in a hotel when he came home. He had already promised me that he would build a house for us and take us out of here.

‘They were in the hotel when one of them, while reminiscing on the death of their friend, broke a bottle. They later paid for the bottle when the hotel management protested, but the President General of the community, Barr Ifeanyi Iloakasia, called the police and got them arrested and in the process he died.

Up till now, we have not been told anything about our son and the police have not released his body to us, assuming he is dead already. We cannot accept that our son is dead. They should release his body to us if he is dead.’

Chidubem’s friend, Chukwunonso Udezue, who broke the bottle that caused their arrest, was also traced by Fides for his side of the story.

He said: ‘I called my friend, Chidubem, to tell him that our friend,Chiboy, who had an accident, was not improving. He initially told me that he would not come home because his business needed his attention. He had earlier sent money for treatment but I was surprised when he later came home.

‘Our friend, Chiboy, later died and while he was being taken to the mortuary, we, his friends, including Chidubem, were advised to leave the hospital to avoid trauma. We went to Angel Hotel, feeling very bad, and in the process, I told Chidubem that it was bad that Chiboy who was always here in this hotel with us was no longer alive. While we were drinking away our sorrows, I got annoyed and smashed some empty bottles. The manager of the hotel started harassing us, saying that we could scare away his customers.

‘Chidubem pleaded with him and paid for the bottles we broke. He later told us he was leaving for Asaba; that he was not happy. He entered a bike and left for the motor park. But unknown to us, the President General of Aguleri Community, Barr Ifeanyi Iloakasia, was in the hotel. He called the police to come and arrest us. So when the police came, we called Chidubem and told him the latest development, so he (Chidubem) came back to tell the police that he had paid for the broken bottles.

‘On sighting him (Chidubem), the police operatives held him and started beating him. He was kicked in the chest many times by the DPO of Otuocha Police Station and he kept crying. I was also brutalized by the policemen and you can see the injuries on my legs. They took us to the police station and later transferred us to SARS (RRS), Awkuzu.’

How Chidubem Died

Chukwunonso continued his narration, ‘In SARS, we met too many people in the cell and the place was very hot. Because of the injuries Chidubem sustained, he was already feeling weak. When we were taken into the cell, the inmates started beating us. I had never been in a cell before and didn’t know it was the tradition for new inmates to be beaten. They beat us until Chidubem gave them N4,000.

‘Because the cell was overcrowded, and Chidubem was not feeling good, I had to stay awake all night to fan him. Later at night, he started wailing that he needed water, we begged other inmates to give us water; that we would give back to them when we bought the next morning, but they refused. He snatched water from one inmate and drank and they started beating him and he passed out and was taken out of the cell to hospital. That is the much we know.’

Chidubem’s family are yet to accept any news of his death, especially as his father insists that police are yet to tell him the whereabout of his son.

‘They ignored me and my lawyer when we went to SARS to ask them about my son. Anyone who knows the President General of Aguleri, Barr Ifeanyi Iloakasia, should tell him to bring back my son; he is not dead, they are keeping him somewhere,’ the father bemoaned.


Relatives of the deceased, comprising mostly of the women of the community, staged a protest against the President General. They called on him to bring back their brother, saying he did nothing wrong to warrant being handed over to the police. The placards-wielding protesters wailed, rolling on the ground, over the death of the 24-year-old, who, they said, carried the hope of his family.

When Fides went to Angel Hotel to speak with the management on the incident that led to the arrest, the manager of the hotel refused to speak. He also refused to disclose his name, saying he needed the permission of the owner of the hotel before he could speak.

President General of Aguleri Speaks

Fides traced the President General of Aguleri Community, Barr Iloakasia, who gave a different story of what happened. He denied any complicity in the matter, saying that he only called in members of the Anambra Vigilante Services (AVG) when Chidubem and his friends started breaking bottles in the hotel and chasing many people around.

‘I was in the hotel that day. I saw the boys breaking bottles and chasing guests around. They even threatened to beat up the manager of the hotel who tried to stop them. I was not the one that called in the police; there were several other people in the hotel that day, and anyone could have called the police. I was there for a meeting, but when my partners saw the level of violence, they entered their cars and escaped. I called our town security, which is headed by Chidubem’s relative from same village. If I meant harm, I would not have called their own brother. But the police came in and the DPO told us that the boy and his friend had been on their wanted list for cultism and they took them. How is that my fault?

‘I know that someone is instigating them that I was responsible for their son’s death, just to get at me. I know who the person is, and they have been sending me threats and unknown people have even been lurking around my family compound and my own compound too,’ the PG stated.

When asked if the boy was still alive and what he was doing to help him return; either dead or alive, as his subject, Iloakasia said: ‘What I know is that the boy is dead. Police told me he is dead and in the mortuary now. His parents don’t want to accept that he is dead; they rather choose to believe that I kept him somewhere to do ritual with him. That is laughable.

‘As for releasing the body, I know that if they apply, the police will release the body to them. I can do it because he is my subject, but since they choose to accuse me wrongly, I have decided to stay away from the matter entirely.

Cult Activities/History of Violence in Aguleri

Recently, activities of cultists and other criminals referred to as Yahoo Boys have heightened in Aguleri Community. As this reporter approached the compound of the parents of the deceased Chidubem and decided to buy a bottle of groundnuts, it was a surprise that in the seemingly rural, agrarian community of Aguleri, that groundnuts which were locally grown and processed could be so expensive.

Our guide, a young man who was showing this reporter around, said: ‘Our community used to be very cheap to live in but cultists and Yahoo Boys have messed everywhere up. They buy everything at any cost, including renting the best apartments in Aguleri at prices that legitimate workers will not be able to afford.’

Apart from the activities of cultists and scammers, sources said that in the entire Omambala area of Anambra, which also includes Aguleri Community, there is usually a culture of violence when a young person dies.

An indigene of the area who gave his name as Mr Bartho, said: ‘It is a tradition. Once someone who is young dies, the anger elicits destruction but, usually, it is the felling of soft trees. You see a youth climb up a tree and use his bare hands to drag down its branches. For soft trees like banana and pawpaw, they could even be uprooted.’

It was however gathered that criminals have abused the tradition and almost bastardizing it. Bartho said. ‘A week before the death of Chiboy, which also led to Chidubem’s return from Asaba and his death, there was a burial that was held in Aguleri. It was the burial of a young man, and cultists used the opportunity to destroy several cars, rob people of their phones and shot into the air, scaring many people.

‘We heard that one prominent priest in Aguleri, Father Manafa, or his relative, was also involved and that his car was damaged. It is suspected that Chidubem and his friends belong to the group that did that; that was why police took four of them to Awkuzu.’

Speaking about the attack on Chidubem in the police cell, another source within the community who wished not to be named, said: ‘The story of Chidubem snatching someone’s water and being beaten to death does not just add up.

‘I think they met a rival cult member in the cell and he used the opportunity to take his pound of flesh on him and their members. I think so because the story of snatching water from an inmate and being beaten to death does not add up.’

Meanwhile, a new twist to the story emerged when Fides reached out to police authorities in Anambra State over the matter. DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, who speaks for Anambra State Police Command, said the command was aware of the matter.

He said: ‘The Command is sad with this development. The suspects who beat up Chidubem were in the cell for murder, kidnapping and robbery case. They were being detained on charges of murder, and while in custody, they committed another murder. The command has also added another murder charge to the suspects. They have been arraigned at Otuocha High Court.’

For now, tension pervades the atmosphere in Aguleri as all the affected parties await further developments.