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We Conducted Burial For My Brother In Absentia, Man Tells Panel

A family in Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria whose 24-year-old son was allegedly arrested in 2004 by operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police has demanded the sum of N100 million from the police as compensation over the disappearance of their son in police custody.

Ekene Akabuike, 24, a final year student of Statistics, Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU), Awka was arrested from his hostel at Umumbele part of Awka by operatives of the disbanded SARS, Awkuzu office.

The Akabuike family from Ifitedunu, Dunukofia Local Government Area of Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria made the demand in a petition filed to the Judicial Panel of Inquiry (JPI) sitting in Awka, the state capital.

Speaking to journalists after appearing before the panel, Obiora Akabuike, elder brother to Ekene said the SARS operatives took his brother away from the hostel when they couldn’t find a particular suspect they had gone to arrest at the time.

He said the family has since not seen Ekene but held burial ceremony for him after one officer told them that he had been ‘wasted’.

“When we went to their offices, they said we should come to Court that they were going to arraign him,” said Akabuike.

“But since that 2004, we never saw him again, but one officer confidently told my elder brother that, that the young man( Ekene Augustine Akabuike) had been wasted.”

“We had to hold a burial ceremony for him even when we did not see his corpse because they refused to release him to us. All effort to get them to give us the corpse failed,” he said.

Ekene’s mother later died of complications after she was told that her son was dead, Akabuike said.

Burial poster of Late Ekene Akabuike
Burial poster of Late Ekene Akabuike

Abdul Mahmud, a human rights lawyer who represented the family tendered the petition and relevant verifying affidavit before the panel.

Mahmud who is the President of Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL) said the family was demanding a compensation of N100 million to cushion their pains.

He made an additional prayer that James Nwafor, former Commander at SARS Awkuzu should be invited by the panel to respond to the allegations against him.

But Innocent Obi, a Superintendent of Police and legal representative of the police said he should be given time to study and respond to the claims.

His application was granted by Justice Veronica Umeh, Chairman of the panel who reminded the petitioners that the Anambra State Government earmarked only N200 million for compensation of proven victims.

Meanwhile, the Anambra JPI failed to sit on Thursday, which was the next adjourned date.

This was a sequel to threat by members of the panel to adjourn indefinitely over the state government’s failure to settle logistics issues including payment of allowances to members.

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