How policemen have made Anambra community unliveable for years + Photos, Videos

For years now peace seemed to have eluded the people of Isuaniocha community in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State. At the centre of this crisis are policemen, alleged to be working for some wealthy and influential indigenes, creating panic and terrorising the people. In this report, JULIANA FRANCIS highlights the police impunity and human rights violations.

How police allegedly killed Okafor Sunday Johnson
An Assistant Superintendent of Police, Abu Michael Matthew, attached to the Force Criminal Investigations Department, Admin Section, Abuja, has been accused of storming Isuaniocha community in Awka North Local Government Area, Anambra State to cause mayhem and allegedly ended up killing an unarmed young man identified as Okafor Sunday Johnson.

Community members alleged that Matthew had been allegedly terrorising Isuaniocha community on the behest of one Festus and one Anthony, believed to be prime suspects in cases of the murder of late Angus Okoye and the attempted murder of Chidiebele Okoye.

The 31-year-old Johnson was said to have been killed under mistaken identity. Residents alleged that after the policemen shot Johnson, they were overheard saying: “This is not Chisom! This is not Chisom!”

The Chisom in question is the son of the youth leader, who the ASP Mathew and his men were frantically hunting for.

The landlady of Johnson, Rose, who witnessed the shooting and subsequently recalled in vivid detail the last moment of the deceased, described Johnson as “my brother.”

The widow said she had never witnessed such a police invasion into a community and the outright human rights violations. According to her, the incident caused her tenants to quit her property and because she was scared, she had also decided to abandon it.

Rose said: “It happened at 4am. I went to urinate and returned to bed. My tenant’s child said he wanted to urinate, so the mom took him outside. Suddenly, she noticed a torch flashing and heard a noise at the gate. She thought the person at the gate would knock, but the person didn’t. And then she noticed the head of someone attempting to scale the fence. She then called me, and I rushed out. I saw someone at the fence, attempting to jump into the compound, we started screaming, ‘thief! Thief!’ The person stopped. We heard footsteps and then other tenants came out of their apartments.

“I decided to check the back gate. Just as I was returning from the back gate, my brother, Johnson, went to open the front gate because we thought the supposed thieves had left. Immediately he opened the gate, they opened fire. He was hit. That was how everyone started running. I, my daughter, my last child, my friend that came for a visit and one of my tenants all ran toward the back gate.”

Rose said that while attempting to protect and move her children to safety, she lost her wrapper and continued running to safety stark naked. They ran into a compound, where a woman kindly offered her wrapper to cover her nakedness.

She continued her narration: “After the sounds of guns have died down, I told my daughter to call Johnson’s phone number since she had his phone number offhand. The occupants of the house where we sought solace assisted us with a phone. We called Johnson, he told us that he had been shot and that we should look for a vehicle to take him to the hospital. Before we got home, people had already called a tricycle and were taking him to the hospital. We quickly joined them.
“When I asked him what happened, he said that the shooters were policemen, and they were looking for Chisom. He said that after shooting him, they flashed a torch on his face, saying, ‘this is not Chisom! This is not Chisom!’ He said that they were in uniforms, bulletproof vests, and helmets. We told him to stop speaking. When we took him to the hospital, they asked for a police report. We rushed to the police station and that was where they kept asking us to go there, do this and do that until Johnson died.

“Some of my tenants that ran into my dining room area, said that they were marched out at gunpoint by the policemen. The policemen were yelling at them to shut up, that they were policemen. We are now living in fear, as I’m speaking to you, I’m packing our clothes to look for where to stay. Since all my tenants have left, I can’t continue to stay here alone with my children. I’m a widow and it is money from tenants that I used in taking care of my children and myself. Right now, I don’t know what else to do. I have never experienced this sort of thing in my life before.”

RULAAC writes IGP, demands curtailing of ASP over abuses

The Executive Director of Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, Okechukwu Nwanguma, concerned over the impunity and human rights violations by Matthew, petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, alleging acts of abuse of police powers, aiding and abetting crime and violence in Isuaniocha community in Awka North LGA, Anambra State and collusion with some wealthy and influential members of the community currently standing trial for murder and attempted murder in a nefarious attempt to obstruct and derail justice in their ongoing trial in Anambra State High Courts 2 (murder case) and 5 (attempted murder case).

Nwanguma said: “The scheme by Matthew who is allegedly working for the accused persons in the cases is to turn the cases against the victims and complainants and their relatives and sympathizers using intimidation, arrest, detention, and frame up with false allegations to scare them away from attending court to pursue their cases against them. We are informed Matthew has been working with and always taking sides with the accused persons in the matter for years since the communal conflict that led to the murder started. He has always helped them to write fictitious petitions or counter petitions and made sure that the petitions were directed to whichever unit he is attached to and always with him as the IPO. He has carried out many illegal arrests, detention and torture of many Isuaniocha people.”

The human rights activist said that more worrisome was the fact that Matthew abandoned his post at the FCID Abuja and permanently stationed himself in Awka, using a gang of violent criminal youths called Bakasi whose members include some of those who were involved in the murder and had been wanted by the police at Force CID Abuja since 2018.

“These wanted men been hunting after members of the community including the families of the murder and attempted murder victims, with Supol Matthew supervising the invasion of their houses, burning and vandalizing their houses and household property. So far the Supol has arrested over 20 members of the community, with some detained for days and released only after they paid money for their release, while he took about five others to the Force CID, Abuja where he has detained them for the past three weeks and torturing them to sign self-incriminating statements,” said Nwanguma.

He noted that recently, Matthew has caused the names of several members of the deceased family, youth executives and other members of the community sympathetic to be published and gazetted as persons wanted by the police for various phantom crimes including alleged terrorism.
He stated: “We are informed that he obtained the questionable court order for the gazette from a Nasarawa State Magistrate’s Court, far away from Anambra State where they reside and where the alleged crimes were committed. This is part of the scheme to scare them away from attending court to pursue their cases at Anambra State High Courts in Awka. On several occasions, they have threatened the plaintiffs in the cases with consequences if they find them near the courts and have actually laid ambush for them to arrest them on their way to court. All these alleged hatchet jobs by ASP Matthew Abu are being funded by the alleged two prime suspects in the two cases of the murder of late Angus Okoye and the attempted murder of Chidiebele Okoye.”

Background to mayhem in Isuaniocha community
There has been a longstanding communal dispute in Isuaniocha community Awka North since 2018. Some members of the community including the deposed President General Anthony were arrested and eventually charged in court with murder and attempted murder.

Due to money influence, it took time to get to that stage. In fact, while in custody in Awka awaiting arraignment based on Directorate of Public Prosecution advice, the prime suspect was secretly released but later rearrested based on the alarm raised by RULAAC upon being informed about the secret release to evade arraignment.

This was during the time of the Deputy Inspector General of Police Force CID. After being arraigned and remanded, Anthony still found his way out and is now back to the Community allegedly aided by Supol Matthew, along with some armed men alleged to include some of the suspects who evaded arrest and now burning down houses of some targeted members of the community, vandalising their property and carrying out indiscriminate arrests.

Among those targeted were the community youth leader, head of the community vigilante group and relatives of the murder and attempted murder victims for whose cases the sponsors of this renewed attack were still standing trial but working hard to frustrate his trial.

Nwanguma said: “We are informed that since the past four years when the community dispute started, Supol Matthew has always assisted the same party by writing petitions or counter petitions for them and always making sure that the matter comes to wherever he is as IPO. This is often to divert attention from the investigation of criminal allegations against those paying him to work for them. He has been involved in such cases from when he was attached to Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, IGP Monitoring Team and now Force CID, Abuja. We are particularly concerned about the dimension of resorting to arson. Is that part of a police investigation? We are further informed that the last time the plaintiffs were supposed to attend court in Awka for the continuation of the murder trial involving ASP Matthew’s sponsors, armed thugs masquerading as Bakasi and commanded by Matthew laid ambush to arrest them in order to frustrate the continuation of the trial.”

Nwanguma explained that there was video evidence of some of the acts of arson and vandalism carried out by Matthew and his armed gang, including one Emeka who is one of the suspects but had been on the run. There is also evidence of attempts by Matthew to counter track efforts to track and arrest the principal suspect Anthony, who was being tracked for arrest by the FCID in 2022.

He mentioned that on March 23, 2022, Matthew took some names to Abuja: Emeka Attansey, Michael Odie, Friday Okeke, Obiadi Nwobu and Chiedozie Nnobi. Those arrested and then released after allegedly paying for bail are as follow: Jonathan Azoba – N20,000; Ogueji Azoba – N20,000; Obiajulu Azoba – N20,000; Lambard Nwufe – N20,000; Chukwuma Okoye – N20,000; Okechukwu Okoye – N20,000; Ifeanyi Okoye – N20,000; and Obari – N300,000.

Demands by human rights activists
RULAAC requests that the IGP should call Matthew to order and order an investigation into his alleged discreditable conduct. “Appropriate disciplinary actions should be taken against him if he is found to have offered his services as a police officer for the selfish benefit to derail justice and intimidate innocent citizens. He should be directed to allow the trial of those involved in murder and attempted murder to continue unhindered so that justice can be served. The action of having the names of innocent citizens of the community gazetted as wanted criminals should also be investigated.”

Allegations against ASP Matthew are lies, says Force spokesman
The Nigeria Police Force spokesman, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said that the allegations of Rose and other community members against ASP Matthew are lies.

Adejobi said: “We hereby set the records straight that the IGP received a petition dated 16th February 2022 from Ononenyi Chambers on behalf of five of its clients seeking the intervention of the Force in a case of conspiracy, murder, armed robbery and acts of terrorism, involving Edward Okoye, aka Stone, and others numbering about 101, who shot two men dead; Ifeanyi Anazoba aka Ichafu and Chukwuebuka Amodo aka Mutum at a burial function in Umuzuocha Town Hall, Awka South of Anambra State on 19th January 2019, beheaded and burnt their bodies beyond recognition. They kidnapped two others and vandalised property belonging to the complainants valued at over N1.2 billion.

“The petition was thereafter endorsed to the DIG Force CID, where a special operations team under his supervision, led by CSP Isiyaku Adamu, in conjunction with tactical operatives proceeded to the community in Anambra State where the arrest of about 58 suspects was effected. At least 10 suspects with prima facie were detained on court order while the others were released unconditionally. The 10 include – Chibuzor Nwankwo, Friday Okeke, Emeka Onyeka, Chidozie Nnaobi Michael, Obiadi Nwobu, Chisom Ngini, Onyebuchi Okeke, Boniface Chibuzo Okeke, Osita Ebor, and Chibuzo Michael Okeke, all males.

“The team thereafter obtained a court order from a magistrate court in Nasarawa State to declare 12 suspects who were major actors in the crime wanted. It is equally imperative to state that a minor was arrested upon reports that he was handed the heads of the deceased by the suspects but was later released on bail while investigations are ongoing. The Nigeria Police wish to state categorically that the suspects declared wanted by the Force are still at large and all efforts are being made to bring them to justice. They include Edward Okoye, aka Stone, Onyemazi Ngini, Donatus Okeke, Onyebuchi Nwekeizu Okoye, Nonso Eboh, Chukwuka Onyibor, Chukwujekwu Anaekeokwu, Chuka Ilodigwe, Chinedu Nwoye Okoye, Nonso Awusionwu Obinna, Cosmos Okonkwo, and Chukwujekwu Okoye. They are hereby urged to report themselves to the FCID of the Police rather than engaging in their fruitless attempt to smear the character of the investigating officers as they clearly have a case to answer.”

How police are causing mayhem in our community, say residents
Even as the Force spokesman continues to chant the innocence of the policemen, led by ASP Matthew that allegedly shot and killed Sunday and extorted members of the community, more indigenes have stepped forward to tell their stories, highlighting the fear that has enveloped the community.

A community member, George Okoye, whose brother was killed at the beginning of the mayhem by alleged sponsors thugs narrated that following the death of his mother in October 2021, he went to the village on March 10, 2022 to plan her burial and on March 12, 2022, madness landed in the community.

His words: “We heard that something was happening, that since 12am, something had been happening and by the time we heard this, it was 5am. My brother is Edward Okoye and he’s part of the leadership of the vigilante group in the village. His tenants told me that about 15 vehicles went to his building, looking for him, fortunately, he had gone to work. The occupants of these vehicles broke down his door and ransacked his house. These were policemen and Bakassi Boys, and they were led by ASP Matthew. These men also did the same thing to the apartments of Edward’s tenants and then they arrested all the male occupants. My brother’s wife, whose baby is just a month old, was harassed and presently feeling traumatised.”

Another resident, Chukwuka Ilodigwe, recounted: “Matthew came with the Bakassi Boys and the wanted killers of Angus Okoye. Yet these killers were being looked for by the Force CID. On that day, Matthew and his men arrested many men and took them to Awka Area Command. Moreover, the matter which Matthew claimed made him and his men invade the community, arresting, shooting, and harassing sporadically, is already in court. ASP Matthew has been frustrating efforts to arrest those killers for long because of money.”

According to Ilodigwe, Matthew had earlier charged Edward Okoye and others for murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, and illegal possessions of arms, and the matter was later charged to court and was still pending in court, before he once again, came after the same set of people, who had been given bail by the court.

George said: “He came up with this spurious allegation again, disrespecting the court because he needed money and wanted those serial killers that are working with him to return to our community. Those killers are boys of a rich man in our community and Matthew is under his payroll. While this matter was ongoing, there was a CP and DIG that were following it. But now, that CP has been transferred, while the DIG had retired. Matthew now presented the case as a new one to the new CP and DIG. Matthew declared 11 people wanted and gazette them as criminals, murderers, terrorists, and kidnappers. One of them is even based overseas. He also caused their bank accounts to be frozen. He is doing this so that people wouldn’t come to court to testify against the serial killers. He ensured their bank accounts were frozen because he didn’t want them to hire lawyers to defend them. He also arrested a 12-year-old and detained him for days!”

George said that it was shocking that Matthew, who works in the Admin Department in FCID, left Abuja, came to Anambra State to cause mayhem, and then without recourse to law or jurisdiction, went to Nasarawa State to get a court order from a Magistrate Court to declare 11 indigenes of the community wanted and then gazette same immediately.

Ilodigwe noted: “Since 2014, Matthew has always been the IPO for the person behind the crisis in our community. Within those years, he had been moved to SARS, FSARS, IG Monitoring and now to FCID, but he continued to be their IPO whenever they felt like causing trouble. Why are petitions always sent to departments where Matthew is posted and why is he always the IPO and the petition, since 2014, always focus on the same issue and people?”

Loveth is a nursing mother, whose baby is just a month old. She is one of the wives of Edward Okoye. She and her mother were at home on the day the ASP Mathew and other police came looking for her husband.

She said: “The policemen came at 4:30am. I heard a noise and I looked out of the window and saw them breaking down the doors of tenants. I initially thought they were armed robbers. Then they came to our apartment and used an axe to break down the door. I had never been so petrified in my life. Six of them entered our apartment, they were shouting, ‘where’s your husband! Where’s your husband!’ I told them he was not at home, he went to work, they asked me the type of work he does and then collected my phone. They carted away my brand-new motorcycle and arrested all the male tenants in the compound.”

Another victim, Nnamdi Nwankwo, said: “It happened on Saturday morning, while I was at home sleeping. I heard a noise, and the policemen broke down my door! I was arrested, along with many men. I paid N70,000 for my bail. These policemen came at 4am. When we asked about our offence, they said it was because of the Isuaniocha crisis. It was my wife that came to bail me out after she had to run from pillar to post to raise the money. Right now, I’m still paying the different people she borrowed the money from.”

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