Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the “Gburugburu” of Enugu State may not just be an all-rounder in positive attributes in the Coal City-State as the name implies but also has his fist allegedly deeply buried in the jar filled with the stench of inter-ethnic bigotry.
This may have been proven by the continuous detention of three senior staff members of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Enugu who were arrested on March 22, 2019, on mere suspicion that they masterminded the murder of a co-senior staff member by name Dr. (Mrs.) Maria Amadi, the former Head, Nursing Services, a native of Nsukka who was shot dead in front of her residence at Federal Housing Estate Trans Ekulu on March 21, 2019, at about 5 pm.
Despite a detailed investigation by the Nigerian Police which revealed that a three-man armed-robbery squad who has since been paraded and charged to court were responsible for the untimely death of Mrs Amadi, the trio of; Mrs Buzor Ruth Maduka, the Principal, School of Post-Basic Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing of the FNHE school of Nursing, a native of Isukwato in Abia State, Mr Afam Ndu, the Deputy Principal from Obosi in Anambra State and Mrs Stella Achalla, a Principal Confidential Secretary in the Hospital we learnt are still locked up in prison, allegedly due to the state governor’s influence on the case as sources squealed that Governor Ugwuanyi not only has an interest in foisting his kinsmen as principal officers in the Hospital but also has a personal vendetta with one of the staff members currently in detention.
The crux of the Matter
It all started when there was a disagreement between staff members of the Hospital after the then MD was reinstated despite being above 60 years. His subsequent removal following several protests and petitions birthed fractions in the Hospital as those from Nsukka origin which happens to be the governor’s community were not too happy with the fact that someone from another state was now heading the Hospital.
The unfortunate death of Mrs Amadi who got promoted a month earlier became a front for the governor and his kinsmen to manifest their bigotry as the trio of Afam, Stella and Ruth were immediately rounded up on allegations that the deceased had stated before her demise that she had a fallout with them over the posting of students.
However, no prior altercation was recorded apart from the statement made by the clerical officer Miss Nnamani Ebere who dispatched the posting letters to her office 30 minutes before the close of work. According to Miss Ebere, the deceased rejected the letters with no explanation which prompted her to return them to the principal.
Dr Amadi was later shot three times at close range same day at about 5 pm in front of her residence and was confirmed dead a few minutes after 7 pm on her way to University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital after she was referred from the Enugu State University Teaching Hospital Parklane Emergency unit.
A preliminary shabby investigation by the Trans-Ekulu Divisional headquarters under the command of the then Divisional Police Officer Hope Eziani and her Investigating Police Officer both from Nsukka unjustly indicted the trio who were subsequently remanded in prison custody.
A tipoff of by a veteran in the Enugu State Neighbourhood Watch saved the day as a comprehensive investigation was later launched by the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad, FCID Abuja on the Instructions of the Inspector General of Police. This led to the arrest of three armed robbers who not only confessed to killing Mrs Amadi in the course of robbing her but narrated for the police how the incident happened.
The killers in their confessional statement also made it clear that nobody contracted them to kill Dr Amadi and they never knew any of the FNHE employees who were unjustly accused and arrested over their colleague’s death thereby exonerating them from the accusations.
Sources also revealed that the three armed robbers; Chidiebere Ochi, Amandi Ekwo alias Pharaoh and Uchenna Onuora alias Amigo who are all members of Vikings confraternity, popularly known as baggers had been terrorizing the Trans-Ekulu axis in Enugu State at that time with repeated tipoffs to the police on their intended operations always ignored.
Enugu State Government and Police trade Blame Game
Notwithstanding the interim Police Investigative report signed by Olafimihan Adeoye, Commissioner of Police, FSARS, FCID, with Ref No. CR:3000/X/FHQ/ABJ/FSARS/TI/VOL 37/38 dated 11th September 2019 and a comprehensive report by the Legal/Prosecution Section, FCIID signed by DCP Augustine Sanomi with Ref No. CB3514/X/LEG/FHQ/ABJ/VOL.38/118 dated 28th November 2019 recommending that the case of criminal conspiracy and murder against Mrs Buzor Ruth, Mr Afam Ndu and Mrs Stella Achalla be withdrawn from the court, the Enugu State Judiciary arguably influenced by Governor Ugwuanyi resorted to deploying judicial filibusters to keep the nurses perpetually incarcerated even with the glaring facts that point to their innocence.
During a telephone conversation with Hon. Miletus Ezugworie Eze, the Attorney General of Enugu State who coincidentally also hails from Nsukka, he affirmed that the Police investigated the case and forwarded to his office to prosecute.
“We started prosecution, midway. They said they have found those who killed the woman and asked me to stop my own, and they don’t want to bring that case file, the new case file for me to prosecute those who have confessed. I said no, the one you brought to me, the evidence I saw in the file is sufficient for me to prosecute. If you have found new persons bring the new people so that I can prosecute and these people can be let go.”
He berated the Police for the delay in the release of the three nurses as he averred that not only have they refused to transmit the case file of the new suspects to him as requested but are also trying to usurp his powers as the Prosecutor of the state which is enshrined under Section 211 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
“Police can’t ask me to terminate a case. They can only give me the material that will enable me to terminate the case. If they say they have found new people, they have not given me that file…if they want me to terminate it, let them give me the case file of the new people so that I will see what is in the file if I find it meritorious I will terminate the other one and continue with the new one but they are holding that file. So it is the Police causing the whole problem. How can the Police sit down in their house and ask the Attorney General to terminate his own case” he queried.
However, when quizzed on the government’s alleged influence on the case and the continuous detention of the three nurses, Hon. Miletus stated that as the Attorney General of the State he could not reply to mere speculation.
The Investigation Police Officer IPO from FSARS who handled the case in reaction to the claim by the AG stated that he did what was needed by forwarding the case file to the Police Legal Department and believed that the file was also transmitted to the Department of Public Prosecution Enugu State.
Meanwhile, according to the OC Legal, DCP Augustine Sanomi, who is now retired, if the Police did due diligence to the case and new facts emerged and were communicated to the AG, nothing stops him as the Attorney General from reaching out to the Police to request for the file if he claims it was not sent to him and therefore should not use that as bases to deny justice to some persons who probably are been detained on account of mere suspicion.
“We wrote back to the Attorney General stating the present state of the findings and the fact that some persons have accepted to have been behind what happened. Those who were initially suspected and charged to court were innocent persons, so I don’t know why he should be delaying” he said.
Rumours as high as the pyramids of Giza have it that Governor Ugwuanyi has a personal vendetta with one of the detained nurses over a long-standing battle for supremacy over the heart of a lady back in the University of Nigeria campus hence his interest in the case and alleged use of his Executive powers to arm-twist the Enugu State Judiciary to doing his bid despite all the facts presented to them.
Mr Nnayelugo Chidi Aroh, the Enugu State Commissioner of Information, however, refuted the claim when contacted by SecretReporters, outrightly stating that the state government is the executive arm of government and do not interfere with the justice system run by the Judiciary or the investigative system run by the Nigerian Police. “It’s only mere blackmail for anyone to associate the state government with a process that is legally in the domain of people”.
Mr Nnayelugo further stated that the state government is too busy to meddle into such as the Hospital in question is a Federal Facility under the Federal Ministry of health and as such, the governor has no powers in directing its affairs.
With the Principal’s seat now occupied by staff from Nsukka origin, the three Nurses who have been unjustly separated from their families for more than 18 months also appealed to the Enugu State Governor through their attorney for a Temporal bail reprieve given the Present COVID-19 Pandemic and the population density of inmates in the Enugu State Custodial centre of the Nigerian Correctional Services where two of them have since developed serious health issues and had to be rushed to hospitals severally.
But like the biblical pharaoh with a hardened heart, the appeal which was also sent to the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Priscilla Emehelu fell on deaf ears apparently because her husband is from the same clan with the Speaker of the Enugu State house of Assembly and close to the powers-that-be in Enugu State who care less about the deteriorating health conditions of the three nurses and the impact of their continuous detention on their loved ones, the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Enugu and the Nursing community at large.
Despite not receiving their Salaries for the past 18 months, the three nurses especially the principal, Mrs Buzor Ruth Maduka who unfortunately lost his brother to the cold hands of death last month have been struggling to remain emotionally and mentally strong with the huge responsibilities hanging on their neck as Father, mothers, and grandmothers.
The National Human Rights Commission have since condemned and described this continuous incarceration as an “aberration of justice” as justice delayed is justice denied.
This report was carried out by Secret Reporters News as part of its duties towards fighting injustice in high places.