WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
One week after, the outrage sparked by the gruesome murder of eight-year old Victory Nmezu by a suspected ritualist continued to reverberate. A concerned, conscientious and crossed public have continued to protest police’s complicity in the escape of Ifeanyi Dike, the suspect, right under the nose of the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID), barely five hours after he was paraded at the headquarters of Rivers State Police Command, Moscow Road, Port Harcourt.
The circumstance of the escape has woven a web conspiracy around the Friday, August 18, 2017, tragedy, even as the distraught mother of the deceased is calling on the authority to bring her daughter’s killer to book, by all means.
On the day women and youths in the neighbourhood protested the escape of the suspect from Police custody, Saturday Sun was at the residence of the bereaved family, at No. 8 Eliozu Close in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The Nmezu compound was swarming with sympathisers dressed in black who rained curses on the family of the suspect and those that aided his escape from police custody.
In the throes of lamentation, Mrs Dike Lucy Nmezu, mother of the victim, had only one message for the authorities: “I want Ifeanyi, dead or alive, to face the wrath of the law.”
The case has far more complexities than it appears at face value. The deceased, the last child of the family was a pupil of Divine Heroes Academy where the suspect teaches besides being a part-time 200 Level Physics undergraduate of the University of Port Harcourt, Choba.
The victim and her alleged killer are kith and kin–the Nmezu and Dike families are related from the same village, Ochii Ogwa, in Mbaitolu Local Government Area of Imo State.
In Eliozu where the crime happened, the suspect and the victim live on the same street.
The grief-drunk mother obliged Saturday Sun with a poignant recollection of the tragedy of that Black Friday.
“On Friday afternoon, between 12 noon and 1 pm, I was in my shop with my daughter, Victory, and her elder sister. I left both of them in the shop to go and see my customers within the neighbourhood. When I returned around 2 pm, I did not see Victory. Her elder sister told me she went to ease herself. My shop is close to the road and there is no place for anyone to do pee. Her sister said she ‘crossed’ Victory to the house to ease herself. I told her it had taken some time and she should bring her back. I felt she could have started playing with children in the compound and I did not want that.”
According to her, Victory’s elder sister returned alone. She said she did not see her sister. That was the beginning of the search for the missing girl.
“I was wondering how she could go to the house to ease herself and nobody would see her again. She did not return to the shop and nobody could even say he or she saw her. That was strange to me.”
It was at this point her elder sister ran to their uncle, Ifeanyi (the suspect) who also denied seeing her. When she went to ask him a second time, his response was: “If you do not see Victory, won’t you go and rest?”
She continued: “I entered Ifeanyi’s compound because my daughter did not know any other place. I shouted her name several times, but there was no response. Victory was not the type of child that moved about indiscriminately. My children don’t go to people’s houses to play. I didn’t bring them up like that. It is either they are at home, or at the shop. Victory only moved from our house to Ifeanyi’s house because we are related. I became confused and started jumping everywhere. People in the neighbourhood were also worried and surprised. They joined me in the search. We searched and searched. I did not believe that it was happening real to me.
“By this time, my husband had come back. He couldn’t understand what was happening; that we were looking for Victory?”
She went back to Ifeanyi’s compound and there, she got her first clue.
“I saw one little boy outside. I asked him if he saw Victory. The boy told me that my child entered the compound but had not come out. I asked him which compound, he replied: “This big compound”.”
One of her neighbours later went into the compound and asked Ifeanyi if he was aware of the missing girl.
His response––“Must everybody participate in looking for her?” ––raised suspicion
“I never believed or imagined that my daughter’s corpse was lying in his room,” Mrs Nmezu said.
The search continued till 1 am when women had gathered in the house of the family to pray. The answer to the riddle of the missing girl came soon after.
When he noticed that people were not outside, Ifeanyi reportedly stuffed the corpse of his victim into a bag and carried it in a basin with other dirty items as waste to be thrown away. He was carrying the basin out when a local vigilance team accosted him. The men on night watch wondered why the suspect should carry the load in the dead of night.
She continued her narration: “People said he was moving briskly and when the boys called him to bring the dirty items, he abandoned the basin and bag and fled. The boys on duty alerted their members. One of them got to the bag, opened it and exclaimed that it was my daughter’s corpse.”
A man and woman ran to the house to alert the family.
“I thought my daughter was alive,” she said, “I did not have strength again; but, my husband rushed out.” Indeed, it was her daughter, but alas, her corpse.
Two Police patrol vans in the vicinity at the time prevented the lynching of the suspect by the vigilance group. Policemen subsequently arrested and took him to Okporo Police Station.
For the hapless mother, the nightmare seemed to go on forever. “They asked him where he kept the parts of her body he cut. He said that they were inside a Bournvita container with chemical. That was where he put my daughter’s breast, private part, tongue, eye, two fingers and the one he cut from her forehead.”
According to the distraught woman, the suspect told her husband he was not worthy to live, claiming he was pushed to do the dirty deed by his “master,” a certain Ugochukwu, who used to live in the same compound with him.
Ugochuckwu, who Mrs Nmezu alleged “suddenly, became very rich,” lives in Eneka where he owns a block industry.
Members of the Nmezu family were mollified to hear that the case would be transferred to the SCIID, Port Harcourt, and hoped justice would be served.
That hope evaporated with the escape of the suspect.
“Only Johnbosco knows how Ifeanyi escaped,” Mrs Nmezu said, “Whether he disappeared, flew, ran or jumped. Only Johnbosco has the answer.”
She has a theory, however: “If a vigilance team without a gun could catch somebody and be able to hold the person till they handed him over to Okporo Police, and they finally handed him over to the SCIID, but surprisingly, he escaped, (then) something had transpired.”
She grew hysterical. “What do Police want me to do? I don’t know. Police should come and ask me how old I am. Where will I bring another child to replace this one? Am I still a young mother? Where will I get another child to replace Victory?”
She delivered her next statement with vehemence: “They have a mind to allow Ifeanyi escape so that my daughter will go just like that? God is watching them! Victory, this little angel, this little virgin, her blood will continue to follow each and every one of them!
“Look at how the entire neighbourhood rose to condemn the act. I did not call anybody to protest, but they organised themselves for that. If that star will go like that, as they think, Then, I will know that there is no God in heaven. This God that created heaven and earth; this God that created Victory and made her what she was, will give Victory wings and swords from heaven to pursue them, to follow them, to make sure they all pay; from their biggest boss to the lowest Johnbosco!”
She was equally worried about Police’s aloofness as per Ugochukwu who was indicted by Ifeanyi as the mastermind of the murder. “I don’t know why they have buried his name. I suspect big foul play,” she alleged.
Mrs Nmezu wondered: “Is it not suspicious that it is at the SCIID that a murderer, a rapist; a boy that raped his own cousin, will escape from their custody? God will fight them.”
She concluded thus: “Government and Police authority should provide Ifeanyi. He should come and pay for his deed. I want Ifeanyi dead or alive.
Earlier, Dr Ernest Nmezuwuba, father of the deceased, told Saturday Sun what transpired at the SCIID.
“After taking the corpse to the SCIID with the suspect handcuffed, the Inspector that led me there said I should come and that they should officially hand this case over to the SCIID, which I followed up. Reaching there, I saw the DSP in charge of the place. We explained to him what happened and the man shouted. He (DSP) called one Johnbosco to record everything and take statements. We were there with the suspect in handcuffs.
Meanwhile, at the ACIID, there was no light in the entire place. I wrote my statement with candle––imagine a whole State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department! Then, Johnbosco removed the handcuffs from the suspect’s hand, for him (suspect) to write his statement. At a point, the boy (Dike) said he was thirsty and Johnbosco said I should buy pure water for him. I asked him, why would you ask me to buy water for a person that killed my daughter? Why would I buy water for a ritualist? I told Johnbosco that it was none of my business.”
He continued. “Some policemen were at the gate with guns, while we were at the charge room writing statement. After we finished writing our statements, Johnbosco called the IPO to take the suspect into the cell. The suspect was not handcuffed at that time.
“They did not walk up to a pole, when I heard, ‘hold am, hold am’. He has escaped. Whether he jumped the fence or not, I cannot say because the entire place was dark. It was around 7.30 pm to 8 pm. I had told Johnbosco: “You know what you are doing.” The policemen came out with torchlight and checked under the cars parked there. Then, I saw the DCP––Deputy Commissioner of Police––and he said; what nonsense is this? He asked of Johnbosco and he was told Johnbosco was inside. The DCP then said he should be handcuffed, both his hands and legs. He asked if he (Johnbosco) had ever seen where any policeman had removed handcuffs from the hands of an arrested ritualist. He ordered that Johnbosco be thrown into the cell and immediately radioed the CP.”
Dr Nmezu went on: “I cannot understand this country. This must be a planned game. I must fight it to the end. They have to provide that suspect. The Rivers State Police must provide him while Johnbosco should remain in detention. This incident has proved the kind of country we are living in. Whatever happens in this particular matter, heaven will hear it. The whole world will hear it.”
He added: “This boy (suspect) is related to me. We are from the same village, and he killed my daughter inside his room. The landlord is my in-law and also his own in-law. The landlord, Pius Nwoko, was arrested and the same day, they released him (landlord) for N50, 000. Nwoko told me this.”
According to the State Commissioner of Police Zaki Ahmed,
“It was individual negligence that caused it.”He said: “The escape happened in the presence of the complainant, that is, the parent of the deceased. The boy (suspect) escaped under the cover of the night. But, we are making every effort, every move and by the grace of the Almighty God, within a short time, he will be arrested.
“We are not relenting. We know that this is a serious problem. It is too bad it happened. We have moved a lot of resources, both human and material resources, to ensure that the culprit is arrested. We call on the people to confide in us, if they have any useful information.”
Meanwhile, the state government has condemned the murder and escape of the suspect from Police custody. The State Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs.) Ipalibo Banigo, has described the incident as an embarrassment.
In the meantime, Johnbosco was arraigned on Thursday, on a two-count charge and later remanded in Prisons custody. His case has been adjourned till September 14, 2017.