Sources in the Enugu State Ministry of Justice told SaharaReporters that they hope recently appointed Inspector General of Police, M.D. Abubakar, would help prosecutors to unmask all the kidnappers of Lotachukwu (Lota) Ezeudu, a 2nd year student of accountancy at the University of Nigeria (Enugu campus) who was kidnapped in late September 2009 and has not been seen since. The kidnap victim, whose father, Bona Ezeudu, is one of Nigeria’s major painters and sculptors, was 19 at the time of his kidnap.
The trial of the apprehended suspects in the case will resume tomorrow, Friday, February 10 at an Enugu High Court. The suspects to be arraigned tomorrow include Ernest Okeke, a former police officer, Nnaemeka Chukwu, the son of a wanted Divisional Police Officer, Fabulous Chukwu, and Moses Uche Amajor, the son of an hotelier who was arrested April last year after being on the run for more than a year and a half.
But our sources said prosecutors want IGP Abubakar to demonstrate greater interest in the case than his predecessor, Hafiz Ringim, who ignored several pleas to help in searching for a fugitive Divisional Police Officer Sam Chukwu who is believed to have masterminded the kidnap.
DPO Sam Chukwu has been on the run since last year when prosecutors with the Enugu Ministry of Justice declare him a suspect in the case. However, his son, Nnaemeka Chukwu, who was reportedly used to lure Lota Ezeudu into the kidnap trap, is in prison custody and among suspects who will appear in court tomorrow. Nnaemeka Chukwu and Lota Ezeudu were classmates in secondary school.
A source told SaharaReporters that prosecutors as well as the family of the kidnapped young man were disappointed with former Inspector General of Police Ringim who was nonchalant about demands that the police authorities fish out Sam Chukwu who tainted the image of the police by sponsoring a band of kidnappers made up of serving and sacked junior police officers.
“Ringim knew everything about the case of the young man, Lota Ezeudu,” said a source. “He was the deputy IG in charge of the southeastern command in Umuahia when Lota was kidnapped – and he was fully briefed about the involvement of DPO Chukwu.” Despite his familiarity with the case, sources within the Ministry of Justice expressed dismay that Mr. Ringim ignored pleas to declare Sam Chukwu wanted and to assist in tracking him down. One source even wondered if the recently dismissed IG was out to shield Sam Chukwu from prosecution, adding that they had received tips that the fugitive DPO was sometimes sighted at the national headquarters of the police force in Abuja.
“The new IG has vowed to get serious with fighting crime in our society. We are calling on him to immediately declare DPO Chukwu wanted so that members of the public who know where he is hiding will give the information,” said one source. He added: “The man [DPO Chukwu] has soiled the image of the police by creating a band of armed robbers and kidnappers whose activities enriched him. Alhaji Abubakar should tell the world that he means business by helping to apprehend the biggest suspect in this case.”
Prosecutors also told SaharaReporters that they expect the new IG to fire Mahmud Isah, the area commander of the Funtua Police in Katsina State for signing a fraudulent letter designed to provide an alibi for Uche Moses Amajor, a suspect in the case.
SaharaReporters had earlier reported that Mahmud Isah wrote a false report claiming that Uche Moses Amajor had come to the Funtua police station on September 25, 2009, a day before Lotachukwu’s kidnap, to report that he had been robbed by armed bandits. But prosecutors as well as investigators in Enugu quickly dismissed the report, insisting that they have gathered watertight proof that Uche Amajor was not only in Enugu but also directly participated in Lotachukwu’s kidnap.
A source in the police accused Uche Amajor’s father, who is based in Kaduna, of bribing Mahmud Isah, the area commander in Funtua, to produce and sign a misleading statement calculated to help a suspect in a hideous crime to elude prosecution. “Officers like Mahmud Isah who collude with criminals should have no place in the police force,” said a source. He added: “The IG should investigate this criminal conduct by a police officer. And he should order the arrest not only of Mahmud Isah and other officers involved in the foiled cover-up but also arrest Chief Amajor, who has been using his wealth to try to subvert the course of justice in order to free his son by deceptive means.”
A source told SaharaReporters that Lota Ezeudu’s parents also plan to petition prison authorities as well as the disciplinary committee of the Nigerian Medical Association over a fraudulent medical report written by one Dr. Okoli of the Enugu Prisons in another attempt to set Uche Amajor free. In the report, earlier carried by SaharaReporters, Dr. Okoli alleged that Uche Amajor had contracted hepatitis C and should be released from prison to make private arrangements for his treatment. SaharaReporters learnt that prosecutors determined that the doctor’s report was just another gimmick by Uche Amajor’s father to derail his son’s trial.
The older Amajor is the owner of Prosper Hotel in Trans-Ekulu, Enugu. A source involved in the case disclosed that investigators believe that Lota Ezeudu was first kept at the hotel after his kidnap before he was moved to an unknown location.
Prosecutors and investigators told SaharaReporters that they are continuing efforts to locate and arrest Desmond Chinwuba, another ex-police officer who also played a lead role in Lota Ezeudu’s kidnap. Both Desmond Chinwuba and Ernest Okeke, who is in custody, were fired from the police force after they were arrested and arraigned on armed robbery charges. They were granted bail and were living at the family home of fugitive DPO Sam Chukwu at the time they planned and carried out the kidnap of Lota Ezeudu. Several sources in Enugu described Chinwuba and Okeke as key players in DPO Chukwu’s mini crime establishment.
A source close to the Ezeudu family told us that Mr. Bona Ezeudu, who from the 1980s had been part of the elite Aka Circle of Artists, has done very little artistic work since his son’s kidnap and disappearance. “Bona and his wife have devoted their time and energy to finding out what happened to their son and to ensure that all those involved in the crime are held accountable,” the source said.