The Slain Igwes and Babel of Police Investigations


Uba Aham

Police authorities in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, recently announced the arrest of yet a new suspect in the gruesome murder of Barnabas and Blessing Igwe, a couple, in the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra state of Nigeria. The new suspect, known as Odogwu Anam and described as a dreaded underworld kingpin, was arrested by the police in Asaba, Delta state capital. The so-called Odogwu Anam reportedly pulled the trigger that killed the Igwes. Police authorities added that this suspect was arrested shortly after the gruesome killing, but surprisingly granted bail.


Barnabas and Blessing (Amaka) Igwe, both lawyers, it will be recalled, were brutally murdered in Onitsha town in 2002, September 1. They were on a visit to a family friend on the fateful day when assassins trailed and mindlessly hacked them down. The hoodlums dealt machete blows on the NBA chairman, shooting him three times.  Blessing, his pregnant wife, was given machete cuts on her waist, almost severing it from the knee region, separating the upper torso from the lower one. The attack, amongst other things, left a deep wide gash on her waist from her backside. And, apparently to ensure that the couple did not survive the attack, the assailants ran their vehicles over them and fled. Even Blessing’s cries that she was pregnant, and that her unborn baby should be spared, did not touch the stone hearts of the murderers, as they went ahead with their murderous assignment.


Police high command, a couple of days ago, claimed that  the arrested Odogwu Anam was a member of the gang that actually killed the couple, and had, shortly after he was granted bail, fled overseas only to return when he thought the matter had been forgotten.


What a strange story! Where does this novel development leave concerned Nigerians in tracking down the killers of the Igwes? And what impression does this incessant volte-face in this murder probe create about the Nigeria police?


For six whole years, the police had been floundering, arresting and clamping into detention camps numerous alleged killers of the Igwes. They were murdered during the regime of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju as governor of Anambra state. While his wife died on the spot, Barnabas died later at the hospital, but not until after reportedly making a dying declaration linking Mbadinuju to the attack. The dying Barnabas was said to have mentioned Ken Emeakayi, Mbadinuju’s works commissioner, as the leader of the gang that attacked him and his wife. This dying declaration was in spite of Mbadinuju’s alibi that he was attending a world Igbo congress in Houston, U.S.A, as at the time of the attack.


It is noteworthy that Barnabas leadership in Onitsha Bar was so critical of Mbadinuju government in Anambra state before they were slain.  In fact, at a point in the rift, the Bar declared war against Mbadinuju regarding his protracted indebtedness to the state’s workforce, and, subsequently, declared Anambra a failed state.


Understandably, following Barnabas’ dying declaration, coupled with the efforts of the leadership of Chuka Obele Chuka, Barnabas replacement, the police, first, arrested and severally arraigned Emeakayi. Emeakayi, in charge of the dreaded Anambra State Vigilante Service (alias Bakassi Boys), stood trial alongside other suspects in the murder for several months before their eventual acquittal.


After the arraignment of Emeakayi and scores of his co-accused, the police turned their prosecution searchlight in the  direction of former Governor Mbadinuju who just returned to Nigeria after holidaying overseas fro months after the expiration of his tenure in May 2003.  Mbadinuju, subsequently, faced a high profile murder trial in both Abuja and Anambra state in 2006. He was slammed with a three-count charge of conspiracy to murder the Igwes before an Onitsha Chief Magistrate court presided over by Mabel Mbakwe. According to the charges numbered MO/1c/2006, Mbadinuju was accused, alongside others still at large, “of conspiring with one another to commit murder and thereby committing an offence punishable under section 494 of the criminal code cap 36 vol. II revised laws of Anambra State Nigeria, 1999”.  


Mbadinuju’s Onitsha trial was preceded by another one in Abuja. The Abuja Chief Magistrate court, presided over by Usman Shuaibu, had earlier commenced similar proceedings against him and one Daniel Anyiego for ‘criminal conspiracy, abatement of offence of culpable homicide punishable with death’. Mbadinuju was alleged to have given false information with intent to mislead public servants, causing disappearance of evidence and giving false information to shield persons who committed the offence from legal punishment.


But recently, Mbadinuju was discharged and acquitted by Justice D.O.C Amaechina of Onitsha Hgh Court following an application he brought before it for a judicial review of the murder charges against him. The implication of Mbadinuju’s discharge and acquittal, as well as that of Emeakayi and his co-accused, is that the police made a mistake in arraigning them in court in the first instance. That is, they were prosecuted for the murder of the Igwes in error. On a general note, the  implication is Mbadinuju government (that is, Mbadinuju and all that served in his administration) have been given a clean bill  of health in the couple’s murder.


While not passing comments on the propriety or otherwise of Mbadinuju’s discharge and acquittal by Justice Amaechina, I am of the opinion that the Nigerian police do not deserve any pat on the back for their so-called latest break-through in nabbing Odogwu Anam, whom they claimed, was one of the killers of  the Onitsha couple lawyers. Is it, rather, not a shame on the police force that it could not pull through any of the trials it initiated over the cold-blooded murder of the lawyers for the past six years? This development, in deed, exposes the crass inexperience of our police force in cracking and curbing crime.


For six years, Nigerian police had adopted the tactics of ‘trial and error’ in tracking down killers of the Igwes, whose brutal murder had plunged their three little kids, Somadina, Chijindu and Nnenna into penury and misery. Is it not a shame that the police has continued with this macabre dance without end? Who is sure that the on-going celebrated arrest and planned trial Odogwu Anam is not another foray into a fool’s paradise? Who is sure that the eventual prosecution will not go the way of others, inexplicably end in discharge and acquittal of the accused? If the police could not successfully prosecute Mbadinuju and his officials, who were implicated in the assassination of the couple by the Onitsha Bar, what is the guarantee that the latest uproar over the nabbing of yet another suspect is not part of a plot to continue to deceive and hoodwink the public into believing that the Nigerian police can live out its name? What Babel of investigations into a murder too may? What a confused nation?

Uba Aham is a veteran journalist based in Enugu, Nigeria.