After law enforcement officers arrested Augustine Ugwu, they shot and killed him without a stated reason. Then they buried him behind their office.
Of the five children his parents had, the late Augustine Ugwu had been the brightest.
Augustine was 27 and in his final year at the university when the coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a standstill. He left the University of Nsukka, where he was studying to be a lawyer, and returned to his home also in Nsukka.
One evening, on April 23, 2020, Augustine met with friends at a shop in Odobido Street to share a drink. They were having a good time until a group of men, who identified themselves as members of the Anti-Cult police unit, Nsukka, entered the place in a Toyota Sienna minivan. The men wielded guns. They told Augustine he was under arrest. When the shop owner, Emeka Ogbu, tried to intervene, the men pointed their guns at him and told him to mind his business.
The Anti-Cult unit of the police in Nsukka is notorious for extrajudicial killings and extortion.
Augustine, despite not being told why he was arrested, agreed to follow the police. On the way to the parked vehicle, one of the officers, Oliver Ozeoko, unprovoked, shot Augustine in the leg. They bundled him into the car and drove off.
Some eyewitnesses followed the car to the Anti-Cult group’s office. There, the Commanding Officer of the group, DSP Ochin Nnamdi, on sighting the crowd that had followed his officers and Augustine, chased everybody away from his office, including lawyers who had come to bail some suspects in the group’s custody. It was reported that DSP Ochin Nnamdi, offering no reason to Augustine for his arrest, shot and killed him.
Augustine’s father, Andy Ugwu, a retired police officer, was in Benue
State when his son was killed. The next day, April 24, his family asked a close friend of his, also a retired police officer, to tell him the bad news. The news crushed Andy. He returned to Nsukka and went to the office of the Anti-Cult group. There, DSP Ochin Nnamdi denied that Augustine had been brought into their station.
Andy met Emeka Ogbu, the shop owner, who told him everything that had happened at his (Mr Ogbu’s) shop on the night Augustine was arrested. Andy convinced Mr Ogbu to follow him to the police station to write a statement so that investigations could commence on his son’s disappearance.
But Andy soon noticed that justice was a stressful pursuit.
Andy reached out to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, who dispatched his detectives from the police headquarters at Abuja. The detectives arrived in Nsukka on June 22, 2020. Through the detectives’ investigations, it was revealed that members of the Anti-Cult group had buried young Augustine’s corpse behind their office.
Later, Augustine’s corpse was exhumed and transferred to the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) in Ituku-Ozalla, Enugu State. Andy claims his son told him in a dream not to worry, that his blood would avenge his death.
The murderous officers were arrested in February 2021 after months of petitioning, and the Ugwu family hopes to get justice for Augustine’s murder.
“When it happened, human rights organizations, including Amnesty International [and the] president of the Law Students’ Association of Nigeria [Emmanuel Nwobodo] all waded into the case,” Andy says.
Following a letter by Andy to the Nigeria Police Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) in Abuja who sent down three detectives to Enugu to facilitate the release of Augustine’s remains from the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, (UNTH.)
On the 3rd of March 2021, Augustine Ugwu’s remains were finally released to the family.
Andy reveals that both members of Nsukka’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the Anti-Cult group had arrested Emeka Ogbu, the shop owner and key witness of the incident that led to Augustine’s murder. Both parties had threatened to kill Mr Ogbu in a bid to cover up the case. It took the concerted effort of Andy and his lawyer to secure Mr Ogbu’s release from their custody.
The Anti-Cult group claims the late Augustine was a wanted cultist, but Andy argues that even if his son was indeed a cultist as claimed, which he wasn’t, the right procedure was to have charged him to court, not to kill him in cold blood.
Augustine was buried on March 29, 2021.
Andy says his son’s death has left the entire family – his wife and children – shaken.
“Since he [Augustine] was killed, I have not been myself,” Andy Ugwu says, broken.