After getting into an altercation with the son of a policeman, 22-year-old Kelechi Ineke thought he had been shown mercy following an amicable resolution. But all was not well.
On the 28th of March 2018, Namdi Ineke’s younger brother, Kelechi, came to visit him. It was around 7 a.m, and Nnamdi was busy sweeping his compound. Kelechi told him to hand over the broom as he wanted to assist Nnamdi.
While Kelechi was sweeping the compound, Inspector Ekwe Umet, then attached to Abaomege Police Division in the Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, came into the compound.
The Inspector arrived in the company of his son, Ufem Umet. The Inspector had lived in Abaomege for a very long time, so Nnamdi knew him very well.
Why had he come to his house so early in the morning? Nnamdi wondered. He claimed Kelechi had had a fight with his son after a little quarrel. Nnamdi quickly called Kelechi to respond to the Inspector’s claim.
Kelechi admitted to fighting the Inspector’s son, and apologized for not telling Nnamdi. He said he had been sitting in front of St Patrick Catholic Church, Abaomege, around 7.30 pm the previous night when Ufem Umet pointed a torch light straight to his face.
Kelechi said he complained, but Ufem insulted him instead of apologizing. Kelechi said he became irritated and went after Ufem, attempting to snatch his slippers. The ensuing struggle got Ufem’s slippers damaged.
Ufem, narrating his side of the story, said Kelechi had struck him with a stone on his leg. But he wasn’t hurt, he admitted.
Everyone present started trying to figure out how to settle the matter amicably. Nnamdi reassured the Inspector that whatever expenses he incurred in treating his son, he would take care of it. The police officer agreed and later left with his son.
Shortly afterwards, two motorcycles rode into the compound at top speed. An officer jumped down from one of the motorcycles and pointed at Kelechi, saying the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) had asked them to bring him to their station.
Upon enquiring about Kelechi’s crime, the officers said that he had “assaulted a police officer’s son”. Since the Inspector and his son had just left Nnamdi’s compound and not gone far, he rushed to catch up with them, and when he did, he begged the Inspector to come and inform the officers that they had settled the issue.
Strangely, the Inspector stayed silent. Nnamdi thus had to allow Kelechi to leave with the officers.
Nnamdi quickly informed his family about Kelechi’s arrest and assured everyone that when he returned from a trip to Abakaliki, the state capital, he would go to the station to secure his bail.
Immediately after he came back from Abakaliki, he went to the police station. It was around 5 p.m of the same day. At the station, he told the officer at the counter that he had come to see his younger brother. The police officer he met said the DPO had issued an instruction that none of Kelechi’s family members should be allowed to see nor give him food.
The next day (30th March 2018), Nnamdi notified Joshua Chinasa Umoke, the Town Union President, about the situation. Nnamdi told Chinasa that the DPO of Abaomege Police Station, Benard Ikechukwu, had detained his younger brother. Right before him, Umoke phoned the DPO and told him to pardon Kelechi and grant him bail, but the DPO refused and said he would only release him when it pleased him.
That day passed. Then at night, Nnamdi met with Chinedu Onwe, a management Committee member in the Ukaba Development Centre. Onwe was a very close friend of the DPO. Nnamdi told Chindeu what he had done to secure the release of his brother from detention. Onwe then later met the DPO and pleaded on his behalf, but the DPO still wouldn’t listen.
Nnamdi later gathered all three wives of their father to accompany them to plead with Inspector Umet to intervene. Early morning on 31st March, 2018, they went to the Inspector’s home. Nnamdi personally lay down on the ground while his mother and stepmothers knelt down and begged.
The Inspector told them that he had no problem with Kelechi, and reiterated the fact that himself and Nnamdi had indeed settled the matter the day he visited Nnamdi’s compound.
He said he didn’t know why the DPO was still holding Kelechi. Nnamdi begged him to follow them to the police station the next day so he could tell the DPO they had settled the issue even before the DPO had sent officers to come and pick Kelechi.
On the 1st of April 2018, a Sunday morning, Nnamdi went to the police quarters in the company of his two younger brothers, Nwabueze and Nnaemeka Ineke, to see the DPO. As the DPO opened the door, Nnamdi prostrated on the ground, while his two brothers knelt down before him, as they pleaded with him to release Kelechi.
The DPO told them that unless they brought Maxwell, their younger brother, he wouldn’t release Kelechi. After their persistent pleas, he asked Nnamdi to come to the police station by 2 p.m.
Something interesting to note: while they were entering the police station later that afternoon (around 2 pm), Nnamdi heard the voice of a boy he knew, named Izu, a mechanic, who was also being detained in one of the cells.
“Brother, are you here because of Kelechi?” Izu asked Nnamdi.
Izu said that the previous night, it seemed to him that Kelechi had been struggling with somebody inside his cell as officers tried to move him to a private cell. The inmates, Izu recounted, called on the police at the counter to ask about the seeming scuffle, but none of the officers opened up about it. Izu added that from that time, through the whole night until morning, they kept calling Kelechi’s name without hearing a response.
Nnamdi however ignored Izu’s narration and focused on talking to a policeman at the counter, whom Nnamdi was briefing about his mission to come and see the DPO.
While he was still talking with this policeman at the counter, the DPO came out from his office and hastily advanced towards the direction of the cell. “Open the cell!” he ordered. “Open the cell!”
The officer quickly rushed for a key and opened the cell, which was where Nnamdi’s brother had been detained.
The DPO went inside the cell and ran out almost immediately. I was alarmed. “DPO what’s the problem?” Nnamdi asked. “DPO what’s the problem?!”
The DPO however ignored him and got into his vehicle, driving off. Meanwhile, some officers at the counter followed suit: they took to their heels through the back door of the police station.
Nnamdi was totally confused, so he went inside the cell and finally saw it: the traumatic sight of his brother Kelechi hanging with a rope around his neck. There were tears running down his cheeks. He was gone. He was just 22-years-old.
Nnamdi learnt that the police later came and took Kelechi’s corpse away to the mortuary the next day.
On the 4th of April 2018, Kelechi’s family wrote petitions to the Ebonyi state governor, the state house of assembly, the chairman of the council of traditional rulers in the state and the commissioner of police.
On the 9th of April 2018, the family was invited to the Police Headquarters in Abakaliki. They went with the town union president and other delegates from the community, as well as some of the family members. After they narrated everything to the deputy commissioner of police, she promised that there would be a proper investigation.
Till date, there hasn’t been much of a response, either from the state or from the police.
As at the time of this publication, nothing has been done in terms of justice – not an investigation, not a compensation. In fact, Kelechi’s corpse is still in the mortuary.
On the 20th of April 2018, the police asked Kelechi’s family to come for an autopsy. They borrowed 300,000 naira for the autopsy to be conducted at the Ebonyi State Teaching Hospital, which is now the Alex Ekwueme University Teaching Hospital. The autopsy was conducted on the 28th April, 2018. It was the police that recommended the specialist, one Dr Bath Ngwu.
Dr Ngwu reported that Kelechi had died as a result of injuries inflicted on his ribs and other parts of his body. The autopsy revealed that Kelechi was tortured while in custody. It was discovered that one of his legs was burnt, some of his limbs were broken, and traces of blood could be found within the region where he was tortured.
Till date, the family does not have a copy of that autopsy report, although the police and Dr. Ngwu have it.
Kelechi’s family have made several efforts for the police to release the corpse so they can bury him.
On the 4th of April, 2018, the family lawyer D.I. Njoku, wrote to the Commissioner of Police in Ebonyi state. The police said they had a new commissioner, and that the case file was still on his table. That commissioner would have to settle in before having a look at the file, they were told.
Since then, till now, absolutely nothing has been done.
Kelechi was the breadwinner of his young family. His wife was pregnant when he was killed. She now has a son who is two-years-old. His mother, who is Nnamdi’s stepmother, is aged as well.
His death caused a lot of trauma in the family. Their father, who was already suffering from serious high blood pressure, got worse and had to be rushed to the hospital when he heard Kelechi had died in custody.
Kelechi was a jovial young man who was loved by members of his family and the entire Abaomege community in general. He was easy-going and hardly troublesome.
He was very hardworking too. He always hustled diligently to put food on the table. Nnamdi remembers his late brother as someone who always tried to take tasks off his hands too, as was seen on the morning of his arrest.
“Kelechi demands justice. His wife demands justice. His son demands justice. Our entire family demands justice,” Nnamdi says.
He continues asking, “You know what it means to brutally kill a young man? The spirit has been tormenting members of this family. That young man needs to be buried. The police and the government should release the corpse of Kelechi to the family. At least let him rest in peace.”
“We also demand that the police, those officers at fault, starting right from the DPO, explain what actually happened to Kelechi. The officers that perpetrated the act should be brought to book. Only then can the family be fine,” Nnamdi says.