News / Africa

A Month Later, Nigerians Seek Answers about Bodies in Ezu River

Ezu River, NigeriaEzu River, Nigeria
Ezu River, Nigeria
Ezu River, Nigeria
Heather Murdock
More than a month after corpses were found floating in Nigeria’s Ezu River, groups across the country continue to search for answers. Some fear the corpses were victims of extra-judicial killings by Nigerian security forces, a charge the government denies.
In a run-down open air market, Peter Odoemene said members of his group, a separatist organization from the Biafra region, are not the only ones demanding an explanation.
Police say at least 18 dead bodies were found floating in the Ezu River in Anambra State in late January, in various states of decomposition. Some groups claim the total number of bodies discovered is closer to 50.  

The people have not yet been identified and no one knows who killed them. Police say the investigation is ongoing.  

Odoemene said police are to blame for the deaths, and that 11 members of his group are suspected to be among the dead. He also is disgusted at the way the killers disposed of the bodies.

“That river, people are drinking it. Now it’s contaminated. It’s very bad. Even if those people committed an offense they don’t need to kill them like that and dump them inside the river,” he said.

The discovery of the bodies was a national scandal with government critics saying it is an “open secret” in Nigeria that security forces shoot suspects without a trial. Amnesty International says police killed hundreds of suspects in 2012, often without first arresting the victims.
The Nigerian government adamantly denies this charge, with President Goodluck Jonathan saying rival political groups are planting the stories. Officials contacted for this story declined to comment.  
Abubakar Umar Kari, a senior political science lecturer at the University of Abuja, said he believes extra-judicial killings are common in Nigeria, but it’s not entirely the fault of the police. He also partially blames corruption in the judiciary.
“It is an outcome of frustration by the security forces who feel that these suspects have committed crimes, and if they are taken to court they are usually released only for them to go back to their nefarious acts," said Kari. "At a point it was almost a norm among the Nigerian police to simply execute suspects of armed robbery and other dangerous crimes.”

Kari said the corpses could be Biafra separatists, known as MASSOB. The fact that the group has made these claims public, though. will make police less likely to provide answers because MASSOB advocates that Biafra secede from Nigeria, and has many enemies.    
Other less controversial groups also are demanding an explanation about the bodies, including the Nigerian Bar Association, which this week called on Jonathan to set up his own investigation.
Clement Nwankwo, the executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center in Abuja, said the main problem is that if the police are guilty, the investigation will never be conclusive. He also calls on the president, saying security forces need more resources and training.
"What we expect the president to do is to recognize that the security services have a huge challenge, which is the huge challenge of themselves being targets and not knowing who the next terrorist is, and so tend to react in that atmosphere with fright,” said Nwankwo.
Other analysts are more cynical, saying nothing will be done and when the cries for justice die down, Nigerians will suffer “mass amnesia” to cope with the tragedy.

You May Like

Video Getting to Zero AIDS Infections

More than 35 million people around the world are infected with HIV, a disease that is both preventable and treatable

Children, Childhoods Lost in European Refugee Crisis

According to UNICEF, 190,000 children applied for political asylum in Europe in the first 9 months of this year - twice as many as last year

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs