Tension In Enugu Over Alleged Moves To Release Key Suspects In High-Profile Murder

There is uneasy calm in Enugu State following intelligence reports that the State High Court Two in the coal city, with Justice Romanus O. Odugu presiding, is contemplating the release of the two key suspects in a high-profile murder case.

A dismissed police inspector, Daniel Dennis, 47, and an Enugu-based land commission agent, Chief Moses Nnamani, 57, have been charged before Justice Odugu with the gruesome murder of the traditional ruler of Oruku in Nkanu East Local Government Area, Igwe Emmanuel Chidiebere Mba, on December 26, 2020.

Their application for bail is coming up on Tuesday, and there are fears that it may be granted, despite the gravity of the charges against them.

A bail request granted to two other suspects in the murder, Onyema Ede and Chikadibia Okenwa, last year was followed by arson attacks on the houses of two brothers from the community, Ejike and Agozie Ani, who are opposed to the murder suspects.

The houses were burnt to the ground on December 26, exactly two years after Igwe Mba was murdered.

 The arsonists also burnt down the palace of the late Igwe and 10 other houses the same day.

“The possible release of the murder suspects will lead to serious consequences for the people of the Oruku community”, warned Collin Ohiaeri, a well-known human rights activist in the state who is also of the law firm of JHC Okolo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in a save our soul (SOS) letter addressed to Governor Peter Mba of Enugu State, the Chairman of the National Judicial Commission, the Enugu State Attorney General and Mr. Justice Odugu himself.

“The houses were not just burnt, but the thugs who carried out the arson had the temerity to make a video broadcast of the arson and released it on different social media platforms, complete with triumphal commentaries of revenge and heroism”.

Igwe Mba was attending the Oruku annual general meeting at its town hall when a team of police officers from the Special Tactical Squad of the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Investigation Bureau, stormed the venue, brought him out, and shot him before the people attending the AGM.

The killing drew national outrage, making the Enugu State government set up on January 8 2021 a seven-person judicial commission headed by Mr Justice Harold Eya to inquire into the circumstances of the murder.

In its nine-page report submitted in April 2021, the Justice Eya Commission stated categorically that Inspector Daniel killed Igwe Mba, with the connivance of Chief Nnamani due to differences between Nnamani and Mba in Oruku affairs.

The police team that killed the traditional ruler was brought to the town in a blue colour Honda Element sport utility vehicle ( SUV) belonging to Nnamani, according to the commission.

The commission members’ position is consistent with the investigative report of the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Force Intelligence Bureau, which noted on May 22 2021 that Nnamani had on June 1 2020 written a false and malicious petition against the traditional ruler alleging armed robbery, illegal possession of sophisticated arms and murder.

The DIG consequently set up a team of STS men to investigate the allegation which entailed, among other things, visiting the Oruku community.

“Throughout the journey up to the point of killing the Igwe”, wrote then-DIG Joseph Egbunike, “Inspector Dennis had been in communication with Chief Nnamani, and also received the sum of fifty thousand naira (N50,000) from the Chief. The other operatives on the trip also confirmed the communication between them”.

The police immediately dismissed Dennis from service.

Nnamani, meanwhile, had fled to Ghana, and police intelligence officers were able to arrest him last August after he was lured to Nigeria with the bait of a lucrative land deal in Abuja.

“It will be perilous to release any of these grave security risks”, observed a senior officer in the Enugu Police Command who does not want his name in the media because he is not authorised to speak to the press on the issue.

“The courts need to work with security agencies to drastically curb the violent crime wave in the state which resulted in the recent murder of Justice Stanley Nnaji in broad daylight in Enugu”.

Thirteen other persons have been killed in the small Oruku community since Igwe Mba’s gruesome murder.

There are hardly houses standing in the community as fighters and arsonists have overrun the place, says another senior police officer.

“That’s why it will be exceedingly reckless to allow these fellows to walk out of the correctional centre”, declared Dr. Tony Eze, a law lecturer who is familiar with the murder and the volatile situation in Oruku.

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