By Abdulkareem Haruna
Residents of Yola South local government in Adamawa state, northeast Nigeria, are yet to overcome their shared bewilderment as officials of the Nigeria police returned the corpse of a man they arrested days earlier with an instruction for the wife to resuscitate him.
The Humanitarian Times obtained a story earlier published by Saharan Reporters in which it was alleged that wife of the deceased man had earlier paid N16,000 ($37) as a bail fee for the release of her arrested husband before the police brought his corpse and dumped same in her compound.
It is a common knowledge that the police said “bail is free”.
Deborah Kwatri, wife of the deceased man, James Kwatri, and a mother of four children said her husband, a local alcohol joint manager was arrested on Friday, Nov. 18 over a disagreement with one Nuhu Musa-Garta, the owner of the business, over the money issue.
Mrs Kwatri said her husband was tortured at the Shagari Divisional police station, Yola South local government, for four days until he died and his corpse was brought in a tricycle and dumped in her compound on Nov. 22.
The widowed mother of four who was too emotional said the police officials brought her late spouse in a tricycle and pretended that he was just unconscious and that she should revive him as they zoomed off.
A neighbour, Usman Gorko, that the deceased died in a high suspicious circumstance that only the police and the person who ordered his arrest and detention could explain.
“I am a neighbour of late James Kwatri, popularly called Baban Friday,” Mr Gorko said.
“On Friday 18th November, Mrs. Deborah Kwatri came to inform me that her husband was arrested by the police following a complaint against him by Nuhu Musa Garta, an Area court judge.
“I enquired to know what was the issue, she explained that her husband manages alcoholic beverage shop for the judge; I advised her to be patient, we’ll intervene when it becomes necessary.
“On Tuesday, the 22nd of November, I returned from work only to see a gloomy neighborhood; and I was told that some police officers, a woman police and a male colleague, one Inspector Isa, brought the dead body of Baban Friday on a commercial tricycle.
“As according to his widow, when they came and lay his remains on the ground they instructed her to sprinkle water on him; pretending that he merely fainted.
“I insisted to know what happened, because she (the deceased person’s wife) had informed me that she was asked to pay N16,000 ($37) bail money, which she sold a bag of rice to raise the money and gave to an officer identified as Inspector Isa.
“So seeing the remains of a man arrested just few days ago, the youths were provoked to the point of taking the laws into their own hands; but we were able to persuade them.
“His widow told us that her late husband’s boss, Nuhu Musa Garta (Area Court judge) whom he was managing his alcoholic shop reported him to the police because he failed to resolve a N10,000 ($23) problem for him.
“So when the police from Shagari Divisional Police Station picked him on the ill-fated Friday on the orders of Garta, they locked him up.
“On Saturday, Deborah went to the police station and was allowed to see him, but that was the last time she spent with him.
“She was back there on Sunday, by Monday she was told that her husband was no longer in police custody that he had been moved to a correctional center facility, but no further details were provided.
“When the police brought back his corps and dumped it in his house, the immediate neighbour of the deceased, an immigration officer, raised an alarm. Shortly after which some vigilante guys came with a police van from Shagari police station and took the remains of Kwatri to the Modibbo Adama University Teaching Hospital morgue,” he said.
Saharan Reporters quoted one Barriayer Chris Cromwell, the bereaved family’s lawyer that “the widow, her children and the entire community of Sabon Pegi, along Yola bypass, are alleging that James Kwatri may have been tortured to death.”
“We have written to the Commissioner of police on the instruction of our client, the widow, asking the CP to take necessary measures, because we’re claiming that her husband was killed while in police custody.
“We’re alleging torture and breach of the fundamental right to life and we are calling him (CP) to carry out a discreet investigation to find out those culpable.
“As far as we are concerned, he was unlawfully detained, therefore we’re pursuing his right to liberty and the cause of his death. Surprisingly we’ve yet to get any reply from the commissioner of police,” he said.
The police in Adamawa has not denied knowledge of the sad incident, as the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Suleiman Nguroje said, “the matter is being investigated”.
Probing the Unconnected Dots
The Humanitarian Times is worried by the glaring act of abuse of power, foul play and unconnected logic in the order of process that led to the death of Mr James Kwatri.
The man was arrested on Friday on the order of man of law, an Area Court Judge over a disagreement bothering on disputed N10,000. He was detained without a bail option by the police.
His wife only saw him on Saturday when she was asked to pay N16,000 as illegal bail fee. She went to pay the demanded bribe on Sunday Nov.20 when she asked the whereabouts of her husband And she was told he had been moved to a correction center (prison)
She was not informed which of the Correction Centers. And she did not see or hear about the father of her four children till on Tuesday Nov 22 when the police brought his lifeless body to his house and dumped him.
The police who noticed he was “unconscious” did not try to revive him, instead they hailed a commercial tricycle (not ambulance) and rode with him to his house where they asked his wife who is not a medical personnel to perform first aid rescue mission on him.