Floating corpses

The recent discovery of about 22 male corpses floating in Ezu River at Amansea, a border area between Enugu and Anambra States, is a serious matter that calls for hard questions for our security agencies. Who killed these men and how did they get into the river? These are critical questions our security agencies must answer.

It is strange and very embarrassing for corpses to simply turn up in a river without any explanations on the strange development. More worrisome, still, is that there have been no recent reports of boat mishaps, communal clashes, or mass drowning of persons from that part of the country. This sordid scenario is a challenge, which the police and all security agencies in the country must work hard to unravel.

Expectedly, the Anambra State government has taken the lead in the effort to unravel the circumstances surrounding this bewildering development. Governor Peter Obi has, on behalf of Anambra and Enugu State governments, offered five million naira reward for information on the secret of the floating corpses. Anambra State has also begun provision of water for the communities that rely on River Ezu for water supply, even as efforts are reportedly on to provide them with boreholes.

We commend the prompt response of Anambra State authorities to this mysterious development. Governor Obi, by promptly returning from his trip abroad to take charge of the situation at Amansea, aptly demonstrated that the welfare of the people is important to his administration. Autopsy is said to have commenced on only three of the recovered corpses, since the rest were reportedly decomposed when they were recovered from the river. We call for serious investigation to unravel the circumstances surrounding the appearance of these corpses in River Ezu.

It is absolutely necessary that the police and other security agencies come up with credible explanations on how the bodies got into the river. Failure to do this will question the capacity of the security agencies to do their job, and the value placed on human life in the country. Already, the appearance of these corpses in the river tells negative stories about who we are as a people.

The entire appalling scenario smacks of lax security. It suggests that it is possible for scores of people to be killed, transported to the river and dumped there, without anybody intercepting the perpetrators of the dastardly act on the way. This speaks volumes about security in the country. For now, the nation has been informed that the corpses have no bullet wounds or machete cuts. It is important that efforts are expedited to determine the cause of their deaths, and the investigation should not be left to the police and its medical team alone. It is necessary to involve other security agencies.

This is one case that brings to the fore the need for a comprehensive database of Nigerian citizens. If the nation had a database of biometric records, including fingerprints and Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) of all citizens, it would be easy to identify some of the corpses through their fingerprints or DNA in the National Database.

Under the present circumstances, however, it is necessary to check records of police detainees, prison inmates and mortuaries to ensure that no persons or corpses “disappeared” in these places. This is necessary because the police in Nigeria have a record of extra-judicial killings. The police hierarchy will do well to conduct an audit of police detainees to ensure that none are missing. Our security agencies should learn from the case of the headless Nigerian boy that was found floating in River Thames, in London, United Kingdom, some years ago.

The British Police spared no effort to identify the boy, locate his origin in Nigeria, apprehend and punish the people responsible for his murder. We demand the same commitment to the effort to unravel the Ezu mystery by our security agencies. It is unacceptable for corpses to simply appear in a river without plausible explanations by the appropriate authorities.