ASP Too Much Money

A human rights abused investigator, who is also a researcher, formerly working with the Amnesty International, Nigeria, Mr. Damian Ugwu, has taken to his social media handle to recall how an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), John Umoru, otherwise known as ‘Too Much Money,’ allegedly caused the death of seven detainees.

Ugwu recalled this horrifying encounter with a 23 years old suspect, identified as  Miracle Opara, who was among those detained by Umoru. Opara was arrested on  February 13, 2017, in Awkuzu,  Anambra State over a stolen phone and laptop, which he repeatedly denied knowing anything about.

Nobody would have known that Opara was in police detention, but for a detainee that was granted bail. The released detainee contacted Opara’s family. Meanwhile, the worried had been frantically searching for him.

Umoru was one of the policemen arrested along with the suspended Commander in charge of  the Force Intelligence Response Team (IRT), a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Abba Kyari.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), had accused  Kyari and four other policemen of being complicit in an illicit drug related diversion case. Umoru was among the four arrested policemen.

This latest development came just as Kyari was battling to extricate himself from a previous case of fraud and money laundering indictment instituted against him by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).  

According to Ugwu,  Umoru is a former Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) officer attached to the notorious SARS unit in Awkuzu, Anambra State.  

Ugwu stated: “I came across his name in 2017  while documenting the case of Miracle Opara, a 23-year-old young man who was arrested on 13th  February 2017 in Awkuzu,  Anambra State, over a stolen phone and laptop.  Miracle described how he was shot in the leg by ASP Umoru and detained for four weeks without food or water.  

“Out of the nine persons detained with him, one person was granted bail after paying N500, 000, while seven others died of starvation. Here is an extract from my interview with Miracle Opara’s  shortly after his release from detention;

“We waited for two days without any food or water. Then some of us started screaming from the cell, calling on them to  give us water. Some of us started urinating and drinking our urine. One of the officers nicknamed ‘Too-much-money’ came to us and admonished us to save our strength that we had a long way to go. Because of this ‘admonition’ we increased our shouts, telling them that it was better for them to kill us than to starve us to death. They told us that they would love to watch us die one after another. We continued screaming, begging for water, then the officers went and brought teargas and sprayed it on us but the effect was not much. We continued wailing. … They brought another type of teargas, powdered teargas, tied it to a wrapper, and released it on us.  They then locked the passage gate, leaving us to choke to death. It was terrible. All my fellow inmates collapsed. Some were foaming from the mouth. I was the only one conscious but the effect of the gas was bending my neck and twisting my two hands.

“We were in that condition for three days. On the third day, they came to check whether we were still alive. When they found that we were still breathing, though the teargas dried almost all the water in our system, making us very weak. …We continued begging them to give us water, even in drops,  but they refused and told us that they would watch us die one by one. Some of us who had money hidden in our boxers begged them to collect it to buy water for us. Then the Station Officer came and asked us whether we came into this world with any cloth, we said ‘no.’ He asked us whether we would go in any cloth when we were leaving this world, we said ‘no.’ He then left without saying any further words to us. It was then we realised that it was a death sentence.

“After that week, one of us, Ifeanyi, was granted bail after the family paid huge money. We were now  nine inmates left in the cell. Before the end of that second week, four of the inmates died- Okechukwu, Uchenna, Uchechukwu, and Chinedu.

“The corpses were usually left with us in the cell till the next day before they were evacuated.  During the third week, three persons also died -Ngirima, Victor Azubuike, and Ojoto. Each of them that died was left in the cell till after one day before it was evacuated, except Ojoto, whose corpse remained in the cell for three days and even started decomposing in the cell before he was removed. When they took the corpse of Ojoto, I heard their voices raging, this one has decayed, there is no need taking him to Awkuzu, let’s bury him here. Then I managed with the little energy left in me and stretched and was peeping through the tiny window and saw where they buried his corpse beside the soak away pit at the back of their station, there in Neni.”

Miracle Opara was saved from imminent death when his family contacted the Anambra State-based indefatigable human rights lawyer,  Justus Uche Ijeoma,  who intervened and facilitated his release. 

Ijeoma further escalated the case by synergising with another human rights activist, Okechukwu Nwanguma and journalists, including Juliana Francis, who is also publisher of Julianafrancisblog.

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