An Enugu State indigene, Blessing Chukwuka, tells GODFREY GEORGE about her family’s search for her 19-year-old brother arrested by the Department of State Services since July 2022
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Blessing Chukwuka. I am from Enugu State. I am 28 years old. We are six kids in the family, and I am the firstborn. My dad is dead and it has just been my mum taking care of us. My brother, Samuel Chukwuka, is a 19-year-old student at the Institute of Chinese Studies, Nnamdi Azikiwe University. He is in his second year. He is the last but one (fifth) child.
When was the last time you heard from your brother, Samuel?
He travelled back to school from Enugu to Anambra in the second week of July 2022, for his second semester examinations, at UNIZIK. After a week or two, when we didn’t hear from him, we started calling his line to know how he was faring, but his phone number was not connecting. So, we reached out to some of his friends in school and they said they saw him in school during one of their examinations or so. So, we felt that he was just staying away from his phone so that he could concentrate on his examinations, thinking that whenever he was free, he would reach out to us.
No, he never did. We kept on calling his phone number but got no response. His friends were also incommunicado.
What did you do next?
We began to panic. We were planning to send someone to to UNIZIK to look for him when we got a call from an unknown caller, saying that my brother was at the Nnewi Central Vigilante office. The person sounded very urgent and told us to come right away.
Did you go there?
My younger sister, who is the second child, went to Nnewi to meet them. When she enquired about Samuel’s whereabouts, they said he was handed over to an officer of the Department of State Services. They also claimed that my brother was about to be mobbed by an angry crowd when they rescued and handed him over to the DSS.
What was his offence?
I don’t know. The vigilantes told my sister that people alleged that he came with some of his friends with plans to kill someone but they were not successful as the person raised an alarm, attracting a crowd. His friends escaped but they nabbed him and almost killed him before the vigilantes rescued him. I don’t believe that. Do you even believe that story? My 19-year-old brother, who was in UNIZIK taking exams, could not at the same time be in Nnewi, trying to kill someone. We asked them how to locate the DSS officer they handed him over to but they told us to come back with a lawyer, which we did. They gave us the phone number of the DSS officer, and that was where the endless journey started. We spoke to the DSS officer and he said he was already in Abuja but that all the people the Nnewi vigilantes handed over to him were dropped at the DSS office in Nnewi. He said he was not with anybody and that we should go there and look for him (Samuel).
What happened when you got to the DSS office?
They said they didn’t have anybody with that name and that there was no record of such a person. We went with his pictures, his name, ID card, everything but they kept saying they had no record of such a person in their facility. To be honest, it is confusing. How can the DSS officer say he dropped the guys handed over to him at the office and the office is saying they have no record? Something is fishy, and someone is not telling us the truth, and it is unfair. The person involved here is a young boy who is just trying to get an education. Whatever his offence is, we should know his whereabouts. They should not hide him from his family or the world.
Did you go back to the vigilantes to inform them of this?
Yes, we did, and they told us that if the DSS are saying they do not have any idea of Samuel’s whereabouts, then they must have done something they are not proud of, and they (vigilantes) cannot take responsibility.
Did you reach out again to the DSS officer in question to inform him of this development?
Of course, we did. But he said he left the boys in the office at Nnewi, and he (Samuel) couldn’t have disappeared just like that. He sounded very emphatic that my brother was in their Nnewi office.
What other measures did you take to find him?
We have gone to prisons to look for him. Almost all the police stations in Nnewi and beyond know our faces because we have been going from one station to another, dropping off his pictures and giving them information. None of them seems to have got news of his whereabouts at all, and it is frustrating. We have gone to other DSS offices in the state. We have even gone to the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad office to look for him but all to no avail. At the end of it all, nothing came out of it.
Have you petitioned the DSS Director-General?
People have told us to do so but the lawyer is of a different opinion. He said we didn’t record the conversation we had with the DSS officer and with the vigilante, and that they can deny any knowledge of the incident.
But have you reported this matter to the police?
Yes, we reported the matter to the Awka Police Divisional Headquarters but they have done nothing about the matter.
What can you say about the allegation that Samuel was involved in a failed murder?
My brother is not that kind of person. He is just a teenager. I am nine years older than that boy, and he is the sweetest soul ever. He cannot do that kind of thing they are saying he did. I, personally, don’t think he is that kind of person. Their allegations are unfounded. But the main point is, even if he is guilty, don’t we have the right to see him? Doesn’t he have the right to a fair hearing? Why has he not been taken to court? Is it the work of the DSS to hold criminals in a holding cell and not give them any access? We are talking about a 19-year-old student here.
Whatever the vigilantes are saying is unfounded. They should try him to court and let us see him. This whole thing is frustrating. My mother has not slept well for the past five months, and they are frustrating our efforts. It is not right. Where is his statement confessing to the crime?
Are you saying since July 2022 now, you have not seen your brother?
We have not heard from or seen him. That very day he left for school, he called to tell us he had arrived at school. That was the last he spoke to us.
Have you reached out to the school authorities?
They are aware of the matter.
How is your mum taking all of this?
She is overwhelmed. My dad died a long time ago, and she has been the one taking care of us since then. It is just frustrating for her to see this happening to her son, a 19-year-old boy, who is supposed to be in school. She doesn’t even eat. She has just been going from one prayer house to another. The pastors and prophets have reassured my mother that he is still alive and that he will come back, but the DSS is frustrating us. The officer is not cooperating and we don’t know what has happened to him. Everybody is just so scared.
What is your plea in this matter?
We are begging the Director-General of the DSS, the Inspector-General of Police and all human rights activists and lawyers to step into this matter and save my family from this impending doom. We don’t want our brother to die. It will break my mother. They should just show us where they are holding him. We want to see him. We want to feel him and then pursue his case to free him. He is innocent.
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