Legal Nigeria

Alleged N63.6m fraud: How MOD staff died in EFCC custody -Cellmates

Family petitions AGF, demands autopsy
FOUR eye witnesses to the death of a suspect in Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) cell, Desmond Nunugwo, have opened up on his last moments.
Nunugwo, a former Chief Protocol Officer in the Ministry of Defence, was arrested by some officers of the Intelligence and Special Operations Section (ISOS) of the EFCC on June 9 at about 5.30pm.
He was picked up for allegedly defrauding one Oleh Nnana Kalu of N63, 600,00.00.
His death sparked  accusations and petitions to the Attorney-General of the Federation, the National Assembly and Amnesty International seeking a probe.
The police, The Nation gathered, were brought in and as a first step, questioned some of Nunugwo’s cell mates who witnessed how he died.
One of them, Odeh Onoja Jnr., according to an official document, said:  “I reported to the EFCC office on the 9th of June, 2016 in response to the invitation sent to my office to have a chat with me. I was still in the office when the man (Nunugwo) was brought in. The officers obtained his statement after which both of us were conveyed together to their head office for detention.
“We were checked in about 9.30pm and the ‘president’ (of the cell) welcomed us after which he gave us our respective places to sleep”.
A second eye witness, Omelu Charles, in his statement to the EFCC said:  “Desmond Nunugwo came into the EFCC cell around 7 and 8pm at night. He introduced himself as the rule of the cell is so that everybody will know you.
“They showed him round the cell and gave him a word of hope that all is well. Mr. Desmond was called for prayers as we all were about to say our night prayer for which he was asked to raise a worship song which he did.”
However, Omelu said he observed that Nunugwo was restless and anxious to see his wife and he tried to calm him down.
Omelu said: “I told him to wait till tomorrow, that all will be fine. I went to sleep, and he told me good night. While I was sleeping, somebody held my hand and I woke up and it was Desmond who was asking me to help him, that he was innocent, that all he did was to connect two people for business.
“So I stood up and held him, both of us walked towards the ‘president’ of the cell and his breathing was not okay as the president tried telling him to cool down that all is well. Mr. Desmond fell but I was able to hold him before we now took him outside.”
Another cell mate, Dayo Jimoh said he observed that the deceased could not sleep and at a point begged him for some of his high blood pressure and diabetes pills.
Dayo said: “After the prayer, I came out to collect my BP and diabetes drugs, he came to me and asked if I could give him out of the drugs. I told him I cannot because I am not a doctor and that the EFCC has a hospital here; he could go to the guard and request for them to take him to the hospital.
“He then told me that he has his own drugs at home, if he could call his wife to bring it, but unfortunately, his investigative officer went away with his phone and that he could not use anybody’s phone to call, that is the rule with the cell guard.
“I felt bad because there (was) no way I could help him because I was also very sick that day. I then advised him to go and take his shower and rest, maybe he will be okay, but I saw him moving from his bed space to the bathroom more than necessary because I was awake too, I was in pain with my chest.
“Around 1am he called one Mr. Charles, a suspect too, and others that he is not feeling fine at all. I couldn’t get up because I cannot help at that time. He collapsed, others rushed him and called cell guard, I knew he could not make it because his tongue was coming out”
The document gave a synopsis of how the deceased staff of the Ministry of Defence was arrested and detained pending when he will perfect his bail terms.
According to the record: “Nunugwo was picked up by officers of the Intelligence and Special Operations Section (ISOS) of the EFCC following a complaint that he had allegedly defrauded one Ole Nnana Kalu to the tune of N63, 600,00.00. He was arrested at Jabi, Abuja, at about 5,30pm and brought to the Wuse 2 office of the Unit for interrogation, which lasted for less than two hours.
“After the interrogation, he was immediately granted bail.  But, when he did not produce anyone to take him on bail, he was transferred to the headquarters of the Commission, where the holding facility is located.
“Unfortunately, barely five hours after he was detained, Nunugwo became restless and collapsed. Fellow inmates raised alarm which attracted the attention of the Cell Guard.
“He was immediately evacuated in an emergency ambulance to a hospital in Wuse 2, where EFCC doctors joined other physicians in the hospital in a battle to save his life. Unfortunately, he was confirmed dead shortly after.
“The EFCC in the early hours of June 10, 2016 released an official statement through its spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, announcing the tragic incident, while also informing that the matter had been formally reported to the Nigeria Police which is the relevant agency to investigate matters such as the unfortunate death of Citizen Nunugwo.
“While the nation awaits the outcome of the Police investigation which should include the autopsy report, the family of the deceased suspect appears to have lost their patience with the Police investigation and is preempting its outcome with all manner of insinuations.
“It is important to clarify that the deceased’s position as a civil servant had no bearing on the facts of the case. He was not accused of defrauding the Nigerian Government.
“Rather, what brought Nunugwo to the EFCC was the allegation that he tricked an acquaintance of his, Ole Nnana Kalu to pay N94, 000,000 into the nominated account of some purported business associates based in Dubai, ostensibly to help Kalu import stockfish. However, once the payment was effected, Kalu said Nunugwo became evasive.
“This narration has no bearing to the protocol job of the suspect at the Ministry of Defence, which makes the attempt to portray the deceased as an innocent civil servant, a disservice to the investigation by the EFCC.
“It is fair to say that the EFCC has come clean on this matter as it did not need to be compelled by some extraneous force to release information about the incident. The suggestion about collusion between the EFCC and the Nigeria Police is also difficult to comprehend as the incentive for such action does not exist.”
But Mrs. Susanne, the wife of the former Chief Protocol Officer to the Minister of State for Defence, told newsmen in Abuja that it was wrong for the EFCC to label her husband a fraudster.
She demanded for justice for her husband in death.
Susanne said: “Around 3pm on June 9, my husband had gone to pick up our son from school and they both returned home. He later went out. Around 6pm, I called his line and it rang once. I tried his number several times later, but it was off.
“The next morning, I got apprehensive when he didn’t come home. However, around 3.48pm, someone called me with his phone and said my husband was in the EFCC’s custody and I should come to bail him.”
“On getting to the EFCC, I was told to go and get a man because being a woman, my husband could not be released on bail to me. Shortly after leaving, the EFCC was alleged to have issued a statement breaking the news of Desmond’s death.”
Continuing Susanne said, “She (Uloma) told the EFCC that she met my husband on a flight in 2012 when he was on his way to the US where I went to give birth.
“She said my husband introduced her to a third party with whom she did a N91m transaction.”
The family of the deceased however said it suspected foul play and alleged plot to cover up.
In a petition to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) by the family, Mr. Paul Edeh, it queried why a post-mortem examination had not been carried out by the EFCC and the Nigeria Police.
The petition said: “The EFCC has blatantly refused that a post-mortem examination should be carried out on the body so as not to be indicted. This may have been the reason why more than two months after Desmond’s death, no move has been made to carry out an autopsy.
“After many visits by our clients to the EFCC and the police, both agencies have maintained that Desmond died a natural death.
“One, therefore, wonders how both the police and the EFCC could come up with such a common position in the absence of a medical examination to determine the cause of death.”
Source : The Nation