Nigerians are often maltreated in the hands of the police in South Africa, the Consul-General noted.
The Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg has presented a letter of protest to the South Africa Independent Police Investigation Directorate, IPID, on the alleged death of a Nigerian in police custody.
The Consul-General of the Nigerian Consulate in South Africa, Okey Emuchay, told the IPID Deputy Director, Thabo Neholo, in Cape Town on Monday that Nigeria’s choice of allowing due process in the investigation of the death of Obinna Ugboaja in police custody should not be seen as sign of weakness.
The envoy complained to the IPID officer about lack of acknowledgement of the initial letter written about the death of Mr. Ugboaja in police custody.
“You would recall that on Jan. 7, 2013, the case of alleged killing of a Nigerian citizen, Ugboaja by members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), was reported to your office by the Nigerian Union in Cape Town, We were happy to learn that investigations into matter commenced promptly.
“Subsequently a letter was written to the directorate’s head office in Pretoria, but up until now no letter of acknowledgement had been written to us.
“Since then the Nigerian Union and the entire family of the deceased had waited patiently for the result of the investigation and result of the autopsy conducted on the deceased.
“You will agree that the delay which is unnecessary could send a wrong message of justice denial to the Nigerian community,” Mr. Emuchay said.
He said that Mr. Ugboaja’s case also brings to the fore the death in questionable circumstance of many Nigerians in the hand of the South Africa Police.
“Investigation of the death of many Nigerians in the hands of the police is often stalled. It is in the light of this disturbing development that the Nigerian Consulate demands immediate issuance of a status report on the case of Late Ugboaja in line with your standard operating procedure,” Mr. Emuchay said.
The IPID Deputy Director, Neholo, while responding, assured the Nigerian envoy that the death of Mr. Ugboaja is still under investigation.
“The mandate of IPID is to investigate the death, harassment and brutality of people by the police, and as part of our mandate, I want to assure you that death of this Nigerian allegedly in the hands of the police just like the death of any other human being either a South African or any other national will be fully investigated.
“We have already received the result of the autopsy which said the cause of his death is inconclusive, but we are not satisfied with the report, so the matter has been referred to another pathologist to handle,” Mr. Neholo said.
The Nigerian envoy said the matter should not be swept under the carpet.
“Our visit is to underline the urgency required in the resolution of the death of Ugboaja, we are talking about the death of a human being, this incident happened in January, and this is middle of May and yet investigations are still ongoing.
“We don’t want a situation where we wait until we have another Ugboaja in our hands before the matter resolved. The circumstances surrounding the death of a Nigerian in the hands of South African police is a very serious issue.
“It is incumbent on our host authorities to ensure the safety of foreign nationals who reside in South Africa just as it is incumbent on the Nigerian authorities to do the same to South Africans living in Nigeria.
“The safety of South Africans is very important to the government of Nigeria,” Mr. Emuchay said.
He said that there is a strong need for the government agencies to help in building closer relationship between Nigeria and South Africa.
“The effort we are making to build closer political, economic and trade relationship could be derailed if things of this nature are allowed to happen unchecked.
“The reason I’m here is to endure an urgent resolution of this issue. Autopsy should be able to resolve the cause of death, we are assuming that the young man was killed by the police, but there is need to find out the actual cause of his death.
“Due process should be followed and appropriate punishments should be given to those responsible for his death and that is all we are asking for, we will use all the means available to us in resolving this issue. We will get to the root cause of the death of this Nigerian.
“The welfare of all Nigerians here is paramount to us, so we want to assure our nationals that this issue will not be swept under the carpet,” Mr. Emuchay said.
The chairman of Nigerian Union in Western Cape, Azu Okparaugo, commended the steps taken by the Nigerian Consulate toward the resolution of the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Ugboaja.
“I must commend the Consul-General for his interest and steps taken towards resolve the cause of death of Ugboaja, with his intervention the police and IPID will now realise that the matter has gone to the Nigeria’s highest authority in South Africa.
“Before now the case had been going the usual way with the aim of sweeping the matter under the carpet, with the intervention of the Consulate, the IPID will now understand the magnitude of the case, I’m sure they will now sit up and try and find answers to most of our questions.
“We are told that the autopsy result is inconclusive, this is a funny answer given the seriousness of the issue, and given the level advancement in medical science in South Africa, To say that you have an inconclusive autopsy result in the cause of death, is just a way of trying o manipulate the issue.
“They thought that the matter would just go away like the others after a few months. SAPS have been in the news in the recent past for wrong reasons, so for me, IPID would not help the situation by once again helping to put SAPS in the news for the wrong reasons, so they should not try to cover up for them,’’ Mr. Okparaugo said.
He said members of the Nigerian community are emotional about the death of Mr. Ugboaja.
“They need not give us all the answers we need but this should serve as deterrent to the police, they will now know that police cannot act with impunity when dealing with foreigners especially Nigerians,” Mr. Okparaugo said.
Mr. Ugboaja was accused of swallowing hard drugs by SAPS. He was arrested and later died in the police custody.