A young Nigerian grieves the loss of his brother to militiamen, By Nicholas Ibekwe

Nicholas Ibekwe

Last May a police officer in northern Nigeria was brutally slaughtered by militiamen, but to this day no one has been held accountable. His brother, our reporter in Lagos, remains tormented by the injustice.

My brother, Christian, was gruesomely killed alongside over 90 other policemen by Ombatse cultists-cum-militiamen in Nasarawa, northern Nigeria, on 17 May 2013. The details I will be sharing are gory and heart-rending. I want to apologize to the families and others affected by this tragedy. I’m not trying to make them relive the trauma.

Christian was part of a police team sent to quell restiveness within the Eggon community of the state, for which the Ombatse militiamen are blamed. Mainly due to haphazard planning and a lack of effort in terms of gathering intelligence by the police authorities, the convoy ran into an ambush set up by the militia.

The men were slaughtered in the most cold-blooded manner. Many of the bodies recovered were sprayed with bullets, butchered with cutlasses and deliberately burnt beyond recognition. The assistant commissioner who led the team was discovered in an abandoned well, bloated, with one of his legs missing. Pictures of some of the officers suggest they were captured before being hacked to death. Their legs were bound and their hands tied behind their backs.

We got the body of my brother, though terribly mangled by bullet wounds and deep machete cuts, back for a proper burial. I hope he died quickly. In fact, my family was fortunate. Over 90 percent of the bodies recovered were mutilated beyond recognition and were buried en masse.

The bodies of the police officers that were recovered by the Red Cross (the police were too scared to retrieve their dead) were treated in the most demeaning manner possible. Charred remains of policemen were stacked together in a heap in plain sight, while decomposing remains were strewn on the floor of over-capacitated morgues.

Families who could recognize their loved ones were asked to pay for their embalmment. The authorities provided no support and didn’t bother to treat the corpses with dignity. I know a policeman who resigned after seeing pictures of the slain officers.

Perhaps in the most blood-curdling heartlessness I’ve ever heard of, one of my brother’s killers called my sister-in-law with my brother’s phone and said: “We are those who attacked the police. We have killed all of them.” It is difficult to say why the man did that, really. The only reason I can think of is that it was the action of a twisted mind.

Wake-up call

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