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05.07.2024 Featured Finding Afam: Lagos Police Took Him in 2019 but Can’t Produce Him Now

Published 5th Jul, 2024

By Daniel Ojukwu

This is a developing story…

A man traveled from Anambra State to Lagos in February 2019 to seek employment opportunities and promises of a life better than the one he had. Things went well at the start; he shared his sister’s roof, got a job as a goods offloader in a marketplace and settled in nicely until the fairytale ended abruptly. Afamefuna Ozoemena went missing.

For the better part of the past five years, friends, family members, private detectives and lawyers have tried to find the man who left home for work on May 19, 2019. In conversations with FIJ, they described it as unusual for the then 29-year-old to disappear without a word.

Two weeks were spent in confusion. Olivia Joseph, his niece, was involved in a preliminary search. She remembers her uncle Afam had a fallout with Edwin Igbokwulu, his boss at the New Bandalas Plaza, Balogun Market, Trade Fair, Lagos. Igbokwulu once threatened to have him arrested but now denies involvement in his disappearance.

The shop owner sacked Afam the month before his disappearance and withheld his April salary. Defiantly, Afam kept going to the market, intent on getting what he was owed. Like a creature of habit, he went every day until he just vanished.

Afamefuna: May my name never be lost

Igbo name

After the family spent weeks looking for their missing relative, they got a lead. The police took him.

“When we did not see him, we went asking questions,” Olivia told FIJ. “We learned he was with some boys on that day. The police showed up and arrested only him.

“What we did was file a report at the Trade Fair police station. There, a policeman told us he was taken to Agboju station. We went there, but the police were hostile to us. One female officer pulled us aside, showed us Afam’s name in the register and told us one Inspector Toba was handling the case.”

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After two weeks, the family could heave a sigh of relief, but this was short-lived. They saw Toba but didn’t see Afam.

FROM POLICE STATION TO PRISON

Afamefuna Ozoemena in 2019
Afamefuna Ozoemena in 2019

On the 2022 International Day of the Disappeared (IDoD), Leonard Blazeby, the head of programmes and prevention at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), revealed that Nigeria had the highest number of disappeared persons in Africa.

Of the 64,000 people documented as missing at the time, 25,000 were missing in Nigeria alone. Afam went from being arrested to disappearing in a few days.

Olivia explained to FIJ that Michael Ozoemena, Afam’s uncle, approached Toba to ask about Afam’s whereabouts. She said this policeman was dismissive and told them the man was no longer with them but with the Oshodi Task Force.

Did the police have a charge for which they arrested Afam? “No,” Olivia told FIJ. “They told us we would find out when we got to the Task Force office.”

At the Oshodi Task Force, the family would hear something more bizarre than they expected.

“When we got to the Oshodi Task Force office and asked of him, no one could provide any information,” Olivia said. “Michael found out that right there, there were lawyers who judged people who were not bailed by their relatives and sent them to prison.”

Everything went dark at this point. The Task Force would not acknowledge ever having Afam in their custody or that he was transferred to prison. The Agboju station also swore they transferred him.

CHASING LEADS

How does a full-grown man vanish into thin air without a trace? This is the unanswered question members of the Ozoemena household have had to deal with for five years.

Since his disappearance, several well-meaning Nigerians have become interested in the search. Miss Pearls, a US-based healthcare worker of Nigerian descent, enlisted the services of lawyers and a private detective to help. This effort led them to Lagos prisons.

After fruitlessly searching multiple correctional facilities in Lagos, things started to look up when Sunday Alulu, a former inmate at the Badagry prison, visited the Ozoemena family.

Alulu and Afam hail from the same village in Anambra, and after the former regained his freedom in February 2024, he visited the Ozoemenas on April 13 to say he saw their son in prison. In there, they knew Afam as ‘Ganja’, Sunday said.

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Armed with this information, the family went to Badagry Prison on April 21, 2024. They met the same hostile reception they got at the Oshodi Task Force. “Afam is not here,” the officials told them.

They explained to FIJ that one warden told them some inmates were transferred to the Kirikiri prison due to overpopulation in Badagry. With this information, the family went to Kirikiri the day after, but when they got there, they hit a brick wall.

No one knew where Afam was. No one had seen him.

Seven days later, S. T. Hon (SAN) & Co. wrote a petition to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), requesting his intervention.

S. T. Hon (SAN) & Co's petition to the IGP
S. T. Hon (SAN) & Co’s petition to the IGP
Page 2 of petition
Page 2 of petition
Page 3 of petition
Page 3 of petition

FIJ spent days touring the Kirikiri facility after learning of Afam’s transfer. This newspaper gathered that five inmates were transferred there from Badagry in March 2024. During this search, four of the transferred inmates regained freedom. All five denied ever meeting Afam in prison.

While there are multiple accounts, neither the police nor the prison service has been able to provide clarification on the matter. FIJ called Benjamin Hundeyin, spokesman for the Lagos Police Command, but he asked that this reporter text him.

FIJ sent him the details of the case, but as of press time, he had not responded.

The newspaper also called Rotimi Oladokun, spokesman for the Nigeria Correctional Service in Lagos State. Oladokun said he had not heard of Afam before but would investigate the matter.

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Published 5th Jul, 2024

By Daniel Ojukwu

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