Paul Obi writes that the handling of Joy Odama’s murder has further dented the image of the Nigerian Police Force
When Joy Odama returned from holidays, the family received her with joy. But that joyous mood would not last long. Joy’s path to her gruesome death started on December 18, 2016 with her encounter with one Alhaji Usman Adamu, a presumed philanthropist. Adamu, it was learnt, often assists girls with scholarships and other forms of financial support. But beyond these philanthropic gestures lies a tortuous heinous ring that ravages vulnerable young girls.
For Joy Adama, her first and only encounter with Alhaji Adamu turned out to be a deadly one and her last time she was seen alive. On that fateful day, Joy had accompanied her friend Elizabeth to see Alhaji Adamu, who promised to pay her school fees. Joy proceeded to call her mother, Mrs. Philomena Odama to inform her about the ‘fortune’ Alhaji Adamu extended to them. On her arrival, Mrs. Odama was assured by Alhaji Adamu that he will pay Joy’s school fees; he also pledged to assist Mrs. Odama with a job at the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC). At Adamu’s house, Mrs. Odama noticed that there were other girls also waiting to benefit from the same ‘scholarship’.
According to Joy’s mother, Mrs. Odama, “two days later, December 20, in the evening, Adamu called my daughter and said his house help is seriously sick and that she should please come and look after her while he goes to get a doctor. He also said he has called other girls (i.e. the other girls we saw in his house the previous day). Joy told me and I allowed her to go. That was the last time I saw my daughter alive.
“After a while on the same day, I called Joy and she said she was at the house with the other girls and will soon be coming back. About an hour later, when she was not yet back, I called severally but she did not pick. Out of curiosity, I called Alhaji Adamu on his number 08179606208 but he too did not pick. I became more worried and went to the house but couldn’t gain access to Alhaji’s apartment. The next morning, I called Joy and Alhaji Adamu several times to no avail. Eventually, Alhaji Adamu picked his call and to my surprise, he pretended not to know who I was nor who Joy was. When I pressed further he said ‘did anything happen to Joy?’ as if he does not know where she is. At this point I knew all was not well.
“In panic, I called my husband (who was not around at the time due to the nature of his work), my relatives and neighbors and we all agreed to report to the Police. As we were about stepping out to the Police Station, we saw two policemen in our house who asked us to follow them to the Police Station at Karmo. On getting there, the DPO informed us that all the girls that went to Alhaji’s house are all unconscious; that one is not responding to treatment while the others were responding. We requested to see Joy but we were turned down and asked to come back the next day. We pressed further but the DPO insisted we go and come back as directed. The next day being December 22, I went back to the Police Station in company of relatives and a lawyer who is a close family friend. To my utter shock, I was told that my daughter was dead and has been taken to the mortuary.
“We asked to know how, why and what led to Joy’s death and the DPO, CSP Nkem Raphael, declined further comments. Our lawyer asked if the Alhaji has been arrested but CSP Nkem bluntly told us that as far he is concerned, Alhaji is not culpable, no crime has been committed, that my daughter died a natural death and he cannot arrest Alhaji. DPO Nkem told the lawyer to take the matter to his superiors but that he has already informed them about the matter and as far as they are concerned, Alhaji Adamu cannot be arrested.
“We requested to know the whereabouts of my daughter’s corpse and the other girls responding to treatment so we can interview them. The DPO directed us to Federal Medical Centre, Airport Road, Jabi, Abuja and on getting to the mortuary, we discovered the body was already embalmed. When we asked why my daughter’s body was embalmed without our knowledge, one of the attendants confided in us that Alhaji Usman Adamu first brought the dead body in the early hours of December 21 claiming to be the father of the girl. But on seeing the body, they suspected foul play and insisted that they will not admit the body until they see a Police or doctor’s report. Alhaji Usman left and came back with DPO Nkem of Karmo Divisional Police Station who ordered them to immediately embalm the body.”
Mrs. Odama further explained that they later “discovered that the other girls the DPO claimed were on admission in the hospital were not there. We went back to the Police Station to find out why our daughter’s body would be embalmed without our prior consent. At the Police Station, we saw Martha, one of the girls whom I met at Alhaji’s house. She was by the Police front desk.”
Also, Mrs. Odama noted that all efforts to ensure that the Police carry out their duty of investigating the matter thoroughly, met a brick wall. Beside preventing their lawyer from participating in the meetings geared towards unraveling the cause of Joy’s death, the DPO and a top Police officer in the rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) were said to have warned the family that the case was closed and nothing could be done about it.
To shed more light on the alleged nefarious activities of Alhaji Adamu, one of the girls, Victoria Ezekiel, a cook in the house, spoke to journalists, where she gave further incriminating evidence against the Alhaji, including the Police. According to Victoria, who used to sell Maize in Jabi, before she was employed by Alhaji as a cook, “on December 20, when I was in the kitchen, I felt dizzy and I fell down. I later called Alhaji on the phone that I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go home. He offered to take me to the hospital. I waited for him till 8p.m. but he didn’t show up. I normally close by 7p.m. He took me to the Federal Staff Hospital, Jabi. The doctor examined me and said I had malaria. I was given a form which Joy (Odama) helped me to fill. When we returned home, Alhaji said it was late and that I should sleep over. Joy, Nurse Gift, a girl we call ‘small Gift’ and I went to bed. In the midnight, I wanted to urinate and I saw Joy lying down beside me.
“In the morning, I couldn’t stand up. I could only hear noise in the apartment. They rushed me to the hospital, gave me drip and I felt better. It was later I heard that Joy died and I was asking what happened to her. The doctor was also surprised. He asked me if it was the girl that filled my form the night before. We were waiting for Alhaji to come and settle the bill but he didn’t show up till 6p.m.”
Victoria added that “sometimes in January 2017 Alhaji called me on the phone and said they had buried Joy and that he gave her mother N200,000. He was telling me stupid things before he inquired about my health. He later told me that I would need to make a statement. I went to his house and we went to Karmo Police Station and a Policeman said that I should mention Alhaji’s neighbour who lived upstairs as the person that locked the generator door. I told him I didn’t know the person, and besides, I was sick then and why should I lie against the man? Alhaji hit me on the back and called me a fool in Hausa.”
However, despite the obvious culpability of Alhaji, the Police were still treating Alhaji Adamu as a VIP, according to Mrs. Odama.
THISDAY investigation revealed that it was the public outcry and pressure from civil societies in Abuja that led to the arrest of Alhaji Adamu. When THISDAY contacted the Police Public Relations Officer (PRO), CSP Jimoh Moshood, he confirmed that Alhaji Adamu had already been arrested and that the transfer of the DPO was not aimed at thwarting the case but a form of punitive measures against DPO Nkem.
Though, Adamu is still in Police custody, there are fears that the Police would not go the whole hog in investigating the case and holding Adamu accountable for the death of Joy. Speaking to THISDAY, Public Relations Officer of Cross River Indigenes Development Association, Sam Nsor, queried the approach of the Police in the case. He said: “We condemn, in very strong terms, the unfortunate antics exhibited by the Nigerian Police Force in the handling of this matter since December 2016 till date; where the suspect, (Alhaji Usman Adamu) was said to be a free man and walking the street with arrogance.”
Nsor stressed that “it is unfortunate that the Nigerian Police have abandoned its primary role of service to the people by granting some citizens ‘Privileged Status’ especially that being enjoyed by Alhaji Usman Adamu, who is currently ‘Above the Law’. Finally, we call on all relevant authorities to be alive to their responsibilities and bring all those involved in this hideous crime to justice.”
THISDAY also learnt that the Cross River State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade has mandated the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Barr Joe Abang, alongside Dorn Claimz Enamhe, to ensure that justice is done in the case. It was also revealed by the Police that the Force has ordered a new autopsy for the body of late Joy Odama. The development became imminent given the suspicious nature of the previous autopsy – which linked her death to ‘overdose cocaine poisoning’.
The handling of Joy’s case has dented the image of the Police. The culpability of DPO Nkem and the top AIG who attempted to obstruct investigation also calls to question the statutory role of the Police. If officers entrusted to protect citizens turn round to shield criminals as proven with the Joy’s case, it is assumed that the people will quickly lose confidence in the Police. The best way for the authorities to redeem their image lies squarely on investigating Joy Odama’s death and ensuring that the culprits are brought to justice. To do otherwise will send wrong signals across. It is therefore incumbent on the IGP Ibrahim Idris and his men to do the needful. That is: to get justice for the Odamas over the brutal murder of their daughter. Until then, a dark cloud will continue to hang on the Nigerian Police.