In search of Justice for Ndubuisi-Chukwu

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Mrs Obianuju Ndubuisi-Chukwu, the Deputy Director-General of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria was murdered in Johannesburg on June 13, 2019. The Nigerian government and her home state governor, Chief Willie Obiano of Anambra State, are clamouring for justice from the South African government, David-Chyddy Eleke reports

Cases abound of killing of Nigerians resident in South Africa, and in most of the cases, video evidence have also been circulated. Such cases have become so rampant that most times, Nigerians living back home and even the Nigerian government have tended to believe that such cases were made up by interested parties to put a cog in the diplomatic relationship that exists between the two African countries.

But as much as attempts are made to dismiss the claims, they come even stronger once in a while, with Nigerian residents in the country giving credence to the claims, and even claiming worse things happen in the hinterlands of the country where Nigerians are scattered. Not only are Nigerians mobbed by South African youths, they are mowed down in the most unflinching ways, while their properties in that country are carted away. This has remained so, with little or no attempts by the South African government to condemn these acts(at least to the knowledge of Nigerians, whose siblings still live and earn a living in that country).

This is coming at a time when the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan has decried the high number of Nigerians killed in South Africa. What is even more intriguing is that Lawan’s account blamed some of the killing on South African Police authorities, who ought to defend citizens and residents alike from such kinds of killing, especially when youths of the country go on rampage, carrying out xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and looting their properties.

Lawan who put the total number of Nigerians so far killed by South Africans at 118 said, “We in the parliament must speak and prevent any further killings. These killings must stop. This is the era of social media where the corpse of a victim may spark violence that may go beyond the control of government. The South African government must, as a matter of urgency, do whatever it takes to protect the lives and property of Nigerians living there, just as Nigerian government remains committed to the safety of South Africans residing here and their investments.”

Lawan who spoke while receiving in audience the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Bobby Moroe said “I believe we have faced enough; we will no longer take it anymore. We want to write the names of Nigerians killed, and the South African parliament must act fast to put a stop to this menace.”

Lawan recalled the contributions of Nigeria to South Africa to free it from apartheid, adding that, “we must establish events leading into these killings.” Nigeria, he said, would no longer condone such killings, and urged South African government to as a matter of responsibility protect Nigerians residing there.

But on June 13, a killing that can best be termed ‘one too many’ occurred nowhere else but in the very busy city of Johannesburg, and in no where else but in one of its finest hospitality facility, Emperor Palace Hotel. If other killings have happened in remote places, they can be justified with the answer that such places may not be within the urban areas where the searchlight of the authorities are at their best, especially as Nigerians have a habit of going right into the hinterlands of every country they find themselves, so long as they abound opportunities of making money in them.

But the killing of Mrs Obianuju Ndubuisi-Chukwu, a 53-year-old Deputy Director-General of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN), in the very heart of town should not be dismissed with just a wave of the hand.

Ndubuisi-Chukwu who was a Nigerian delegate to the institute’s international conference was strangled in her hotel room by unknown persons. Though her killing was not immediately made open, as a month passed by before interested persons started raising brows as a result of the lackluster attitude of both the hotel management who were said to have first concealed the CCTV footage, and the South African Police who also did not come forth to demand for it, to commence investigation.

But with the revelation of her killing, Nigerians authorities do not seem to be relenting in finding the cause of her death, just as Ndubuisi-Chukwu’s home state governor, Chief Willie Obiano has been talking tough about the incident.

First, it was Obiano who awakened the consciousness of the Nigerian government through a letter to the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF). Boss Mustapha. Obiano in the letter appealed to the SGF to prevail on the South African police to unravel the murder of Ndubuisi-Chukwu.

In a letter addressed to the SGF, the governor observed that the South African police might be capitalising on the absence of a foreign minister to treat the case with levity. He said the reports at his disposal concerning the death of the 53-year Anambra indigene suggested that, “the South African police are treating this murder as just another Nigerian’s death in their country. It is disheartening that over four weeks after the dastardly act, the South African police have not deemed it necessary to investigate the heinous crime with the seriousness it deserves.”

Without relenting, Obiano days after petitioned the South African High Commission in Nigeria, this time, saying, “The fact that Mrs Ndubuisi-Chukwu was a representative of the Nigerian nation in an international conference gives so much gravitas to the case. It needs to be tackled urgently at the highest level which I sincerely believe you can duly facilitate. I cannot keep quiet when the life of a distinguished Anambra State person is wasted brutally. We must get to the roots, no matter the cost.

“The issue has attracted so much publicity in the world media, and I feel compelled to call on you to use your good offices to do the right thing by getting the South African police authorities to wade into the killing. Though Nigeria has yet to appoint a substantive foreign minister, bilateral relations between our two countries ought to ensure that case is not treated with levity as it now appears to be. The loss of a highly talented professional such as Mrs Ndubuisi-Chukwu challenges us all to call on the reserves of our cherished African brotherhood to make sure that justice is done.”

Obiano said the job has been half done, now that the South African Department of Home Affairs has stated that autopsy revealed she was strangled. He said, “We are so disheartened that it has taken about a month after the killing of the lady, and not much progress has been recorded in tracing the killer(s). The obviously orchestrated cover-up by not releasing the CCTV footage in time clearly points to a deadly collaboration on the portals of evil. It is my duty to stress the necessity of delving into the crime with the seriousness it deserves to win justice.
“There is a solid pedestal to start from now that the South African Department of Home Affairs has in an autopsy report stated quite pointedly that Mrs Ndubuisi-Chukwu was strangulated. Autopsy report by the Department of Health released on June 27, 2019, confirms that she was strangulated. Who did it? The question must be answered since the first duty of the state everywhere is the security of life.”

The Federal Government, speaking through the Chairperson of the Nigeria Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa in a statement said: “This is one death too many and cannot be swept under the carpet. We condemn in very strong terms the unfortunate murder of Mrs Elizabeth Ndubuisi-Chukwu in South Africa.” She further called on the South African authorities to rise up to their responsibilities and ensure those behind the crime are brought to book.

Probably moved by Obiano’s letter, The Senate President who invited the South African High Commissioner recently condemned the continuous killing of Nigerians in South Africa, warning that further attack on Nigerians would no longer be condoned. He said: “The update on the cause of the late Mrs. Chukwu’s death is heartwarming. It is a sign that something has been done in this regards.”

Though the recent update as stated by the Senate President has not been made public, it is believed that moves have been done as a result of the clamour for justice for Chukwu. THISDAY gathered that the deceased whose corpse was moved to Nigeria and first deposited in a mortuary in Asaba, Delta State was interred on July 25, in her home town, Ihiala in Anambra State.

Prior to the publication of this report, Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C. Don Adinuba had said until her killers are brought to justice, the soul of the insurance guru would just have been wasted like those of the 118 other killed by rampaging youths and South African police authorities in hate.