The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has ordered an independent inquiry into how a suspect, Desmond Nunugwo, died in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Malami, who received the family of the deceased in his office in Abuja, reiterated the sanctity of life and declared that no government agency had the right to take life.
“I will give directives for investigations to commence immediately. I will also demand explanations from the EFCC to furnish me with details of the case. It is the responsibility of every government agency to protect the sanctity of life. As the chief law officer of the country, I will not compromise investigations,” the minister said.
He condoled with members of the family over the death of their breadwinner and requested them to call him in three days to get a feedback over the matter.
Clad in black attire for mourning, the wife of the late Nunugwo yesterday led other members of her husband’s family on a march to the office of the minister to demand an independent inquiry.
Their demands were straight to the issue. They wanted the minister to constitute an independent inquiry into how Nunugwo died in the custody of the EFCC. They also wanted the minister to urgently take over the investigation and serve the cause of justice.
The family believes that EFCC was responsible for the death of Nunugwo, a former chief protocol officer to the minister of state for defence, whom they claimed was not sick or diagnosed of any known sickness until his death in the EFCC custody.
The deceased’s family declared the Nigeria Police as no longer fit to continue with the investigation into the matter “having compromised in the cause of their investigation by acting out a script written and directed by the EFCC.”
There is also a contentious issue of autopsy on the body of the deceased. Two months after, no autopsy has been done. There is an allegation that the authorities are delaying the inquest.
The family, therefore, asked that an autopsy be carried out by an expert to be recommended by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.
But the police and the EFCC insist that Nunugwo died a natural death. They claimed that he was rushed to a hospital where he gave up the ghost six hours after he was detained at the commission.
Accompanied by their lawyer, Paul Edeh of the Raw Gold Partners, the family arrived at the Shehu Shagari Way headquarters of the Ministry of Justice and insisted on seeing the minister.
The widow of the deceased, Susan, had said that the family would not leave the building until the minister granted them audience.
The lawyer to the family, Edeh shed more light on efforts by the family to secure autopsy for the body of the deceased.
He said: “My clients have it on good authority that the EFCC, through its chairman and his foot soldiers are working assiduously behind the scenes to frustrate police investigation into the cause of Nunugwo’s death because the truth, when revealed, will count against his confirmation as a substantive chairman of the EFCC.
“According to our clients, EFCC has blatantly refused that a post-mortem examination be carried out on the body to reveal the cause of death which will indict the commission.
“This may have been the reason more than two months after Nunugwo’s death in EFCC custody, no move has been made to carry out an autopsy even when the hospital has forwarded the requirements for carrying out an autopsy estimated to cost N4, 000,000.
“After more than a dozen visits by our clients to EFCC and the police to ascertain the position of the investigation, both the police and EFCC have maintained a common stance that the deceased died a natural death.
“One, therefore, wonders how both the police and the EFCC could come up with such a common position in the absence of a medical examination to determine the cause of death.”