Nigeria police: Issuing corpses and denials

“It really overwhelms our capacity to store bodies,” says Dr Anthony Mbah, chief medical director at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital.

His mortuary is overflowing – with corpses brought in by the police.

“We have between 70 and 80 bodies right now… and about three weeks ago, there was a mass burial of some other corpses,” he says.

“We are now getting ready to get these ones buried.”

Inside the mortuary in the south-eastern city of Enugu, two rooms are set aside for the remains of the young men.

In the first room, they are stacked, naked, one on top of the other. In places the piles are four or five deep.

Faces peer out amongst a forest of legs. Heads loll into groins. Limbs are flung around torsos. Some almost seem to embrace. The smell – and the flies – make it impossible to get close.

It is a scene beyond belief.

Fathers’ pain

The mortuary is in a state of chaos. No-one working here can put a precise number on the corpses. Many of the bodies have no names. Mortuary records simply say “suspected armed robber” or “unknown thief”.

The register says police left 75 bodies between the beginning of June and 26 November this year.

But the records are imperfect – staff correct mistakes as they go along, one page appears to be missing.

It is uncertain how many of these bodies really are those of armed robbers.

The father of one victim of a police shooting has no doubt about the innocence of his son.

“A child is a gift from the Gods. They have taken him from me,” Chief Dennis Onovo murmurs.

The morning that Mr Onovo’s 22-year-old son, Matthew, died he had been walking to a computer class. Police were searching for an armed man in the area – and shot him dead.

“I always hoped my son will one day be governor of this state, or even head of state – but all my effort is in vain,” says Mr Onovo.

For two days, the community stood still as people came out in peaceful demonstration.

The police told Matthew’s parents he was suspected of armed robbery.

“This boy was not an armed robber. He was never a thief, much less an armed robber,” says Mr Onovo.

“As they killed him, they killed me, my life is over.”

Emmanuel Egbo
Emmanuel Egbo’s parents say he was a keen student, not a criminal

A few miles away, another father echoes his words.

Chief Mark Ngena trembles, remembering.

“He was playing with his fellow children,” he says of his 13-year-old son Emmanuel.

“Suddenly policemen, three of them, came in. They shot and killed this boy. Murdered him in cold blood.”

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