01 October, 2007

Why am I a Nigerian?

Why am I a Nigerian? asks father of murdered son, whose corpse is still in Malaysia since February 2006.

MR. Dennis Ogbonnaya Nwankwo, a member of the Assemblies of God Church in Oginigba Community in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, walked dejectedly into the conference room of the NUJ Press Centre, Port Harcourt on Friday, 31st August, 2007, accompanied by his tearful wife, Loyce and one Elder Morrison Akpan, the public relations officer of the Assemblies of God, Oginigba.

Without uttering any word, not even greetings on entering the conference room, fair-complexioned, heavily-built Nwankwo sat down on the dais, removed his pair of medicated eyeglasses, brought out a white handkerchief from his left pocket and immediately bent his face downward, with the handkerchief repeatedly wiping off tears from his eyes. These tears, coming from an adult, were quite infectious, as some newsmen in the NUJ conference hall could not but join Nwankwo in weeping. A momentary silence fell on the hall. Even the moderator of the conference, Mr. Chinda of the Port Harcourt-based Nigerian Tide newspaper, lost his voice for some minutes before summoning up courage to invite Mr. Nwankwo, a Port Harcourt-based businessman, to address the pressmen, who then suspected something ominous coming out from the mouth of depressed Nwankwo, a native of Obilagu Ukomi-Lokpanta in Umuneochi Local Government Area of Abia State.

In-between sobs and a loud cry that suddenly shook the NUJ hall, Nwankwo told his pathetic story of the murder of his “law-abiding” 25-year-old son, Lawrence, born on the 25th of February, 1982, by unknown students in Malaysia in February 2006, the same month he began a 40-month degree programme at the Rima College in Malaysia. Here are excerpts of his story:“I am here with my wife, Mrs. Loyce Ndukwuru Nwankwo, a former native of Oginigba Community in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State. We are here today to pour out our hearts cry as I intimate the press, Nigerian nation and the whole world on the calamity that befell us for over a year and six months now, which is the death of my son, Lawrence Dennis Nwankwo. My son was born on February 25, 1982 . He applied for and got admission in October 2005 to study a 3-year 4-month-long General Business course in the American University degree programme at the Rima College in Malaysia in a letter endorsed by one Santhiran Ramasamy, director of marketing of the college. On 11th October, 2005 , he left for Malaysia after satisfying the college requirement on 7th December with Nigerian International Passport No., A2687685 issued on November 11, 2004.

He was also issued with Malaysian visa at the Malaysian Embassy (then) in Lagos. On 28th February, 2006 by 9.45am, I got a phone call from one Mr. Santhiran Ramasamy from Rima College, Malaysia, who told me that my son, Lawrence Dennis Nwankwo, was killed by unknown persons. I was told that his killers dropped his cell phone in his right palm and Nigerian International Passport in his left palm. He also informed that they were in touch with the Nigerian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur . I waited to hear from my embassy in Kuala Lumpur , but to no avail. On the 17th of March, 2006, after waiting from 28th of February, 2006 without receiving any telephone call from my (Nigerian) embassy in Malaysia, except the information I got from the pastor of the Church where my son worshipped, Pastor Lan Anderson and Dr. Joseph O. T. Odusanya, who gave me the address of the Nigerian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on the 16th of March, 2006.

On the 17th of March, I wrote to the Consular and Nigerian High Commission in Malaysia directing them on what to do so as to return the body of my late son to me here in Nigeria.
On the 29th of March, 2006, the Nigerian Embassy in Malaysia replied (to) my letter consoling me and my family over the death of our son. I was told by the embassy that the Malaysian police were investigating the cause of my son’s death and that they had sent a copy of my letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja, also consoling me over the death of my son and also asking me what I want them to do with the remains of my late son. I was confused (by this inquiry). On 18th June, 2006, I photocopied the same document I sent to the Nigerian High Commission in Malaysia and sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja and it was received by one Miss Francisca U. Musa for the Honourable Minister and I was advised to wait for further line of action from the ministry. I came back sorrowing, hoping to receive a telephone call or letter from the ministry, but to no avail.

I have on three occasions, visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs without receiving any attention, except my last visit on September 2006, where I was told that the ministry was (then) without a minister. I came back to my house with deep pains, asking myself why I am a Nigerian. I equally asked myself if it is my fault to speak the native language I find myself speaking. Since then, I have been pondering within me why I am treated the way I am being treated. But, I am yet to find answers to my questions. I and my wife have been having sleepless nights, shedding tears and asking God to come to our aid since our nation has abandoned us at our trying moment. At this juncture, Nwankwo stopped abruptly to wipe more tears flowing uncontrollably from his eyes, with journalists’ heads bowed in pity. “On the 23rd of April, 2007”, he continued, my Church, the Assemblies of God, Oginigba, was not satisfied with the way things were and I was called by the Church to find out why my late son’s corpse has not been returned to me by the Nigerian High Commission in Malaysia via the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Abuja.

It was then that I presented all the documents and told them every effort I have put up which did not yield any fruitful result. Following this, my Church decided to take a step further by sending a delegation to meet and present protest letters to the President of the Republic of Nigeria, Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Inspector-General of Police, the Malaysian High Commissioner in Nigeria and Senator Uche Chukwumerije, my senatorial representative in the Senate. I have stamped duplicate copies of all these my protest letters to prove that they were actually received by the officers above and duly signed for by their personal assistants. But, my deepest shock came from my senatorial representative, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, who when I saw his stamp on the document as a sign of my protest letter being received by him, I was initially consoled. But, to my surprise, up till now ( August 31, 2007 ) that I am talking to you, members of the press, I have not received a telephone call or letter from my Senator.

In a telephone call to Senator Chukwumerije’s GSM line, the distinguished lawmaker told our correspondent that he was attending a Senate session at the time of the call, stressing, however, that he would look into the matter and see how far the Nigerian and Malaysian authorities had gone with the corpse of Mr. Nwankwo’s son, Lawrence. In an exclusive telephone interview with Sunday Tribune on Tuesday, September 4, 2007, Malaysia’s Acting High Commissioner to Nigeria, Melvin Castelino, told our correspondent that the Malaysian police were still investigating the circumstances that led to the death of Lawrence Nwankwo 18 months ago in Malaysia.

On why it has taken the Malaysian authorities so long to conclude their investigations, Mr. Castelino said the security agencies in Kuala Lumpur were bent on thorough investigations that would get to the root of the matter, adding that his high commission regrets the apparent delay, in the Nigerian context, in unraveling the mystery surrounding the death of Lawrence. The Malaysian High Commissioner, however, urged the Nwankwo family to exercise patience with his home government, which he said has no intention of keeping the corpse of Lawrence in Malaysia longer than necessary. Reacting to the explanation from the Malaysian acting high commissioner to Nigeria , Mr. Castelino, the deceased’s father, Mr. Dennis Nwankwo told Sunday Tribune in Port Harcourt on Tuesday (25/9/07) that he was disappointed with the slow pace of investigation into his son’s death by the Malaysian security agencies.

He further called on the Federal Government to mount diplomatic pressure on Malaysia to conclude its investigation and return the corpse of his son to him for burial in Nigeria. “At this juncture”, Nwankwo continued, I am forced to ask the press if there is anything I would have done more than what I have done to attract my government’s sympathy at a time like this? I know that the Nigerian Constitution reserves for the press the role of a watchdog of the society. I want to add by saying that you are also the ears of the deaf, the voice of the dumb and the eyes of the blind. You have seen what has happened to me in Malaysia and I do know that the Malaysians that are working and schooling in Nigeria are protected by our government, but my son had no protection in Malaysia and that was why he was publicly stabbed to death and dumped in a mortuary for over a year and six months now.

I am appealing to you (press) to use your good offices to help at this my trying period to ask the Nigerian government officials and the relevant ministry to do all in their power to return the body of my son back to Nigeria for proper burial. With that, uncontrollable tears continued to drop from the reddish eyes of Lawrence’s father, Mr. Dennis Nwankwo, with his wife, Loyce, sobbing heavily. What a piteous sight to behold. When Sunday Tribune called the Malaysian High Commission in Abuja on Monday, September 3, 2007 , a voice that claimed to be that of a security man at the commission told our reporter on phone that the embassy staff had all closed for work. An e-mail message sent to the Malaysian Acting High Commissioner to Nigeria, Melvin Castelino, inquiring about why Lawrence’s corpse has not been returned to Nigeria to his parents for burial since his gruesome murder in February 2006 in Malaysia, remained unanswered at press time.

It was, however, gathered from impeccable sources at the embassy, who preferred anonymity because they said they were not competent officially to speak to the press on this matter, that the Malaysian embassy in Nigeria, located at No. 2, Pechora Close (Off Panama Street, Maitama, Abuja), had on April 24 this year written to Mr. Nwankwo, expressing its “deepest condolences on the tragic death of your son, Mr. Lawrence Dennis Nwankwo in Malaysia on 28 February, 2006”. In the said one-page letter (a copy of which is with Sunday Tribune, personally signed by Melvin Castelino, the Malaysian Acting High Commissioner to Nigeria, the embassy said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult period. “I have referred the circumstance surrounding Mr. Lawrence Dennis Nwankwo’s demise to the relevant Malaysian authorities.”

“I would like to assure you that the High Commission of Malaysia and the Government of Malaysia views (sic) this matter very seriously, particularly when it involves the tragic loss of life of a young Nigerian national, who was in Malaysia to pursue his studies, Castelino said. “I will continue to update you on the progress of this matter as it develops”, added Castelino, “and I hope that we will be able to resolve this issue as soon as possible, particularly on the matter of the remains of your loved one”. Four months after this assurance from the Malaysian High Commission in Nigeria to Nwankwo, the remains of his son, Lawrence, are still lying inexplicably in a mortuary in Malaysia . In his letter, titled, “The Cold-Blooded Murder of My Son In Malaysia” to the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, dated March 31, 2007 , which was signed for and received by one Mr. Samson Alabi in the Presidency on April 24, 2007 , Nwankwo said his son was “killed by some Malaysian students in circumstances hidden in suspicion”. According to him, “some Malaysian students stabbed him, and when they were satisfied he was dead, they had all the time to put his cell phone in his one palm and his Nigerian International Passport in another palm and that he was killed by some Islamic student fanatics in the same college”.

He told Sunday Tribune that he obtained this information from one Mr. Santhiran Ramasamy from Rima College in Malaysia , pointing out, however, that neither the Malaysian nor Nigerian authorities have told him how his son died in Malaysia and why his corpse has not been brought to him for a befitting burial in Nigeria. In a soul-searching letter Nwankwo wrote to one Mr. Emade, the consular officer in the Nigerian High Commission in Malaysia on 17th March, 2006 , he gave an insight into the genesis of his son’s death. “I want to give you (Emade) this information, as it may help you in your investigation”, he said. “On the 24th of February, 2006, my son wrote me (sic) that he, Lawrence, was appraised as the best student of which four universities was (sic) given to him to choose where he will be going by next year, come 2007”, said Nwankwo, adding that “he also celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday, 25th February, 2006 and was killed (two days later) on the 27th of February, 2006.

“I am suggesting that the investigation should be carried to his classroom, find out who are his friends and who invited him out that evening, perhaps, we may find out something from there”, Nwankwo suggested, an option he said was swept under the carpet by the Malaysian authorities and the Nigerian High Commission in Malaysia. In spite of his unheeded suggestion, he said, “I am worried that for over one and a half years now, my son’s body has been lying in a Malaysian mortuary and our (Nigerian) government does not seem to care about this situation even when my son, Lawrence, had a valid Nigerian passport that was due to expire on November 10, 2009, three years before his untimely death”. Nwankwo also said that his letter to one Mr. Emade, the Nigerian consular in Kuala Lumpur, dated March 17, 2006, also requested the embassy to facilitate the transfer to him (Nwankwo) via Western Union Money to Port Harcourt the $2,000 he paid for his son’s school fees in Malaysia two months before his brutal murder and another sum of $1,000 he said his son also deposited in his newly opened account, No. 114263077418 at the MAYBANK (totalling $3,000).

This request, he said, has remained unattended to and his late son’s property, including his new laptop computer, are still in Malaysia. The deceased’s father even recalled his e-mail message to one of his Church members in Malaysia, one Dr. Joseph Odusanya, sent on March 15, 2007 in which he said, inter alia, “My family had done everything within our disposal. “We have written several letters to the Malaysian Embassy in Nigeria and to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “We have spent money on top of our agony, but no positive result. We don’t have what it takes to come to Malaysia to find out what led to the death of our beloved son, Lawrence”. A copy of Nwankwo’s March 31, 2007 letter to the former president, Chief Obasanjo, was also sent to the then Senate president, Senator Ken Nnamani, House of Representatives speaker, Alhaji Masari, Inspector-General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, the Nigerian High Commissioner in Malaysia, the Malaysian High Commissioner in Nigeria, ex-governors of Rivers and Abia States, Dr. Peter Odili and Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu respectively and ex-Speakers of the Rivers and Abia State Houses of Assembly, among others.

In the said letter (a copy is with Sunday Tribune), Nwankwo, among other things, said that “at the point of my frustration, I have queried and doubted if really my son was (sic) dead because all the promises made to me by our own Foreign Affairs Ministry (verbally) and by the school authority in Rima College, Malaysia (on phone) … all came to vanity”. According to him, the promises were that “first, the police was investigating the murder, secondly, the investigation was ‘soon’ to be concluded (since March 2006), and thirdly, the Nigerian High Commission would send the remains of my dead son back to Nigeria for proper burial”. None of these issues, he lamented, has been concluded decisively. Nwankwo told Sunday Tribune in Port Harcourt that he is not out for revenge or financial compensation over the demise of his son “in the prime of his youth” and not for any court case “as that will not return my gracious peace-loving and harmless son”.

So, what Nwankwo and his wife, regarding themselves as “grieving common Nigerian citizens”, want now from President Umaru Yar’Adua who they said “seems to have a more listening ear than Obasanjo”, is “the return of our son’s remains from Malaysia as a consolation for pouring out his innocent blood on the street of Rima College, Malaysia and this will also enable us give him a burial he so would deserve”. The vital questions on the lips of Nwankwo and concerned Nigerians now, who spoke to Sunday Tribune in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital are: For how long would it take the Malaysian police to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Lawrence Nwankwo at the supposed hands of his colleagues at the Rima College in Malaysia? Why do the Nigerian authorities fall over their heels to unravel the abduction of expatriates, including Malaysians, in Nigeria ’s Niger Delta region, but show a lukewarm attitude towards the dastardly murder of her nationals, Lawrence and others in foreign land?

Again, why do Nigerian authorities seem to love foreigners more than their own nationals? If these were not so, why should the Nigeria High Commissioner in Malaysia and his officials in Kuala Lumpur choose to ignore several phone calls from Mr. Nwankwo inquiring about when his son’s corpse would be returned to him in Nigeria for a “befitting burial?” Would such officials have allowed their children’s corpses to remain for such a long time in Malaysia without burial in Nigeria if they were in Nwankwo’s shoes? Would the Malaysian authorities had condoned this “I-don’t-care” attitude their security agencies in Kuala Lumpur are adopting if their national had been brutally felled down by Nigerian students somewhere in any part of this country? I doubt it!


Tribune’s South South Bureau Chief, JOHN OGBEDU, writes on the travail of Abia-born Dennis Nwankwo, a Port Harcourt businessman, whose son, Lawrence, a student of Rima College in Malaysia, was murdered in Malaysia 18 months ago and whose corpse is yet to be returned to Nigeria for burial since then.

Related post :
Return My Son’s Corpse In Malaysia To Me.



Blogger Neesa Ferreira said...

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April 04, 2009 1:03 AM  

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