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Nigerians in Cape Town threaten court action over colleague's death

By The Citizen
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Nigerians in Cape Town, Saturday, threatened to sue the South African Government over the January 6 alleged killing of their colleague, Mr. Obinna Ugboaja, by some men of the South African Police Service.

President of the Nigerian Union Western Cape (NUWC), Azu Oparaugo, who spoke to The Guardian from his Cape Town base, said the Union had reported the issue to the two Nigerian Mission in Johannesburg and Pretoria but would proceed with legal action to drive home its position on the matter.

' We were told that they are taking necessary action towards the issue and we are still waiting for some progress from their quarters,' he said in a telephone conversation.

The late Ugboaja, a 32-year old Nigerian migrant and employee of the Cape Town-based First Coast Technologies, allegedly died in the custody of the South African Police Service, which arrested him on January 6, over allegation of drug trafficking.

But Oparaugo said the late Ugboaja was first declared missing by friends but were told by the Cape Town Central Police that he had died early that morning and was deposited in the state mortuary.

The Police, according to him, alleged that they saw Ugboaja that night dealing on drugs.

'They claimed to have chased and arrested him. They also alleged that he swallowed packet of drugs he had with him in the process.

'According to the Police, they apprehended him and put him inside their van but on reaching to their station, Obinna, they claimed, collapsed. The paramedics arrived and confirmed him dead on the spot.'

Oparaugo, who quoted 'some witnesses' as saying they 'saw some members of the South African Police Service beating up Obinna at a cross road in the early hours of that day,' said the witnesses 'the Police were busy choking Obinna,' an action he considered to have led to his death.

He, therefore, demanded ' comprehensive' justice, disclosing that the Union has set up a legal team to monitor police investigation of the matter and would head for the courts irrespective of the outcome of the investigation being conducted by the Independent Police Investigation Directorate (IPID).

The Union had, on Friday, January 18, carried out a protest march against the death of their colleague, after which the Nigerian High Commission reportedly promised the Union that it would take its complaints to the External Affairs Ministry and other relevant agencies of Federal Government.

Although indications are rife that the late Ubgoaja's case has received serious mention in official quarters in Nigeria, Oparaugo yesterday stressed that the Union, 'at the moment is only focusing on its plan for legal action.'

'My business is what we are going to do as Nigerians, not what they are doing at the government-to-government level.'

He emphasised that the South African Police, through the IPID, is currently conducting a criminal investigation into the allegation of police involvement in the matter.

According to him, whatever becomes the outcome of the investigation (whether, or not, there is police involvement as claimed by the Union), Nigerians in Cape Town would be going ahead with a legal action against the South African Police.

Oparaugo argued, 'There is physical evidence of beating on Ugboaja. The fact of the matter is that the boy died in their custody. We will sue the Minister of Police,' he threatened.

They, however, will not take the action until the parliament, through which the Union signed a 'Memorandum' with the South African Government on the day of the protest march, return from recess this week.

The 'Memorandum,' titled 'Solemn Call For Justice,' which was signed by Member of Parliament, Professor Ben Turok, noted that the Union did not support any form of criminality on the part of any Nigerian national living in South Africa, but stressed, 'it is unacceptable that innocent and law-abiding Nigerians should suffer the consequences of such acts.'

Nigerians in Cape Town say they are worried over the delay in concluding the police investigation on Ugboaja's alleged killing. (Guardian)