"Your Excellency, could you please tell us what you think your responsibilities as representatives of our country are here in Manila? What do you think are the reasons for having a Nigerian embassy in the Philippines? Three of our people have been murdered in cold blood in less than six months with the embassy doing absolutely nothing! How many more Nigerians must be killed before you sit up and ask questions?"
John Igbokwe
Friday, November 16, 1995
To Charge d' Affaires a. i. Mr. Samuel Ajewole
during a meeting on the murder of Nigerian citizens;
inside the Chancery of the Embassy of Nigeria, Manila, Philippines

Book Excerpts

Before the five assassinations described in subsequent paragraphs happened, a Nigerian had gone missing in 1991. Mr. Femi Oladipupo was a Mechanical Engineering graduate student at the De La Salle University in Manila. His junior brother Tosin studied medicine at one of the local medical schools. The two Manila residents were sons of the former Head of Chancery of the Embassy of Nigeria. One fateful day, Dr. Akin Famoyegun, a very close family friend had received a frantic call from Tosin that his brother had not come home. Femi's body would later be recovered in Cavite, a city a few short kilometers from Manila. He had been murdered. Unverified reports claimed that Femi had been a businessman while he completed his graduate studies. His murder was never solved. That justice was not pursued in the murder of the son of a former Nigerian envoy would foretell the embassy's treatment of future crimes against the Nigerian community in the Philippines.

Two other Nigerians were slaughtered in late May 1995 in the resort City of Baguio in what local police claimed was a drug buy-bust shoot-out. One of the victims named Prince, from Imo State was perceived in the community as a petty hustler of many parts. While there were community members who suspected Prince of peddling marijuana, many others could not exactly place a finger on what he did for a living. He was often fast and all over the place, almost a restless busy body. The other victim, Morgan hailed from Port Harcourt in the Rivers State. About two weeks earlier, Morgan had attended my birthday party at my house with other friends. The story was that he had been requested by Prince to accompany him on a trip to the resort city. With available time to kill, Morgan had accepted the opportunity to leave Manila for a brief period of time. Whoever Prince had gone to meet in Baguio turned out to not be friends at all. Both young men were executed in cold blood in their hotel room. They were sitting ducks. There had been no shoot-out as the police had claimed. Newspaper accounts of the executions claimed that both men were members of a Nigerian drug ring operating out of the capital city of Manila and headed by another Nigerian named in the news accounts. This third Nigerian was later cleared by the authorities of any involvement in that alleged drug trafficking.

It was not only the Nigerian community that doubted newspaper accounts of police claims of a shoot-out. A Baguio City Councilor issued a statement denouncing the police and the incident as summary executions. The councilor demanded an exhaustive City Council probe of the twin assassinations as the only way of determining the truth about what had happened in that hotel room. The City of Baguio had a sister city relationship with the City of Jos in the Plateau State of Nigeria. This councilor publicly worried that in-exhaustive council probe of the police rubout leading to a denial of justice would damage Baguio city's relations with Jos and Nigeria. The Embassy of Nigeria failed to pick up the cue from this brave councilor. It did nothing to reassure the community that the fate of the two victims would not become the lot of the rest of the members of the community.

With the apathy of the Mission towards the killings, a group of Nigerians met at the house of Arch. Emmanuel Obiegbu. According to Arch. Benjamin Okafor who attended this meeting, the group had decided to later attend at the embassy to meet with the officials on the matter. Later, Dr. Akin Famoyegun who was not at the meeting held at the Obiegbu residence got wind of the upcoming embassy meeting and tipped the officials off. The concerned community members were preempted when Mr. Ajewole called the first of what would become its meetings with "eminent" Nigerians in the community. This preemptive conference, which was attended by the five officers of the Mission, had from the community Arch. Benjie Okafor, Dr. Dennis Ezekwe, Dr. Hamilton Agbi, Dr. Pius Odigie, Dr. Akin Famoyegun and Arch. Emmanuel Obiegbu, among others. Out of this meeting rose the claim of Dr. Akin Famoyegun that his students at the Philippine National Police Academy were involved in the Baguio killings. Dr. Famoyegun had also told this meeting that the same students had warned that more Nigerians would be killed. When Ajewole took turn to address this meeting, he cautioned them to warn community members not to engage in drug pushing or other criminal activities. As he spoke, Arch. Benjie Okafor got offended that Mr. Ajewole was blaming the victims for their fate; and in a forerunner to the confrontation that would come after Akenzua's murder, told Ajewole forcefully that his embassy was not doing anything to assure Nigerians their embassy cared about their safety. Arch. Okafor also informed this meeting there was unconfirmed allegation of a boast by the landlord of Morgan, one of the victims that he had a hand in the murders and there was nothing the Embassy of Nigeria could do about it. Okafor was hoping to push the embassy to follow all the emerging leads to the end of solving the murders. Furious at his audacity, Mr. Ajewole thundered at Benjie, "I don't like what I'm hearing". The meeting ended without any memorable agreement on the next steps.

But community pressure kept building up. And as it mounted, Messrs. Rotimi and Ajewole belatedly sent in a weak note verbale of dishonest interest in the murders. With the embassy disinterested in the murders, the brother of Morgan travelled from Saipan to Manila to follow-up on the murder of his relative. At his arrival, he consulted with the embassy and requested Mr. Rotimi to support his plan to seek justice for his brother. Mr. Rotimi balked, telling the grieving sibling that the Philippines was too dangerous a place in which to seek justice. Without official support for a citizen's cry for justice, the bereaved brother, unfamiliar with Manila quickly returned to Saipan. The murders and the councilor's interest in them quietly cooled and were soon forgotten. The two victims were later buried in unmarked graves in Baguio City. A gross miscarriage of justice had been perpetrated against the Nigerian community and the two murder victims in particular. With two publicized executions of Nigerians unquestioned by their country's official representatives to the Philippines, the danger for every Nigerian resident exponentially increased.

A little over five months after the Baguio City killings, on November 14, 1995 another Nigerian fell in broad daylight before the dazed witness of many motorists on a major Metro Manila boulevard. Mr. Lewis Akenzua's Kia Pride sedan had apparently been deliberately brushed by a hired gun with a group in a Ford Cortina, with license plate number NAK 700. In the ensuing exchange following the stage-managed traffic incident, the gunman casually stepped out of his vehicle and shot him, point blank range, in Mob-execution style. Lewis suffered four fatal gunshot wounds to his right chest, stomach, leg and foot, according to the Sun newspaper. A native of ancient Benin City in the Old Bendel State, Akenzua had married his Filipino sweetheart, Lolita Pascual just two weeks before his slaying. Ambitious, out-going and hard-driven, this member of the hustler side of the community had arrived from HongKong many months earlier and found a job as a salesman at a major car dealership in Manila. Accounts in the broadsheets of the following day stated that Lewis had been killed in a traffic altercation. These reports soon faded as more details emerged that soured business relationship had triggered the brutish mafia-like assassination. The murder was quickly solved the next day with the arrest of the triggerman. This murder like other similar crimes was a violation of Lewis' fundamental human rights and Philippine laws. It was a criminal case against the Philippine Republic. The Nigerian community expected the embassy to lead the show of interest in the case as representative of the victim's country.

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