Civilisation certainly remains in quirky progress in Nigeria. This reality is again dramatised recently with the shocking discovery of about 30 male corpses floating on Ezu River in the border between Enugu and Anambra states of south-eastern Nigeria. The Nigeria Police, with its customary pretensions of efficiency, has moved in and quickly scaled down the figure of the gory find to "only 18".
The fact that there is no information on the identity of the corpses - and on how they came to be dumped in the river - adds to the dismaying situation. That it is occurring at this time of the current security challenges facing the country should galvanise the authorities to move quickly to solve the riddle, because it has increased the general apprehension over the rising cases of ritual killings and kidnapping, particularly in the eastern part of the country.
As it were, the puzzling discovery of these decomposing corpses by fishermen in the part of the river at Amansea, in Awka North local government area of Anambra State last week and the apparently unscientific manner adopted in an effort to unravel the mystery qualify for a script from Nollywood.
It is a compelling, tragic human story that needs a decisive forensic investigative reaction. Responsible agencies of government must clear cobwebs and explain to concerned Nigerians what really transpired. A distraught Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State put off a planned foreign trip and, in something of a knee-jerk reaction, has offered a princely N5million to any person who could conjure clues to help remove the development from the realms of mystery.
Obi described the dumping of the corpses as unacceptable, and vowed to ensure that no stone would be left unturned in effort to unravel the mystery.
The killing and dumping of the dead bodies in question in Ezu River is a despicable act that shrinks our humanity. It must not be allowed to go unresolved, like so many other "mysteries" in our recent national life.
This crime, if indeed they were victims of murder, poses serious challenge not only to the people and governments of the two states but to the Nigeria police and other security agencies to determine how the victims met their deaths. Was it by drowning, through gunshots or strangulation, or poisoning? Or, perhaps, they may be victims of ritual killing, a rampant practice in these parts, or of communal clash, given that the area falls within the Aguleri-Umuleri region, flashpoint for age-long bitter conflict.
Reported preliminary investigations have not established that the dead bodies belonged to alien beings on a misadventure to earth. Who killed 18 male Nigerians (if they were Nigerians) and disposed of them in Ezu River which provides water to populations of contiguous communities in that locale?
As the age of recourse to native doctors for solutions are far gone, under appropriate forensic inquiry, dead bodies tell tales about how they were killed. We wonder whey these bodies have not told the police just how they met their gory end and when. What are the challenges hobbling the police from speedy execution of basic investigation of the case?
A comparable incident happened in 2001 when a headless body was found in London’s River Thames - the Boy Adam case - when the British police went into over-drive and solved the damning mystery. Deploying the most advanced investigative science available, the Boy Adam, incidentally a young Nigerian boy involved in ritual killing, was unravelled by the police.
The effort to backtrack and unearth the story behind the grisly headless and legless torso floating in the Thames is certainly far more arduous than solving the Evu River case where at least 18 bodies are involved.
Just as the recent unscheduled visit by President Goodluck Jonathan to a police college in Lagos is provoking a welcome storm and focus on the condition of police training institutions in the country, the Ezu River’s floating corpses should provoke an appropriate reappraisal of the capacity, motivation, equipment and funding of the Nigeria Police to deliver on its critical mandate to secure society.