Nigerian embassy seeks death in custody probe

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2012, 12:00am


A day after angry Africans took to the streets of Guangzhou demanding the authorities release the body of a Nigerian man who died in police custody, the Nigerian embassy in Beijing has called for a thorough investigation.

'We will get to the root of the matter. We are sharing the grief and we call for moderation,' embassy spokesman Ademola Oladele said yesterday.

Citing a witness at the scene, Oladele said 28-year-old Celestine Elebechi was 'attacked in a mob action' on Monday after a fight with a local electric bicycle taxi driver over the fare he was being charged.

'The police came and he was in coma. It is important for us to find out whether he was conscious at the time of arrest,' he said. 'If so, he should be rushed to the hospital immediately for treatment instead. Nobody is happy to see a productive young man is dead ... it calls for questions if even a local national died in police custody, not to mention a foreigner.'

The Nigerian embassy sent two consular officers to Guangzhou yesterday to urge restraint from fellow countrymen while assisting with official investigations.

Traffic was brought to a standstill in Guangzhou's Yuexiu district on Tuesday afternoon after hundreds of angry Africans protested over Elebechi's death outside the Kuangquan police station. The demonstration was dispersed shortly after 5pm.

Guangzhou police on Tuesday said a foreigner and the bicycle taxi driver had been taken to the police station for further investigation at around 1pm on Monday after fighting over the fare. 'At about 5pm, the foreigner suddenly lost consciousness,' they said, adding that ambulance men were sent in, but the foreigner died soon afterwards.

About a dozen Africans could be seen outside the police station yesterday, but they soon left the scene, which was guarded by police in about 20 vehicles.

A local journalist said a Nigerian man who had identified himself as 'Mwankwo' had said he received a call from Elebechi on Monday afternoon asking for help because he was beaten by police after failing to present his passport. Mwankwo told the journalist that the phone call was soon interrupted and Elebechi could not be contacted again.