By Levinus Nwabughiogu, Abuja
The family of slain Vanguard Newspapers reporter, Tordue Salem, has said it could not confirm if the corpse seen at the Wuse General Hospital morgue was that of their son.
Salem, who went missing exactly one month ago, was covering the activities of the House of Representatives for Vanguard Newspapers.
Police, however, said they found his body in Wuse General Hospital morgue in Abuja after 30 days of his disappearance.
The police authorities, at a press conference on Friday in Abuja, said that family members had identified Salem’s body.
The Force Public Relations Officer, FPRO, CP Frank Mba, said the late journalist was killed by a hit-and-run driver on the night of October 13, 2021,the day Salem went missing.
But, speaking to Sunday Vanguard, yesterday, Mrs Elizabeth Kuraun, sister of the deceased, and her husband, Dr. Jeffrey Kuraun, said that they were yet to be formally briefed on the details of the police investigation.
Mrs Kuraun said he didn’t believe the narrative by Mba on the circumstances that led to the death of her younger brother.
Her words: “Tordue has a daughter that is five years old. She’s crying and praying for daddy’s spirit to please rise up. I don’t believe one single thing that the police said because Frank Mba contradicted himself with this news they brought. The day that NUJ protested at the police headquarters, he came out and said they were investigating. A journalist died and the pictures were seen at a scene where the person was wearing a vest and they picked the person with his ID cards, 5 ID cards including two ATM cards.
“His name was written on those ID cards and Nigerians were crying in the print media, the social media, television stations that they should help find this missing person. His name was written in newspapers, on national television and on blogs everyday but somebody, somewhere carried his ID cards bearing Vanguard Reporter. The news that was on the air said ‘Vanguard journalist, covers National Assembly”’. Whoever picked him saw his NUJ ID card, saw his National Assembly ID card and, in 28 days, the person did not come out with this thing? I don’t believe that story they told yesterday.
“Even the man they said is a hit-and-run commercial driver couldn’t even remember the day he hit the person and ran away. He first said 13th of August and then changed his mouth to 13th of October. It doesn’t add up. No matter how Tordue was hit, they should show us his clothes and shoes. They should show us what he was wearing that day. Not verbally going tot national television. And up till now that I am talking to you, they announced it on Thursday, we saw it in the papers that he was dead, they didn’t even contact us. People were sending it. The police did not have the decency to inform the family that wrote to them? DSS didn’t even do anything to trace Tordue.
“Another confusing thing is that IRT at a time told us they tracked his phone to Makurdi in a particular place. This was IRT telling us this, that they even picked someone that called him. Were they lying to us all this while? If somebody hit him and ran and his phone was in Abuja, why did it take them so much time to collect the call log? They told us that Tordue’s phone was in Markudi. Were they lying then? Or they didn’t track? And the same phone fell on somebody’s car? Which one should we believe? The one that got stuck somewhere or the one they said was tracked to Markudi? That was what they told us verbally. So, it’s confusing to me.”
Also speaking, Elizabeth’s husband, who said he was led to the hospital morgue, stated that he couldn’t confirm the identity of the body he saw.
“Of course, it’s a body. The person was in a bad shape, not looking clean but the body didn’t look like somebody who died a very long time, like 4 weeks ago because, though I am not a pathologist or the doctors tht recognize dead bodies. I didn’t do all those tests but in my own opinion, I think that that person I saw didn’t die 4 weeks ago. And I couldn’t confirm 100% that that is Tordue”, Jeffrey Kuraun said.
“The reason is, there was this chemical that was very choky, spread around him or on his body. When we entered, I saw a body by the left, another one by the right and his body was the one that was farther inside. So, I went straight to the body. Apart from the mask, you will still have to close your eyes because it was very painful, choky. So we used torch light on another phone because the place wasn’t even properly illuminated before we could even look at the body. Because he’s been treated or in the morgue, there was no clothing on the body, just around the waist. But that body didn’t look like somebody that died since. How do I mean? Somebody that died up to four weeks ago, you will see some changes. The body will not be the same. Besides, this person was clean-shaved.
“If you die four weeks ago, your nails and hair will still be growing from what I have heard. But this one looks recently shaved. So, if that was Tordue and Tordue has been missing for four weeks, then, the hair would have grown more than the way it was neatly carved and he was faced up with the chin looking high up. I know that frame could be Tordue but the legs were completely broken…so, the length of his body was short. Another thing that was shocking was that the body looked burnt because the outermost skin peeled off. As if fire-burnt or hot water was poured on him. I don’t know of bodies if their skin turns out to be like that.
“As I am talking to you, I can’t say that is 100% Tordue until, maybe we retrieve the body and I look at it properly where my eyes will not be choky because of that chemical. That’s when I can actually confirm that this is 100% Tordue. But what I saw yesterday, I cannot say that I am 100 % sure.”
Jeffrey said the family was worried that someone deposited the body without trying to contact the police or the family members.
He added that the attendants confirmed to him that they saw identity cards on the body.
“We are also disturbed that somebody deposited the body without the family’s consent. I actually looked at the register. The tag on the body showed it’s was 13th of October. It is written with pen. The register shows 13th but they wrote his name as unknown. In fact, on the entire page, every other person has been identified. It is only his own that has not been identified. They wrote male, adult, unknown; even there was a place for tribe. I saw that his own was left vacant. But there was a name of the person that deposited it. He had a name written there and then the time of the deposition wasn’t there and not anywhere in that sheet. I don’t know if that is important but I was thinking that something like time should be written. What time he was deposited but the name is there. The person even signed off. You can imagine. And those that received the body too. There was a Mohammed and I can’t remember the other one. But there were two people there. They probably work there.
“Now, the question we asked was that if they deposited this body on the 13th, did you find out from them who this person could be? They said they tried the person’s number, the person wasn’t picking. Tried for four weeks, the person wasn’t picking? Now, if the person wasn’t picking, common sense should tell you that you found ID cards on this man, number one: if you have an identity, why are you writing unknown? If you don’t have, that’s when you write unknown.
But you have his ID, why didn’t you report to the police because the police even share a fence with that hospital? Why didn’t you try to contact people even if you don’t want to go to the police? Why would you keep a body? Who’s paying for that? Who’s treating the body? I think it is not for free to put a body in the mourge. And then, there had been this public outcry.
Everybody is talking about a missing person. Common sense should also tell you that if you have an unknown body and everywhere in Nigeria, they are talking about a missing person, can’t you just report that even to your hospital management? You should go and say ‘I have these ID cards. We are unable to get the person that brought this body on the phones. They were the things I just couldn’t put together. They said they saw the ID cards on the body. That’s why I just said if you had it, why didn’t put it down. But you know I can’t be questioning them. I am not an investigator. I am not a police man.
“But what is important is that the family is yet to officially receive the report. Officially I said because, informally, yes; on Thursday, I visited the IRT and they told me there was going to be a press conference the next day and they will officially inform us of what transpired. But yesterday, I didn’t attend the press conference because I didn’t see the relevance of me or any of our family members to attend. What was more important for us was to see the body if he’s truly dead. So, we went to the hospital while the press conference was going on. After that, we didn’t go back to the station. We came back home, trying to lament, put things together and ask questions that if they found ID cards on the body, why did they put unknown? Was that truly Tordue? We were asking all these questions.
“We spent the whole day trying to figure out this and I was hoping that I will get a call from somebody to say ‘okay, can you come around?’ We have done the press conference. This is the procedure. This is what you need to do. This is what transpired and this is how you can get the body for burial. If it is not written, then somebody should verbally explain to us the sort of investigation that was done even though I used be in touch with them to support the investigation with any sort of information I have; we still need to have a formal report from the police, saying that this is what transpired. And as I am speaking with you now, that hasn’t happened. So, we are still waiting.
“As a matter of fact, if I don’t hear from them till midday, I will be compelled to go and meet and ask where do we go from here now that the press conference has taken place, your investigation showed it was Tordue and a hit-and-run, what should we do as a family to get the body?’ So, this is what we need but we don’t have that information”.