Widow of Nigerian PhD student accuses Malaysian authorities of autopsy without consent

Ida Lim
The in memoriam message tweeted by Limkokwing University of Creative Technology. — Picture via Twitter/LimKokWing_MY

KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 — A Malaysian post-mortem examination on Nigerian Thomas Orhions Ewansiha, a former PhD student at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Cyberjaya, Selangor who died while in immigration custody was performed without his family’s consent, his widow claimed.

The woman identified only by one name, Blessing, was also reported by Nigerian newspaper PUNCH to have claimed that Thomas was a victim of “murder”, though there were no actual quotes to support her remarks.

“Both sides of his neck were cut down to his chest and lower abdomen. They tore the upper and lower parts of his body without our consent.

“No Nigerian, no family member was there. They don’t have any right to do that. It is suspicious and that is why we want to perform a fresh autopsy on him,” she was quoted as saying.

Blessing alleged that the Immigration Department’s account of events showed “a concerted effort to conceal what really transpired and a grand effort to hide their role in the proximate cause of his death.”

Similar excerpts of her statement on the events that led to the detention of Thomas, 33, by Malaysian immigration authorities, including his arrest during a July 4 raid of the Desa Aman Puri area in Kuala Lumpur was carried by news site AllAfrica.

According to the news reports, Blessing had in a statement said her husband had recently visited Nigeria and wanted to share his experiences there and deliver some messages from loved ones to his fellow citizens also living in Malaysia.

“On arrival at the destination, he called his friend who stayed in one of the apartments to meet him at a particular restaurant as he wanted to have his dinner since he came from afar.

“While waiting for his meal, immigration officers in a commando-style operation swooped in on him in what was later discovered to be a raid on the neighbourhood of black immigrants,” she was quoted as saying.

She claimed the immigration officers came in private vehicles and that there was nothing to identify them as immigration officers as they were not in uniform.

“They rushed out of their various vehicles, holding sticks and they were chasing Nigerians.

“My husband’s car was parked close by, so he was about rushing into his car and that was when they held him and handcuffed him alongside other victims,” she was quoted as saying by PUNCH.

She said her husband was shocked but remained calm, as he knew he had all his necessary documents and permits.

“Within the commotion that took place, Ori Baba (Thomas Orhionsefe Ewansiha) was beaten, manhandled and handcuffed. He was forced to sit on the floor while the immigration officers raided other apartments, finally arresting over 20 black immigrants,” she was quoted saying.

She said Thomas had tried in vain to explain to the immigration officers that he had valid papers with him with no blemish on his record.

She said he had explained that he came to Malaysia to study, and had obtained his degree from Twintech International University College of Technology, a master’s from Limkokwing University where he was then pursuing his PhD studies.

“Even with a valid visa on him, they took him away and locked him up and the immigration office didn’t inform the school until he died in their custody,” she was quoted as saying.

Following his death in custody, the Immigration Department of Malaysia released a two-page statement to explain the situation surrounding his arrest, detention and death.

The Immigration Department had on July 12 said Thomas was detained after he attempted to flee during the raid, adding that he was detained for 14 days for further checks.

This was despite initial checks of Thomas’ papers showing he had a valid student pass, as the Immigration Department said his actions in fleeing raised doubts on the authenticity of his student pass

The Immigration Department said Thomas had not declared any illnesses at the start of his detention and was treated well throughout his detention at the Bukit Jalil immigration depot from June 5.

The authority said other detainees had around midnight on July 9 alerted the officer on duty of Thomas suffering a seizure while asleep, adding that immediate medical attention was given and an ambulance that arrived at 12.30am had also provided further assistance before he was verified as dead.

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