BROOKLYN (CN) – Farmers in the Nigerian town of Nkerehi say a pain management doctor in Nevada led a “posse of armed thugs” on a religious “crusade” to kill, torture and terrorize residents and desecrate indigenous shrines. In their federal complaint, dozens of residents say Dr. Godwin Onyeagba Maduka decided that tolerance of many religions made the town “backward and cursed,” and it “must therefore be re-made in his own dictated image.”
Nkerehi has a majority Christian population with a roughly equal mix of Catholic and Protestant faiths, but the Town Union is tolerant of traditional African religions practiced by the indigenous population, according to the complaint.
In early 2007, the plaintiffs say, Maduka seized communal land belonging to poor farmers and traditional deities, without compensation, to set up a Catholic monastery, which embarked on a mission to “sanctify” the town by “desecrating historical hallowed objects of traditional worship.”
According to the complaint, the doctor declared Nkerehi an inappropriate name because of its traditional roots and rechristened it “Umuchukwu,” or “Children of God.”
Maduka’s “ham-handed dictatorial style did not go down well with the vast majority of the people of Nkerehi, who unanimously rose up to resist his ‘crusade,'” the complaint states.
So in March 2007, Maduka “personally led a posse of thugs armed with dangerous weapons to attack those in Nkerehi … that refused to submit to his dictates and several individuals were indiscriminately battered and tortured,” the residents say.
The doctor allegedly enlisted his “Umuchukwu Vigilantes” through bribery and co-opted “the notoriously corrupt” Nigerian law enforcement to prevent their crimes from being prosecuted.
On Aug. 9, 2009, the plaintiffs say, Maduka threw a party for the vigilantes to announce his “final resolution” to the “Nkerehi issue” – exiling and eliminating all opposition.
At the end of the month, the vigilantes allegedly shot and killed two young men, tortured more than 20 and had the homes of more than 90 residents looted, burned and vandalized.
A day later, they arrested three elderly women and handed them over to the Nigerian police who detained without charges for five weeks, according to the complaint.
The dozens of plaintiffs accuse the doctor of summary execution, property destruction, torture and civil rights violations. They seek punitive damages and an injunction. They are represented by Okechukwu Valentine Nnebe.