Immigration officials doubt claim made by many Nigerian refugees
The man found dead in a Dartmouth ball hockey court on the weekend was one of at least 10 Nigerians in recent years to claim he escaped a cannibalistic cult, only to have his refugee claim turned down by skeptical immigration officials.
Brown Nosakhare, 28, had told federal immigration officials he fled the Ogboni cult in Nigeria in 1999 because it wanted him to eat his dead father’s ashes.
“There have been many, many, many cases that have come up with similar issues being raised,” said Kingsley Jesuorobo, Mr. Nosakhare’s Toronto lawyer.
In fact, Mr. Jesuorobo said, he has a client now who says he escaped to Canada to avoid persecution at the hands of the Ogboni cult.
Mr. Jesuorobo said he does not know if the claimants’ stories are true.
“Of course, that’s a difficult question. I represent them, I defend them.”
He said he cannot validate their claims but gives credence to them because there are so many men coming to Canada with the same story.
“The question needs to be posed: Why are there so many repeating the same thing if it’s not true?” Mr. Jesuorobo said.
“This has been going on for years, for decades.”
He said he has cases dating back to the early 1990s in which men claimed to be persecuted by the cult in Nigeria.
The secretive cult “strikes fear in the hearts of Nigerians,” a fear he said he saw in Mr. Nosakhare.
Some of the refugee claims were successful in past years but they have increasingly been dismissed in recent years, Mr. Jesuorobo said.
Mr. Nosakhare’s was one of four recent cases turned down by the Citizenship and Immigration Canada refugee board.
While the board accepted Mr. Nosakhare’s version of events that the cult wanted him to remove parts of his father’s body, it said he was the victim of a criminal act and did not qualify for refugee status.
The board didn’t believe the other men.
It turned down six other claimants dating back to 1992. All but one were men.
They all alleged persecution and fear of death at the hands of the Ogboni for refusing to take part in cannibalistic acts.
“There are no reports linking the Ogboni with acts of cannibalism,” the board ruled in one case. “The claimant was not reliable.”
In another, it said claims of torture and human sacrifice were “a fabrication.”
Mr. Nosakhare had told authorities he was the first-born son of a high-ranking cult member.
He said his father broke the cult’s code of silence by telling him some of its inner workings in a bid to get him to join the cult and succeed him after he died.
Mr. Nosakhare said he converted to Christianity and wanted no part of the cult.
But he said his father wanted to sway him into membership and told of weekly ceremonies involving human blood.
He allegedly told his son that initiation would require him to point to a diagram of a human body and eat the part he touched.
The organ would be removed and burned to ash, then mixed with a liquid and poured in a statue from which all cult members would drink.
Mr. Nosakhare told federal officials he fled his home in Benin City with his mother after his father died in 1999. He hid in a town called Worri for two weeks until cult members caught up with him.
He said they beat him and took him to another town where he was locked up without food for a week in the cult chief’s house.
He said cult members threatened to kill him if he didn’t take his father’s place. Mr. Nosakhare testified he finally agreed, but it was a ruse to escape. He allegedly fled to Canada on a Portuguese passport.
In the three other cases recently before the refugee board, the Nigerian men were in their 20s, claiming to be the eldest sons of Ogboni members. They all claimed to be escaping initiation and persecution.
The board did not believe the applicants, saying in one case that the Ogboni fraternity is not violent and is more like a lodge, “such as the Masons, than a cult.”
Mr. Nosakhare’s claim was also denied. He sought leave to appeal that decision, but a spokeswoman for the Federal Court of Canada said he was denied the review on Aug. 20, 2002.
Mr. Jesuorobo said Mr. Nosakhare wanted to make a fresh start in the Halifax area after his case garnered international attention.
“He told me he was physically scared to remain in Toronto. He was exhausted” after his story “gained a momentum of its own.”
At the time of Mr. Nosakhare’s hearing in 2001, a Nigerian baker claimed he was a fraud.
Mr. Jesuorobo said that was a huge misunderstanding caused by a Reuters reporter who went to Mr. Nosakhare’s hometown in search of his family but interviewed the wrong people.
The baker, Nosakhare Eghobamien, was reported to be Mr. Nosakhare’s dead father.
Mr. Eghobamien, very much alive, said he did not belong to the cult and did not know Brown Nosakhare, though his breads were called Plymouth Brown.
Mr. Jesuorobo said Mr. Nosakhare did not claim to be the baker’s son.
“Quite naturally (Mr. Eghobamien) refuted the claim because (Mr. Nosakhare) never claimed him as his father.”
Mr. Jesuorobo said news of his client’s death was “very, very heart-rending.”
Halifax Regional Police say they have no reason to suspect foul play but are carrying out a battery of tests, including toxicology tests, to determine the cause of death.