Widow of Nigerian who died in custody seeks inquest into cause of death

The Bukit Jalil immigration detention centre where Nigerian PhD student Orhions Ewansiha Thomas died last month. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: The widow of a Nigerian student who died at an immigration detention centre in Bukit Jalil last month is seeking an inquest into his death, claiming that her husband was assaulted while in custody.

Blessing Uhunoma Eriamiator, the widow of Orhions Ewansiha Thomas, said she suspected, based on the testimony of witnesses, that her husband was assaulted and refused medication.

Eriamiator, who spoke through her lawyers Rajesh Nagarajan and Sachpreetraj Singh Sohanpal, claimed this had led to Thomas’ death.

Thomas, a PhD student at Limkokwing University, was arrested alongside 19 others during a raid at the Desa Aman Puri Apartment in Kepong, Selangor.

Orhions Ewansiha Thomas.

The immigration department said Thomas, 34, had experienced a seizure prior to his death but denied any foul play. It also said there had been no breach of standard operating procedure.

It said Thomas had been remanded for two weeks to facilitate the process of verifying his documents as well as the details of his college records.

However, Eriamiator claimed Thomas was detained without valid reason, saying her husband was in Malaysia legally and had been so for a decade in order to pursue his studies.

“Based on these reasons above and the statement obtained from our client, we are of the view that Thomas’ detention and death were due to the action and inaction of the Immigration Department which failed to accord him basic rights under the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

“Therefore, the cause of his death needs to be determined by an inquest so that his family can get justice,” her lawyers said in a statement today.