PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A Nigerian student has died in custody after being detained by Malaysian immigration authorities, sparking protests at the Nigerian embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
The Immigration Department in a statement issued Friday (July 12) said Thomas Orhions Ewansiha was arrested because he had tried to flee from its officers during a raid on July 4.
Despite producing a valid student pass, his attempt to escape led to him being detained for 14 days at the Bukit Jalil depot for further investigations and to verify the authenticity of his documents.
Twenty foreigners were arrested at the raid on apartments in Desa Aman Puri in Kuala Lumpur, which were carried out after the department received reports of African nationals who were suspected of not having valid documents.
Local residents had also complained about drug use, prostitution and public intoxication in the area.
The authorities said Ewanshiha died after apparently suffering a seizure while in custody.
"At around 12.05am on July 9, the officers on duty were told by the other detainees that the subject had had a seizure in his sleep," said Immigration Department director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud in the statement. "Immediate aid and medical checks were conducted and the hospital was contacted to assist as well."
Medical personnel from Universiti Kebangsaan Hospital arrived at 12.30am to help him, after which Ewanshiha was then pronounced dead.
The Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Selangor said it was informed of the death of its student Ewansiha on Thursday.
In a statement on Friday, the private university said Ewansiha, 33, was pursuing his PhD in management, and was married with two young children.
"He was an inspired young man. We offer our condolences to his family and many close friends," it said.
Ewansiha's death led to a protest on Thursday by a group of Nigerians outside the Nigerian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, which the protesters claimed had not taken responsibility for the welfare of their countrymen in Malaysia.
According to the authorities, checks were conducted on Ewansiha while he was detained and he was administered treatment for an old injury on his thigh. He did not specify any pre-existing medical illnesses, they said.
The Immigration Department is still waiting for a full medical report on the subject, as well as the exact cause of death, via a post-mortem.
The police said on Friday they will be increasing their presence at the Nigerian High Commission following the protest.
"KL police will monitor the situation and increase security by performing more patrols in the area," said city police chief Mazlan Lazim in a statement. He advised Nigerian nationals in the city to obey local laws and not take matters into their own hands.
"The police will not hesitate to take action in preserving the peace.," he said.