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Police killings: Abia families cry for justice

Families of a couple of young men mowed down by policemen during the lockdown occasioned by Covid-19 in Abia State are asking for justice months after they lost their loved ones in gruesome manner. In the rain forest village of Lohum-Imenyi, Bende Local Government Area of Abia State, South Eastern Nigeria, a sorrowful mother is crying for justice.

The woman, sorrowful widow, is one of those who lost their only sources of hope during that period. Her son’s life was cut short by a trigger happy police inspector in cold blood. The woman, Mrs. Alaoma Chikezie, is disconsolate at the manner police Inspector Stanley Asu shot and killed her son, Mr. Chibuisi Alaoma Okameme, during Covid- 19 lockdown enforcement for no reason. Okameme, a 26-year-old petrol pump attendant who worked at GreenMac Energy Limited, New Umuahia Road, Aba, was said to have been killed by the bullet from Asu’s gun on April 5, 2020, without any provocation. Since the incident, Asu has been arrested, but Mrs. Chikezie said she wants justice for her son.

She said she wants the law and government to ask the police inspector what her son did that made him waste him like an ant. “My son was living with my in-law in Aba who took very good care of him because he’s a good in-law.

They lived in peace until April 5. My late son was a twin, but the other one died of convulsion when they were just three months. “I nurtured him very well. He was a good boy who never looked for any trouble. He was growing up a humble, hardworking boy until the age of 26 when the police decided to kill him for no reason.

What did my son do to that police man? They’ve made me a sorrowful woman,” she said. The agonized widow told our reporter that her life today remains a miracle, as she never believed she will still be alive after the shock she got when she heard that Chibuisi whom she spoke with a few hours earlier on that day was dead. “He was killed on Sunday. He called me before he was killed and asked me why I didn’t go to church that Sunday.

I told him that since the coronavirus started, I’d stopped going to church because I don’t enjoy a situation where people cover all their faces and mouth. “I asked him why he didn’t go, he said they’d supply fuel to them that day and that he was washing his clothes.

He went to the office to check the supply of that fuel and never returned up till today. I never believed I’ll be alive till this day.” Narrating what Chibuisi meant to her and the entire family, Mrs. Chikezie said, “He was very important to me because his elder brother who was driver had an unfortunate accident that kept him blind up till this day.

“He was conveying passengers to somewhere when armed robbers shot at the window of his vehicle which destroyed his sight. Chibuisi was still young, serving his in-law and helping this family.

“He was hardworking and doing well for the family. He was even planning to build a house for me, but police went ahead to waste that boy and kept me in this sorrowful condition I’m today.” Mrs. Chikezie said she is grateful to God for keeping her alive, but reiterated her call on the law and government to give her and her late son justice they deserve as humans and as law abiding citizens. “I thank God I’m still alive. The situation is not over, but I am begging for help for my son. I want justice.

I want the law to ask that police officer to tell the whole world what my son did to warrant him killing my son. “I’ve not set my eyes on that police officer, but I want them to ask him what my 26-year-old son did to him to warrant the gruesome killing in that manner,” she demanded in tears.

Narrating the incident surrounding Mr. Okameme’s death, the Manager of Green- Mac Energy Limited New Umuahia Road,Mr. Ndubuisi Nwabeke said he has not got over the shock of the terrible incident. Nwabeke who said he was present when the gruesome killing took place, said that the death of Okameme was one thing that should never have happened because there was absolutely no reason for it. “It happened on April 5, 2020. It was on a Sunday.

We were doping our usual business when a team of policemen from Ohuru-Isimiri Division in their numbers stopped a vehicle in front of our station. “They were beating a sick man who is the driver of the vehicle, trying to take him to their station. The man in question is a diabetic patient who went to the junction there to buy some fruits to be able to take his drugs. “He was even with the drugs right there before they apprehended him by 1pm in front of our station. If you see the man, you’ll pity him.

They were beating him mercilessly and he was crying that he’s sick, but those policemen were reluctant to let him be. “They were beating the man when Chibuisi went to plead with the policemen because the man in question is one of our customers. I was in the office that day, I would have even gone to plead with them myself, but when I saw Chibuisi pleading with them, I decided to relax.

“I was here in my office watching them from my window. Unfortunately, Inspector Stanley Asu jumped out of the mini bus they came in and pointed the gun directly at Chibuisi and shot him close to the buttocks.

“The bullet went in and came out from the other side and lodged in the parked vehicle there. He fell down in a pool of his own blood,” he said. Nwabeke however said that the police officers even at that point, seeing that a man they shot was lying helplessly in the pool of his own blood tried to escape the scene of the incident until they were stopped by soldiers from nearby checkpoint.

“The police officers tried to run away, but we alerted soldiers at the Junction who came and ordered them to take the dying boy to the hospital. “He was taken to the hospital where he was receiving treatment, but later died within one to two hours of getting to the hospital,” Nwabeke said.

On what they are expecting from the case, the GreenMac Energy Limited Manager said, “We’ve done the autopsy and we’re still watching to see what the law will do. The culprit has been dismissed and he’s still in detention, but justice is what we want.

“I went there myself, I saw him, he’s regretting his actions, but it’s already late. We want justice for Chibuisi. Whatever the law says is what we want. If the law says he should go free then that’s justice, if the law says he should go to jail, we shall accept it as justice. “So, we’re counting on the law to tell us what should be done to him. Whatever is the position of the law is our stand.

Police have been carrying us along since the case started. “The police inspector wrote a letter of apology to us which to is medicine after death. The boy he cut his life so short was the breadwinner of his family. “His father is late, but his mother is just there crying and weeping. She always says she doesn’t know what the future holds for her as her only hope is gone. The boy does virtually everything for her. “If you go to that family now you’ll cry. They were hoping on him for the uplifting of their family. His elder brother is blind.

Things are not in order there.” Coronavirus may have killed many Nigerians, but the manner in which security agencies destroyed lives of innocent citizens in Abia State during the lockdown is shocking to say the least. Just as Chibuisi Okameme’s family and boss are calling for justice, family members of Kingsley Friday Ifeanyi from Ohafia, in Ohafia LGA of Abia are weeping, demanding for same justice following the death of their own son. Ifeanyi, an 18-year-old secondary school student was shot and killed by a bullet from the gun of a police constable Christopher Ugwu on Friday, April 17, 2020, while offloading his master’s goods at Ohafia.

The death of Ifeanyi led to riot and destruction of so many government properties like police station, court premises and many other centres by angry Ohafia youths. His death also led to the transfer of CP Ene Okon who was the state Commissioner of Police during the incident. An uncle to the deceased and head of the family, Mr.Ubani Kalu Ukpai, said he received the news of his nephew’s death with shock, as he was so young and full of life. Ukpai, an Aba based business man said that the late Ifeanyi who was born out of wedlock in their family before his mother later got married has been a son to him, a source of blessing to the family as he was the one taking care of his grandmother prior to his pathetic end.

“I was in Aba during the lockdown. Ifeanyi was working with a businessman that owned a provision store. I was told that they were offloading their goods that evening when three police officers who were probably drunk hit their van with their own car while the van was parked and provision bought from Aba was being offloading into their warehouse.

“The police officers ordered them to bring the van to the police station for hitting the van with their own vehicle. The boys explained to them that they did nothing wrong and that they were on their own doing their business which was not one of the businesses restricted during Covid-19 lockdown because government termed such goods as essential. “So, as I learnt one of the police officers, Christopher Ugwu, went straight to their barracks that’s not far from the spot, brought a gun and started shooting.

That was how Ifeanyi was shot and the bullet went through him and came out. “He fell and they never realised it until they looked round and saw him lying there. He was rushed to Cottage Hospital where it was discovered he had lost much blood. They referred them to FMC Umuahia and on the way, he died. “When his dead body was brought home, the riot that destroyed many things started. I was called that my brother had been shot dead. Being the head of the family, I had to quickly hurry home.” Describing the personality of the late Ifeanyi and what he meant to his people, Ukpai said, “I’m not happy the way they cut that boy’s life very short. He was a hardworking boy who had big dreams and serious ambition. Ifeanyi was just 18 years when was killed. He was still in the secondary school and was going to the provision store to help himself.

“He was never lazy and he had focus. He gave the little money he got to his grandmother to provide things at home. He was the pride of old women in the village which was why the old women were even the first people to go on protest before the youth decided to demonstrate.” Speaking on what the family wants from the case, Ukpai said he does not know what the police are doing about the officer who killed this boy. He added that some time ago, those who claimed to be the family members of Constable Ugwu asked him to come for discussion, but the king of his community insisted they must come to Ohafia and they refused. “The community made it clear to them that we have no issue with them but with police.

I don’t know if the police officer who killed him is free or arrested,” he said. The Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development, (FENRAD), a Non- Governmental Organization (NGO), said it has taken it upon itself to ensure that the Abia Covid-19 lockdown police brutality victims find justice. Speaking to Saturday Telegraph, Head Legal Team of FENRAD, Barr. Olusegun Bamgbose, said that there are available options towards ensuring they get justice.

It will be recalled that in June 2020, FENRAD in a petition to the Abia State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, requested the prosecution of security agents who killed innocent residents during the enforcement of Covid-19 lockdown in several parts of the state. Reiterating the agency’s stand, Bamgbose said, “We have options. Hopefully before the end of this month, we’ll organise a press conference to tell the public that the affected people are yet to get justice or settled.

“After that, if nothing is done, then we’ll take the drastic step of contacting the United Nations (UN). A situation where these kinds of things should be happening and nobody is talking is unacceotable. We’ll petition UN to let them know that Nigeria is no longer safe for Nigerians,” he said.

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