Date Published: 11/19/09
Killing of Four by Police: Who’s Lying? By Tony-Anthony John
Controversy has continued to trail the gruesome murder of four persons by the police believed from MOPOL 55 base in Nsulu, allegedly suspected to be armed robbers. But, relatives of the deceased have risen in total condemnation of the killing claiming that they were innocent citizens.
The incident occurred on Monday afternoon, October 19, 2009, at Ntigha junction in Isiala –Ngwa North Local Government Area in Abia State. The four victims were occupants of a Mitsubishi Sporting Utility Vehicle (SUV) with Registration number AJ 501 EZA. Names of the men were Nlewe Azunna (40), a panel beater and a father of five, Innocent Punjab (30), an auto mechanic, Chibueze Ibezim (36) and Eki Imade (police constable) from Edo State. The first three were said to be family members.
In the characteristic manner of the police, especially when they have achieved such a feat, journalists were addressed in Umuahia by the State Police Commissioner, Jonathan Johnson, who was represented by the image maker of the force, Ali Okechukwu, shortly after the lifeless bodies of the victims were conveyed in the said vehicle with the boot open.
The police boss said the suspected armed robbers were driving in the Mitsubishi SUV, sighting his men at the check point at the Ntigha junction by Umuahia / Port Harcourt expressway; they put on the head lamps to scare them away. But when they noticed that did not frighten the police, the deceased opened fire which his men promptly retaliated by gunning down four of them on the spot. He said items recovered from them included AK 47 riffle marked CPS, Umuahia, handsets, some cash, among others.
Quite swiftly, relatives of the controversial armed robbery suspects rose in defense of the murdered men, debunking that they were robbers. The transitional ruler of Amuzukwu, Ibeku, His Royal Highness Eze Onyebuchi Ibezim, addressed journalists at his palace. He said he called for press briefing to tell the world that he knew details of the accused persons, who were innocent citizens.
However, when I narrated the incident to my son of six years old, he asked me two vital questions which I could not answer. He first asked me: “who is lying among them?” And: “How did the police know they were armed robbers?” Some people might have or would ask similar questions. In fact, it should be seen as a serious matter, even as a primary school pupil could ask such questions. These are the crux of the problem.
But, when you attempt to look at the reactionary moves by relatives of the deceased and the entire community, one might conclude very easily. One man, who could be said to be at the centre of the entire calamity, greeted the euphoria of the police success with strong defence, insisting the men were his relatives and called for justice.
The proprietor of a three- star hotel, Benny Arisi, located in the city of Umuahia, Mr. Chimaobi Michael Onuegbu, who said he sent them to Aba with N100,000 to buy motor parts for the repair of the his jeep, had petitioned the Presidency, Inspector- General of Police and the State Governor, Chief Theodore Orji, demanding that the perpetrators be brought to book. He said the police constable was posted to guard his hotel. Also, he seeks the support of human rights activists to ensure justice is achieved, threatening legal redress, if nothing is done. Actually, it is a pathetic concern.
But, some worrisome police preliminary investigations emerged. According to the command, no identity card was identified with any of them. The deceased constable was booked for a might duty at the hotel on Sunday, October 18; that he was supposed to have returned his rifle to the station at the time of incident; that, it was illegal for him to travel with gun while on mufti, contrary to the instruction of the Inspector-General of Police.
The investigation revealed that late Constable Imade was supposed to be on duty at the station, wondering why he chose to go where he was not sent to even as the hotel proprietor denied sending him. In addition, the police claimed there were conflicting statements from the hotelier; that they were sent to buy motor tyres. Also, that they had gone to buy motor spare parts for his jeep, which had accident before.
At this point, may be, it would require the power of wits to make out judgmental analysis of what the police preliminary investigations suggest. If none of them had an identity card, as claimed by the police, how did they find it too easy to identify their late colleague and details of his movement or schedule?
It would also be of germane if the issue of police men in mufti not holding guns is properly spelt out. This will, in no mean way, be good information to members of the public, as I doubt that all plain–clothed policemen go out without guns. Or, is the police authority inferring that anyone in mufti caught with gun, should be branded an armed robber and consequently eliminated?
This is a matter of global concern. But, if we must look into it within our setting, at a point like this, it might be too difficult for someone apprehended at such a circumstance to defend or explain himself. For we know there are usually plain-clothed security personnel who use guns. The police should be too wary as regards that order from the IGP.
As the people entire Ibeku community have risen against the insensitive killing of their children, to me one message is clear. Persons with dubious identities or backgrounds, no matter their affluence in the society, cannot be mourned by their community like the Ibeku four.
Police’s insistence that they were armed robbers cannot help the matter. The community says it wants justice. President Umaru Yar’Adua, IGP Ogbonna Onovo and Governor Orji as well as CP Johnson, should ensure justice is, in deed, achieved.
CP Johnson, on resumption of duty, had promised to take security as his administration’s priority, especially to quash criminality in the God’s Own State.
The controversial killing of the four suspected armed robbers by his men is posing a serious challenge to his office. It should not be seen as a way of attempting to wipe out armed robbers in Abia State. I am making a serious appeal to President Yar’Adua, in particular, as a man that has made landmark achievement on the side of judiciary, to pacify the Ibeku Community only by bringing the culprits to book
All the offices the community had written to on this matter should know that if the affected community is not peace loving, that killing could have stirred terrible consequences between the people and police, which may be, could have resulted to wiping out the entire community, as it is the culture of the security agents in retaliating where a community allegedly kills colleague(s).
Therefore, they should not be taken for granted or the matter treated with kid gloves. So many innocent Nigerians die daily in similar circumstance without anyone coming to ask for justice on their behalf. Even when they ask, they do not get. This is time for the police to build confidence in the people they are supposed to protect and not to kill them.
I must chide the police that displaying a killed armed robbery suspect in stark naked publicly, is too offensive, obscene and a debasement of humanity. There is nothing anyone can again from such obscenity. That was the case of the controversial Ibeku Four.