From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
It’s Christmas Day. And in many parts of the world, the shouts of Merry Christmas will rend the air from street to street, from house to house.
But for the parents and other family members of the late Chibuike Okafor, there is nothing merry about this Christmas. No joy pervades their faces; no cheer rings in their hearts. Reason? The 21-year-old man was allegedly gunned down by some policemen in Aba, Abia State in July this year. And up till now, justice had yet to be served by the appropriate authorities.
The incident happened on July 17. In the morning of that day, while preparing to go to where he worked, Chibuike had promised his mother, Ebere Okafor, 66, that he would bring certain items for her while returning from work that evening. But little did both mother and son know it was the last conversation they would ever have.
Okafor, from Arondizuogu in Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo State and who lived with the parents in Aba, Abia State, had earlier in the year, taken JAMB as he had planned to study Electrical Engineering in the university.
While waiting to take the Post UTME, Okafor decided to have a practical knowledge of the course he had chosen to study in the university by registering as an apprentice electrician in a company in the commercial city of Aba.
Journey of no return
On that day, after he had closed from work, Chibuike went with two of his friends, Chinaemerem Orji, and another, to see another friend of theirs. That turned out to be a journey of no return, sadly.
How did it happen? Chibuike’s father, Mazi Emeka Okafor, 70, explained: “I was in my house when a relation called me on phone to ask me whether I had heard what happened, I said no. He informed me that my son had been killed by the police. I became literally mad; my son that I was together with in the morning had died? It was quite difficult for me to believe. But when I got to the scene, I found out it was true, the corpse had been brought out from the gutter where his killers dumped it.”
The elderly man said his son was reportedly returning home about 9pm on July 17, with two of his friends after visiting another of their friends at Azikiwe Road by East, when all of a sudden, two mini buses pulled up abruptly beside them. Some men dressed in mufti allegedly jumped down from the two mini buses and the three young men, out of fear that the occupants of the vehicles might be kidnappers, took to their heels. It turned out that the men in the mini buses were policemen from Azuka Police Division who went to work outside their area of coverage.
The reporter gathered from an eyewitness: “One of his friends ran away by crossing to the other lane of the dual road, while the other one was arrested instantly. Then, Chibuike was being pursued by one of the policemen who later came back to the bus, gesticulating to his colleagues, and pointing to the direction through which he pursued Chibuike Okafor.”
Then, in the morning of July 18, Orji, one of the friends of Chibuike who was with him before he was arrested the previous night, was released by the police at Azuka Police Station, Ogbor Hill Aba, after one of the policemen escorted him to a POS where he collected some money which he allegedly gave the police for his freedom.
It was gathered that after his release, he called Chibuike’s cell phone number several times, but the number was switched off.
Chibuike found dead
To the bewilderment of Orji, Chibuike’s friend, when he arrived the scene where he was arrested the previous night, he saw the corpse of his friend lying in a nearby gutter, with deep a gunshot wound. He raised the alarm, and people gathered and brought the corpse out from the gutter.
The deceased’s father said the incident was promptly reported to the police. “After the incident, we reported the matter to the Area command, Aba. But we were told the Area commander, Alhaji Kabiru Ibrahim went on Salah holiday. When he came back he ordered the four policemen who were involved in the killing of my son to be produced. But I was taken aback when the Area commander said he was not interested in the death of my son, but was more concerned in the extortion aspect of the matter.”
Although, the Area commander ordered the four policemen be produced by the DPO of Azuka Police station, it was gathered that nothing substantial was done in this direction. The matter was later transferred to Umuahia.
When the Area Commander was reportedly foot-dragging in bringing the policemen involved in the dastardly act to book, the deceased’s father, Mr. Okafor consulted a lawyer, Okey Okafor who petitioned the Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Janet Agbede about the gruesome murder of his son. The petition was received on August 31.
When the old man regretted that the petition had not been too effective in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
“When my lawyer took the petition to the CP, he was told to go, that the police would call him later. Unfortunately, the police did not call my lawyer after one month.
“Then, when I accompanied my lawyer on the next visit, we found out that the petition was missing and the police became aggressive and hostile. Almost all the offices were searched for the petition to no avail, until one police officer from the Confidential Unit said that there was a time she saw the petition in that office and volunteered to search for it.
“Fortunately, she found the petition in SOS office and directed us to go there. We went there and met one senior police officer who, after consoling me, said that he was working on the petition and directed us to the Tactical Unit to arrange with them for investigation. On reaching the Tactical Unit, they told us that they had not yet received any information on the petition. They took our phone number and told us to go, that we would be informed when the petition got to them.
“We’ve been to Umuahia more than six times, we have not been able to see the Commissioner of Police. The officers there have been telling us to come today and come tomorrow. They are shielding the policemen that killed my innocent son.”
Lamentations of distraught parents
The parents of slain Chibueze are seriously lamenting their son’s death. Hear Mazi Okafor: “I have four children, three boys and one girl. The deceased was the last. Since his death, I have not been myself again. I am hypertensive and his death has triggered it to uncontrollable levels. You know how dear the last children are to their parents. In fact, he was the only one among our children that was still living with us and the closeness has made his death more painful.
“He had the intention of studying Electrical Engineering in the university and with his gruesome murder by those who were supposed to protect him, that lofty plan has gone to the drains.”
Recalling the last discussion he had with his son before his death, Mr. Okafor said: “The last time I spoke with him was that night he was killed. After fruitlessly waiting to see him that night and I could not since he was not home, which was strange because he was not used to keeping late nights, l called him on phone to inquire why he had not come back. He told me he closed late and would like to pass the night in our former house which is close to where he was working. He took that decision because of the risk associated with coming back late to where we stay at Degema Street, off Ngwa Road.”
Similarly, the mother, Ebere Okafor, is devastated. Said she: “Since the police killed my son, I have not recovered from the shock. His death forced me to stay at home for two months without going anywhere because it was difficult for me to stand up and walk because of the shock.
“On the morning of the Saturday that he was gruesomely murdered, I was preparing to go to the market and he was preparing at the same time to go to work. I called and asked him whether he was going out. He said yes. I asked him to do something for me and he said he would do that after his return from work. But he never came back alive to do that for me.
“As my last child, he was the only one I was living with. We were so close and he was very fond of me. It will be difficult for me to overcome his death.”
Mrs. Okafor appealed to the police authorities to wade into the matter and bring the cops who were involved in the killing of her son to book. “They should be made to face justice because they killed a human being and not a fowl,” she said.