By EVELYN USMAN
YEAR 2011 meant different things to different people. For Mrs Juliana Martins, it is one peculiar year she would never forget in a hurry as she was rendered a widow midway into it.
The mother of six had bade her 38-year-old husband, Dele Martins , goodbye on June 14, 2011, as he left their Magodo, Lagos home for the site he worked as a bricklayer in Ogijo, Ogun State, without the slightest inkling that she was bidding her husband of 20 years the final farewell.
No sooner had Dele and his colleagues settled for the day’s task than some hoodlums invaded the site with dangerous weapons such as cutlasses, broken bottles and guns, shooting sporadically as they ordered the workers to lie face down.
Reports said that some of the trigger-happy hoodlums threw caution to the wind and fired directly at the hapless site workers at close range. Unfortunately, Dele was among those hit in the chest by the invaders’ pellets. He died on the way to the hospital. One of his colleagues, Oluwashina Abbey also died during the bloody encounter.
Curiously, while the bloody invasion that claimed the lives of Dele and others lasted, his wife was busy preparing her husband’s delicacy, awaiting his arrival only to be thrown off balance by the rude shock of the news of his gruesome murder.
The widow who cried uncontrollably while granting this interview muttered, “ His death has left me shattered. I have been battling with how to cope with raising our six children alone. Even though we were not that rich, at least, my husband was able to put food on the table and paid the children’s school fees. He was a faithful husband and loving a father.”
Continuing, Mrs Dele said, “If only I had listened to one of our children, perhaps, this would not have befallen us. Our son woke up the previous night and told us he had a dream where some people invaded the site his father was working. I just prayed, believing it would not happen.
“Had I known, I would have persuaded my husband to stay back at home that day but no! That singular disobedience to the voice of reasoning has not only cost me my husband’s life but has left me with the sole responsibility of catering for our children. But for the assistance of the owner of the site , my children would have died of hunger. My last child was barely three months old when it happened”.
At this point, the widow burst into tears, using the end of her wrapper to clean those dropping down on her baby. Shaking her head in self pity, she paused to regain herself, with a visible anger against the authority which she accused of insensitivity.
“The annoying part of the whole thing is the inability of the authorities concerned to bring my husband’s killers to book. His assailants are walking freely without any harassment. I am therefore, calling on the Inspector-General of Police to use his good office to bring the killers to book, even though it would not bring back my late husband,” she said.
Mrs Martins is not alone in this anguish. The aged mother of the second victim , Madam Abbey, who was a security man attached to the site, is also crying for justice. The grieving mother wondered why none of those mentioned in the act has not been arrested and brought to book six months into the dastardly act.
Several petitions it was gathered, had been written to the Police high authority and each time an arrest was made, the suspects were immediately released following directive allegedly from an authority from ‘above’. In one of the petitions to the IGP, Ringim , by Kew Metal Works , owners of the property on which the deceased were working on, fourteen names were mentioned as alleged prime suspects .
The petition signed by the company’s lawyer, Mr Omotubra Abayomi, alleged that the said armed men that invaded the site “ were reported to have been procured, engaged, harbored kept by one Umeh. He stormed the site accompanied by his thugs on that fateful day to carry out the killing of our cliet’s workers working at the site.
“The matter was reported at Ogjo Police Station. But only three of the suspects namely Mojeed Kaleyaye Ateroko , Laja Showemimo and Wale Oyebla were arrested while others took to their heels.
While other fleeing suspects were being hunted by the police, I have it on good authority that they have recently gone to the Police at Zone 2 Command Headquarters, Onikan , Lagos to solicit for the support of their police friends to delve into the matter , harass and intimidate the complainant, his workers and witnesses to the case, all in an effort to truncate and make nonsense of the investigation into the murder case that is presently being conducted by officers and men of the homicide section, Force Headquarters , Abuja.
“In furtherance to their action, the said members of the aforementioned fleeing suspects on August 6, 2011, stormed our client’s factory at about 11am, accompanied by one Supol Efiok Amaowoh and Corporal Alegbe in the company of numerous heavily armed thugs and men said to be members of a vigilante group from Shagamu and Ogijo to carry out attack on our client’s workers and staff.
On arrival at the said factory site at Ogijo, the said police officers and the fleeing suspects and their heavily armed men attacked our client’s workers, firing gunshots indiscriminately , damaging our client’s property, caused our client’s storage iron container to be broken into , carted away numerous of our client’s building material ,pounced on our client’s site vehicle, a Nissan Cabstar, seized and drove same away to an unknown destination. They also,chased the workers of our client about and in the process arrested three of them and took them to Zone 2 Command headquarters, Onikan where they are still being detained.”
The petitioner also claimed that the fleeing suspects were currently threatening to kill the present Managing Director of KEW Metal Works, Mr Gbenga Erogbogbo.
Contacted, Gbenga Erogogbo, the man whose life is said to be under threat narrated the genesis of trouble in his family’s acres of land.
According to him, “My father bought over one hundred acres of land since 1978. The southern part was where the factory was built while the northern part was left fallow. But in 2004, there was an encroachment on the southern part because the factory was closed down for a while. My father then approached the elders who said it was omonile that were involved and promised to speak with them. But there was no move to stop the encroachment and they were taken to court, where an injunction, refraining anybody from working or building on the land was given.
But my father had stroke in 2008 and nobody was there to fight for him. As a result, the encroachment started massively .Unfortunately, my father died that year.
After my father’s death, the family decided to preserve the land by fencing it round but there was much resistance to it, as trespassers and omoniles came to stop us from carrying on with the fence.
Policemen at the Ogun State Criminal Investigation Department, Ilewe-Eran, Ogun State were contacted and they told us to go to court, from where we were given the go- ahead to fence the plots round since we were not building .
But to our shock, on June 14, 2011 some hoodlums on motorcycles stormed the site while the artisans were about to work and unleashed mayhem , killing two of them in the process. The Divisional Superintendent of Police, Ogijo personally took the injured to the hospital on arrival .
One o f the trespassers, Umeh , who is the chief complainant there, boasted that he has the IG’s support, that he is the IG’s personal friend . Even when the policemen complained that he does not have documents of the land, he threatened to report them. From there, we have gone to Abuja where the IG’s monitoring unit investigated and found out that murder was indeed committed and Chief Umeh’s act to cover the matter was suspicious.
When the IG monitoring unit investigated and found out he was a suspect , the policemen immediately placed him under arrest with one Dada Tanko who was in his company . Just on December 16, 2011,one Mustapher Ateroko was arrested in a brothel in Ikorodu.
But like he had always boasted, he was released alongside others and when we asked, we were told their release was an order from above. Since then, Ateroko has been threatening me. He has also called other witnesses to the case to steer clear threatening to deal with them if they continue to get themselves involved. They have even asked some workers to bring down the fence , against the court injunction .
All we are clamoring for is justice because we do not want the case to die just like this. We are hopeful that the new team handling the case from Abuja will carry out a favorable investigation”, Mr Erogbogbo told Saturday Vanguard.