By Jimiota Onoyume
THE story of the murder of four students of University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) on October 5 at Omuokiri-Aluu community continued, last week, with the parade of thirteen suspects by the police at its headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.
Among those paraded was the paramount ruler of Omuokiri-Aluu community, Alhaji Hassan Walewa. The suspects were later charged alongside others at large at a magistrate court in Port Harcourt on a five-count charge which included conspiracy and murder.
The court adjourned the matter to December 20. Magistrate of the court, Emanuel Woke, said his court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the case because of its nature. He directed that the case file be handed over to the Director of Public Prosecution for legal advice and the accused be remanded in prison custody. The charges were read to them but no plea taken.
Meantime, literary icon, Captain Elechi Amadi (rtd), has absolved his Aluu community of complicity in the killing of the four students.
Amadi said Aluu is made up of nine clans, adding that the students were murdered in one of the clans nearest to UNIPORT. According to him, the part where the sad incident occurred is inhabited by strangers. He said Aluu community marked that area out for sale to strangers to erect residential buildings and student hostels.
Besides the traditional ruler the others arrested by the police, according to him, were strangers. The novelist maintained that the police merely arrested the paramount ruler of Omuokiri-Aluu as part of their routine exercise.
He said the media had chosen to demonise indigenes of Aluu over a sad incident they had no hand in Amadi, said the police should go ahead to prosecute any Aluu son or daughter found to have been involved in the brutal murder of the students. Continuing, he said there was no way indigenes of the area could break into the mob to rescue the students, adding that the police got there but did nothing. Excerpts:
What is your comment on the killings in Omuokiri-Aluu community?
Our press statements are never carried properly. The impact of our message is lost during the translation. What we are saying is that Aluu indigenes were not involved in the killing of the four students.
The killings occurred in one of the villages of Aluu. There are nine villages in Aluu. They occurred in the village nearest to the university, in an area allocated to strangers for residential building. No Aluu man was involved.
The only person arrested was the paramount ruler of the village. That was a routine thing. When things like this happen, they ask the paramount ruler where he was when it occurred. But all the others arrested are not Aluu indigenes.
What effort did Aluu indigenes make to stop the killings?
How could they when it was happening in a part of the town where there are no indigenes. And it was early in the day or thereabouts.
But it would not have been possible for Aluu indigenes within the neighbourhood not to be aware of the happenings in this age?
But the police were there. So how can an unarmed citizen go to the mob to stop them? The police were there. Infact one of the sisters of the slain students said the police were there and one of them told the mob to deal with them. So there was nothing anybody could do.
The natives of Aluu are being demonised. They are making devils of us. It is believed that we killed the students. But we did not. Let the police investigate the matter thoroughly; publish the names of the suspects so that the bereaved parents will know those behind it.
But how come Aluu will allocate a portion of its land entirely to strangers with no indigene living in the area?
The question you asked shows you are already prejudiced. This is the trouble with the press, they already have a stand. They refuse to look at the other side.
It was one of the questions from readers since Aluu came up with the story that none of its indigenes was involved in the killing…?
No Aluu indigene lives in that area. They have their compounds in Aluu where they live. So when you sell land it is the person that you sold to that lives there. It so happened that in that portion strangers have been buying and building. No Aluu man lives there.
What if any Aluu indigene is linked to the killings?
He should be dealt with, prosecuted.
But the paramount ruler has been arrested in connection with the incident?
People just imagine things. How will they parade people to an old man, people he did not know? These are strangers in the place. People just imagine things.
You know where the paramount ruler lives?
Very far from where it happened.
The police allowed three of the suspects to speak to journalists when they paraded them at the police headquarters in Rivers State. Two of them said the police arrived Omuokiri-Aluu community before the murder.
One of them, Mr David Chinasa Ugbaje, said he saw two police men when the four students were being beaten, adding that one of them pleaded that the boys should be set free. Continuing, he said the other policeman joined the mob in beating the students.
Ugbaje, a cobbler, said the four students were first marched to his compound to confirm their story that they came to see one Bright. But when they got there, Bright’s door was locked. Immediately, according to him, those around started beating them. He said he and other neighbours in the compound had to push the riotous mob out of the compound when it became clear that the mob wanted to lynch them there.
His words, “I was arrested as a result of what happened in Aluu. Around 7a.m. on that day, I left my house and went to my workplace. I saw a crowd beating four boys. I asked who the four men being beaten were and they said they were armed robbers. I was told they were going to my compound with the boys so they could point at the particular person who they said they were coming to look for.
“So, along the line, we went there, I opened the gate; they entered. I could not control the crowd. They pointed at one of our co-tenants door; the name of the person is Bright. Some people say they would break Bright’s door; but the door was locked. So they started beating the boys very seriously.
“Along the line, two police men came around. One of the police was pleading but the other one even joined in beating the boys. At a point, the police said the boys should be handed over to them, but the crowd refused. I now said if they kill these people here, this house will be in trouble. I had to bring out my belt to start flogging people to leave the yard.
“They took them out from my street. I now left the house. The two other suspects, Ikechuckwu Louis Amadi and Lawal Segun, in their separate comments, said they saw police men at the scene of the incident. Lawal, a taxi driver, said he was not part of the mob that murdered the students. He alleged that he pleaded with the mob to release them.
On his part, Amadi said he saw four police men while the students were being beaten, adding that the angry mob insisted they were not going to release the boys to the policemen. The slain students were Ugona Kelechi Obuzor, a year two geology student, Biringa Chiadika Lordson, year two theatre arts student, Mike Lloyd Toku, year two civil engineering student, and Tekena Erikena.