By SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
Tragedy struck last Saturday along the Ikpoba Hill river, along the Benin Agbor road when a police officer identified as Corporal Valentine Ofuamaka, attached to the Mopol 5, Benin City with force number 364780, shot dead a 35 year old Odion Egbon, a truck driver.
The incident caused pandemonium as tanker drivers blocked the entire road searching for the killer cop. However, the Edo state Police Commissioner averted what could have resulted to a bloody clash between the police and tanker drivers when CP Folunso Adebanjo stormed the scene and appealed to the tanker drivers and the families of the deceased to be calm while the police search for the suspect.
Following the tension, the Edo state Police Command issued a statement saying that the runaway police officer is attached to the Police Special Protection Unit and not the Edo State Police Command. CP Adebanjo however vowed that the suspect will be arrested. However the family of the deceased continued their protest in Benin City and that attracted the attention of Governor Adams Oshiomhole who invited the family to Government House.
Addressing the family, Oshiomhole said, “I want to express my condolences to the family of the Late Odion Egbon. From the narration, a trigger happy policeman killed him. Our laws are clear. Nobody has the right to take the life of another person except as prescribed by the Constitution of Nigeria. Whether you are in uniform or out of uniform, we are all duty bound to respect tLhe laws of the land.
From the narrative, it is clear that the man was inside his truck and there was no scuffle or whatever, so clearly this was one death that was completely avoidable.
The same day the incident happened, the Commissioner of Police called to brief me about this very sad incident and he assured me that everything is being done to apprehend those policemen regardless of whichever unit they belong to. We have a duty not only to protect lives and properties but also to ensure that law enforcement agencies recognise that they too are under the law and they have no right to do this sort of thing that they did. I want to assure you that both the Edo State Government and the Police are doing everything as we speak to track down those policemen who are alleged to be involved in this murder. I have every reason to believe that we will get them and they will be brought to justice.
We will continue to ensure that the protection of the rights of citizens particularly the right to life is respected by all agencies of government, whether it be Federal, State or Local. I assure you that the police are already doing everything possible to ensure that they are brought to justice. To say that it is painful is an understatement and I share your pains, and your grief and the feelings in your heart that someone who went about his business found himself being killed in his truck.” The Governor however appreciated the family for not taking the law into their hands saying “the kind of situation would have been enough to trigger a violent protest. So please, don’t take laws into your hands. Everything is being done and I believe the outcome will be satisfactory”, he assured.
Earlier, the Spokesman of the family and younger brother of the deceased, Mr. Efosa Egbon said they were in Government House to inform the Governor of the sad incidence and seek that justice be done on the extra judicial killing of their brother.
However, last Monday, the runaway cop who disguised himself before escaping from the eyes of the crowd, was apprehended by vigilante members by the Benin bypass after which he was handed over to the Police DPO at Ikpoba Hill. He was subsequently dismissed from the force after an Orderly Room trial. CP Adebanjo who announced his dismissal, said the matter has been charged to court and expressed his determination to wipe out all acts of overzealousness and high handedness in the conduct of members of the force in his command. The suspect was remanded in prison by an Ogbeson Chief Magistrate court sitting at Ikpoba Hill, Benin. The policeman and another now at large according the Prosecution allegedly committed the offence punishable under section 324 and 316 of the criminal code.
The presiding Chief Magistrate, Jonathan Ogbeide declined jurisdiction to hear the matter due to the nature. The court then ordered that the case file be duplicated and forwarded to Edo State Director of public prosecution for legal advice. However, the accused (Valentine) plea was not taken by the court and the case was adjourned to 7 March 2014 for mention
Elder brother of the deceased, Efosa Egbon, who narrated the ugly incident to Saturday Vanguard, said his younger brother was killed unprovoked by the trigger happy police officer. He said: “What happened was that there was a hold up at Ikpoba Slope due to a truck that fell into the river so drivers were now using one way. My brother just came back from Lagos, as a matter of fact he went for the maintenance of the truck at the mechanic workshop and he intended to go back to Lagos on Sunday but from nowhere he was shot by this policeman.
They were two mobile policemen, they walked up to him and shot him without any argument. When he tried to manage to come down he fell from the truck and the policemen took off. After the incident, people chased the policemen, the one that shot him ran into the tipper garage at Temboga junction. But he started shooting sporadically to scare those pursing him away. He ran into the bush but people were waiting outside for him.
So we went back to where my brother’s corpse was lying and that very day at about 1am, the police in Oregbeni division helped us to convey the corpse down to Central Hospital. And that time I called the state Commissioner of Police and he assured me he will be there Sunday morning and at about 7:30am he was at the hospital with us. So we started making inquiries, the pellet of the bullet I handed it over to the CP”.
Narrating further how the killer police officer was arrested, Efosa explained that “The commissioner of Police explained to us that the suspect who is from Ogoja, confessed that after shooting my brother, he ran to the bush not knowing that the area is a swampy place, and he could not run again. He had to remove his uniform and was only on boxers so that he will not be noticed.
As he was trying to escape he hit his four head somewhere in the bush because we saw a deep cut in his face. He managed to swim across the river to the other side of the road and still came out where the traffic jam was at the road. So he found a trailer and entered behind the trailer without the driver of the trailer knowing and the trailer drove him out of the area unnoticed because people were searching for him then.
And when the trailer passed the traffic because it was heading towards Agbor, it started speeding, so he could not jump down until the trailer got to somewhere after the bypass and slowed down. That was where he jumped down and ran into a farm, he slept in that farm that night. But early in the morning, vigilante people saw him and he told them not to hurt him that he is a police man that they should take him to the closest police station and that was how he was taken to the DPO’s at Ikpoba Hill and it was the DPO that brought him to the state CID. Again we were informed that they went on illegal duty with one Corporal Innocent who is at large now.
One of them was attached to the NNPC while the other one was at UBA. They left their bit and went on illegal duty.
We were told that they went with some body for a burial in Agbor and when they got there they were shooting sporadically at the burial place, and unfortunately for them, stray bullet hit somebody. When they discovered that they have shot somebody they started running back to Benin, it was when they ran back to Benin that one of them still shot my brother. The Commissioner of Police told us that the suspects could not account for the ammunition given to him and the suspect agreed that he actually shot my brother. They asked him why he shot my brother, he said he has no reason that he did not know what came upon him.
All we are asking for is that justice should be done. We are calling on the Edo state governor who has been a father to everyone in the state not to relent in his efforts to ensure that we get justice”.
The Executive Director of the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, Rev.David Ugolor, who led other civil society organizations to pay a condolence to the family, hailed the arrest of the suspect, warning however that “the killer cop must face justice because the world is watching at the police. We have nothing personal but this culture of impunity must stop in Nigeria. The message must go round that gone are the days you kill innocent people and go free”.