By Suzan Edeh
No doubt Ustas Illiyasu, a prominent business man and a father of four in Bauchi State had the dream of one day owning one of the biggest shopping malls in the country. But that dream was cut as he was murdered in cold blood by some suspected armed robbers on February 18, 2011, throwing his family, friends and customers into mourning.
The incident which sent Ustas to his untimely grave happened on a Saturday evening along Ahmadu Bello Way in Bauchi metropolis, courtesy of three armed men on a motorcycle who were all wearing masks. They had come to his shop, pretending to be customers.
Vanguard Metro, VM, gathered that the gunmen carried out the operation in a manner that suggested they came prepared. While one of them stood outside the shop to keep to keep vigil, the other two entered into the shop and asked Ustas to surrender all the money in the shop, which he willingly did.
While the robbery lasted, the robbers fired gunshots into the air obviously to scare away customers and people around the vicinity. They also forced sales boys in the shop to lie down flat on their bellies, while they broke bottles and threatened to kill anyone who proved stubborn or refused to cooperate with them.
Besides carting away money from sales made that day, the robbers stole bundles of recharge cards of different networks which Ustas bought same day.
Tragedy struck when the robbers, who had finished their operation, decided to leave on their motor cycle that was stationed opposite the shop. Suddenly they heard somebody shouting: “Barawo! barawo!! meaning thief in English, an action which infuriated them.
An eye witness, who did not disclose his name, told VM that: “The screams of barawo angered the thieves; they decided to make a swift U-turn and one of them pulled out his AK47 and shot Ustas at close range on the chest. After shooting him, they started firing into the air before making their brisk to escape on their motor cycle. It was so very unfortunate for the late Ustas because he was not the one that shouted barawo which angered the thieves”.
As the armed robbers made good their escape, Ustas who was shot just in front of his shop, was left lying in the pool of his blood. He was taken to the Police Command Headquarters along Yandoka Road where he was certified dead. The father of four who was about 37 years old has been buried according to Islamic rites.
The Police Public Relations of the Bauchi Command, Mohammed Barua, who reacted to the incident, described the attackers as armed robbers, saying that that the police were investigating the matter and expressed optimism that the suspects would be apprehended.
Ibrahim Ali, younger brother of the deceased said almost three weeks since his brother was killed, they were yet to know exactly what Police was doing to apprehend the culprits, adding that the Police told the family that they were still investing the matter. Usman Kabir, one of the deceased customers said that he remembered Ustas as a very hardworking and dedicated businessman who does not compromise on his customers’ needs.
“I was very shocked when I heard the news that Ustas was killed last Saturday. It is a very sad loss because he was a very good man and anytime you came to his shop, he would always find a way to make you happy. We will really miss him,” he said with feeling. Evelyn Orji who works at a café not far from Ustas’ shop said she heard gunshots and thought it was members of the Boko Haram that had struck.
“Everyone was afraid to come out and we heard more gunshots. Later we heard that it was Ustas that was killed in front of his shop. It is really a sad thing. I am really feeling bad because Ustas was a very good man and there is virtually nothing that you will look for that you will not find in his shop,” she said.
A close friend of the deceased who pleaded anonymity, said the death of his friend was a big blow because he was the breadwinner of his family, adding that he left two wives and four children. According to him: “This is a man who is always at peace with everyone irrespective of religious or ethnic background. It is a great loss”.