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21-gun-salute at policeman’s funeral leaves man paralysed

…Victim begs Police, Nigerians for help

By Luka Binniyat

It was around 6am on a  Sunday morning of January 27th, 2013 and the Harmattan wind was blisteringly cold and rash, Yarbung villagers recalled. The body of police corporal Mathew Jacob, 31, lay in a coffin at his grandfather’s (Pa Gajere)  compound in Yarbung, a normal farming community in Kachia Local Government Area, LGA of Kaduna state.

Scores of mourners swathed in thick clothes circled a scattered heap of red soil dug from where the remains of the father of four would be laid to rest. His young wife, parents, relations and friends sobbed while  listening  and  watching  solemnly as the priest performed the last rituals for their son, whose end had come too soon and unexpected.

Haruna Solomon Gajere
Haruna Solomon Gajere

His mates in Yarbung recalled of him to Saturday Vanguard, as an ebullient chap who was nice and hardworking but also enjoyed playing pranks that village lads and lasses were wont to play.

Jacob’s corpse had been brought to the village by three policemen and some other folks from Lagos in a bus around 9:30pm the previous Saturday evening. They  said that Jacob, whose service number was 224983, had died in a motor bike accident on active service in Lagos.

The policemen were the official representatives of the Nigeria Police Force to the internment of one of their own.

The village was thrown into mourning.

But despite  the grim news and corpse  that the visitors had brought, they were warmly welcomed in the village, Saturday Vanguard was told. But, it was noticed by the villagers, that the policemen and a few other visitors cared less for the variety of food served them, but opted for drinking.

“They started drinking with us from the evening they arrived and after we left they drank on till late into the night,” Anthony Saidu,  a young man from Yarbung  told our Saturday Vanguard. “We wondered how anyone could so possibly drink that much and still be able to walk around,” he said.

Thus, it was a surprise to those who drank with the officers the previous night to see them awake that early cold  morning, standing  by the grave side, managing to look smart as they prepared to bid their fallen colleague a final goodbye.

It had been agreed by Jacob’s relations that he would be lowered for his eternal rest very early that morning, so that normal church service may resume at the normal time, and the visitors from Lagos given enough time to return in view of the long journey ahead.

Sadly, no one could have ever imagined the added tragedy that would add to the existing one just a few minutes later. Before his body was to be committed to earth, two  of the policemen decided to pay him the traditional 21 Gun Salute.

While, that of one of the policemen, ( whose name Saturday Vanguard could not get), fired his first shot into the air, causing a shudder  among the crowd, the AK 47 of Sgt. Yusuf Momoh with Police Service number 166633, jammed.

As the other officer intermittently fired into the air, Momoh was fidgeting with his gun, desperately trying to bring it back to life to join his colleague.

And suddenly, it fired a volley of bullets, not into the air, but directly into the crowd of mourners.

“Everyone took to his heels and the confusion was unbelievable,” recalled a Yarbung elder.

“After some time, we came back because some people had been shot and were writhing in pains on the grounds. Some youths wanted to pounce on the policeman, but we the elders intervened saying it was an unfortunate accident,” he said.

But, it was an accident that has setback and almost ruined the life of Haruna Solomon Gajere, 36, and a father of two girls. Gajere, who holds a Bsc. in Economics and a Masters Degree in Banking and Finance, all from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria is a cousin of Corporal Jacob and was around for the internment of the man he said he  had bonded very closely with.

“I was one of those shot that day,” he told Saturday Vanguard on his wheel chair  where he was being cared for by his unemployed wife, Nevan, at Bayan Dutse, Kaduna.

“The policeman was  reckless in his  effort to get his gun working. And his rifle began shooting spontaneously, thereby hitting three of us –  Emmanuel Angwa, Obadiah Chom and myself.

“Fortunately for the other two victims who had bullets in the chest and leg they have all gotten their lives back and now on their feet performing their usual daily activities. But I am still here,” he said.

He went on: “It was unfortunate for me that  I was hit in the neck where the bullet finally rested on my spine, causing paralysis from the chest downward.

“I also had four of my rib bones badly damaged. This has kept me in perpetual pains and agony till date.

“I was lucky it was in the morning and it was cold, so my blood pressure was not high, otherwise I may have bled to death.

“I was rushed to Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) Zaria about 300km away for medical attention.

“I spent six months on admission and had a spinal cord decompression. I was found to be suffering complete spinal cord injury.

“I was declared paralyzed from my chest downward. All through my stay in the hospital and despite different efforts to seek assistance from the police authority, my effort was declined by the management of Nigeria Police Force.

“I have tried all I could through Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, even the assistance of a lawyer and presently an appeal letter written by the Kaduna State Governor to seek a redress on how a complex spinal cord treatment can be done for me abroad, but all have failed due to the insensitive attitude of the police authority.

“The Police Authority said that they did not order anyone to shoot me. That as far as they were concerned they have dismissed Sgt. Momoh from the police and that they cannot take responsibility for his action. They have therefore left me on my own.

“I have been in acute pain for about 4 years now because of lack of proper medical attention. My health diminishes by the day due to lack of proper medical intervention.

“On my own I have tried to get my life back by not only getting out of the wheel chair on my own but recovering my ability to urinate and defecate without the use of catheter and manual extraction of waste through my rear. I have also started having sensations in areas they were lacking before. I strongly have faith in God that with the right assistance, I can resume normal physical activities.

“I went searching online where I can find an affordable hospital that can handle my case which then led me to Puhua International hospital, China.

“The said hospital had requested for a recent MRI scan which I uploaded and sent to them for review, after examining my case they have assured me of gaining my ability to excrete, urinate, sensation recovery and limb movement which after extensive physiotherapy I could begin to attempt standing and walk.

“This medical procedure will require about $50,000.00 in total. The cost of surgery alone is $36,000.00, cost of drugs, transportation for me and two helpers to China, feeding and other miscellaneous to be inclusive.

“I am appealing to, as a matter urgency, for help to save my depleting health  and my suffering family. I am pleading with the Nigerian Police Force to take responsibility of my treatment in Puhua International Hospital, China for a Spinal Cord Stem cell transplant, and also to pay  my medical bills and an estimated damages  accrued over the period of forty five (45) months that I have been in this ugly condition.”

Saturday Vangaurd was able to reach Sgt. Yusuf Momoh on his phone number and the following ensured:

Saturday Vanguard: “Is that Sgt. Yusuf Momoh?

Momoh: Yes, who is this please?

Saturday Vanguard: I am calling you from Vanguard newspapers.

Momoh: Ok, what is the problem sir?

Saturday Vanguard: Are you still serving with the Nigeria Police?

Momoh: No! I am back to my village.

Saturday Vangaurd: Were you dismissed or you decided to resign?

Momoh: I’ve told you that I am in my village now and in fact I cannot hear you well.

Saturday Vanguard: Do you recall the incident in which you were said to have shot some people in . . . (cuts)

Momoh: Hello, I can’t here you. . .

Saturday Vanguard: I want to find out from you what happened . . .(cuts

Momoh: Please, your network is bad. . . bye

All means to re-establish connection failed after the dialogue


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.