BY SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN-CITY
…Family seeks justice
Last Tuesday was tensed after some policemen, at a check point around Upper Igun Junction, 3rd East Circular Road, Benin-City, allegedly caused the death of a young man, David Okonibo, in the presence of his 22-year-old pregnant wife, Ruth.
The policemen at the checkpoint, according to an eye witness, had demanded N200 bribe from the couple after they could not produce their vehicle particulars, but the deceased allegedly appealed that they only had N100 to give as the remaining money on them would be used as offering in church.
One of the policemen was said to have pushed the deceased away and, in the process, he fell on the road and was instantly crushed by an oncoming trailer. The incident caused pandemonium in the Edo State capital as some youths took to the streets demanding the head of the policemen. Soldiers were deployed to the scene but six vehicles belonging to the police were burnt by the angry youths.
Sunday Vanguard visited the residence of the deceased at the weekend and it was quite emotional seeing the pregnant widow whose husband was killed in her presence. Traumatized Ruth could hardly speak. She wailed profusely, asking, “David, where are you?”
The Okoniba family narrated that their son, David, 26, and his wife were driving to church in the morning of the fateful Tuesday when the policemen stopped them and demanded to see their vehicle’s particulars, but he told them that he had deposited the documents with another set of policemen the previous week at Ahon Station after he took a lady who was involved in an accident to a hospital before she gave up the ghost.
David’s brother, Festus Okoniba, said the deceased had only N100 to give as against the N200 allegedly demanded by the policemen. According to Festus, the deceased had entered his car and reclined the driver’s seat to rest after prolonged argument with the policemen. The situation, he said, forced the officers to threaten to take them to their station when the wife intervened and brought out N1, 000 from her purse so that the policeman could give them the balance and allow them to go.
It was in the process of resolving the matter that one of the policemen pushed the victim and he ended in the middle of the road where an oncoming truck dragged him to death. Festus narrated: “I am David’s elder brother. I saw him about two weeks ago when we discussed his marriage scheduled for next week Saturday. He was a taxi driver and worked with BMW.
On Tuesday, I was at home when our younger sister called me to say David had been involved in an accident at New Benin. I called his line and somebody picked the call, saying they were at the military base on Airport Road. I asked if he could tell me what happened and he said a policeman had just pushed David to his death.
I immediately headed to the 3rd Junction where I saw my brother on the ground, he was covered, dead. I saw a crowd including soldiers. I saw his car and I told them he was my younger brother. I started crying. The youths refused to allow the soldiers to remove the body. One of the soldiers on ground pleaded that I should talk to the youths to allow the body to be moved to the mortuary. So I pleaded with them and we took the body to the military base mortuary but they said the place was full and that we should take him to the Central Hospital. We took him to Central.
We were there when the Commissioner of Police came and advised that they embalm the body and put him in the mortuary. He mandated the Esigie Police Station DPO to sign for the movement which that one did. After that, we went to see my brother’s wife at the military base hospital where she was admitted after fainting.
I went there with the Airport Police Station DPO and they discharged the wife. The Commissioner of Police later came to the house to see us and promised that they will take care of the bills and investigate the activities of the police officers involved.
“I am pained. But I am happy with the way the youths protested the killing of my brother. But for the protest, the killer policemen would have escaped. I want to appreciate the Commissioner of Police so far, he has acted like a father. He told us he will ensure that justice is done and we want justice done. The only problem is that my brother’s wife is pregnant and she has two kids. Who is going to take care of them now?”
Also speaking, Mrs Rose Aremu, a member of the family said, “We never expected this, but like the Bible says, vengeance belongs to God. The Commissioner of Police was here to condole with us and he told us to be patient and not take the law into our hands. He said we should relate with them on the burial plans so that they can support us.
“The police should call their officers to order, innocent people are being killed every day. Look at the young man who was preparing for his wedding! He is dead. You can see that his wife is yet to regain consciousness and we are praying for her seriously”.
The Edo State Commissioner of Police, Babatunde Kokumo, disclosed that some police officers had been arrested in connection with David’s death, assuring that the matter will be investigated and dealt with.
However, Governor Godwin Obaseki has directed that an investigative panel be set-up to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the fracas between men of the Nigeria Police and youths on that day. The state Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Mr Paul Ohonbamu, said this while briefing journalists after the State Executive Council meeting on Wednesday.