By Samuel Oyadongha
THERE was pandemonium yesterday at the Edepie suburb of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital when one of the policemen on an escort duty fired indiscriminately hitting a 17-year-old girl, a pastor’s wife and a trader along the popular Tombia market area.
The road leading to the Edepie roundabout from the Tombia end is home to the popular Tombia market and motor parks and is notorious for its daily gridlock caused by traders infringing on the right of way of motorists and other road users.
The incident, it was gathered, occurred Tuesday night and the victims were identified as Alice Azaghene aged 17, one Mrs Ebinipiri J. Onojamadu aged 46 and Madufuro Blessing aged 32.
According to an eyewitness, the armed policemen, about six in number, on getting stuck in the traffic reportedly went down from their vehicle and started shooting ostensibly to clear the way free passage for vehicles.
It was gathered that when the traders refused to leave the road, one of the policemen got infuriated and fired gunshots at the traders and passersby, hitting the victims.
The quick visit of the State Commissioner of Police, Mike Okoli, to the scene of the shooting and arrest of the trigger-happy police team, was said to have calmed frayed nerves as some youths were already chatting “#End Police Brutality.”
Another eyewitness, Joy Robert, said: “The police van was packed along the Melford Okilo road by Tombia roundabout. Before we knew what was happening, the policeman started pointing his gun at the women, ordering them to move out of the way. Because the women hesitated to move out of their way, he started shooting the ground.
“I thought I had been shot but I heard my mom screaming that she could not move her legs. It was at that point I realized that she had been shot on her leg. So, some persons came to our rescue after the police van had left the scene, driving towards Amassoma but I was able to write the number of the van down.
“If they line up the policemen, I could identify them. All I want is justice for my foster mother. As we speak, the hospital is already saying that if we don’t pay an advance fee, they would discharge my mother from the hospital.”
One of the victims, Mrs Ebinipre Majadu, who is presently receiving treatment at the hospital, said “About 6 pm, I was in the market to get some food items. So when I got to where those women sell fish, I was buying lobster when I heard gunshots. I didn’t feel anything initially but when I tried to run, I realized that I couldn’t move one of my legs. It was at that point my daughter raised alarm and bystanders came to my rescue and rushed me to the hospital.”
The doctor attending to the victims, Dr Valentine Obiora, explained that “so far we have cleaned the wounds for an x-ray this morning (yesterday) to know the extent of the bone involvement and possibly carry out surgery or if she would need external fixation.
“The patients are responding to treatment. The first victim bilaterally has an avulsion injury on one leg and a bruise on the other leg. For the second victim, hers was quite extensive but the x-ray would tell us the extent of bone involvement. So hopefully, with the x-ray and proper surgery, she could walk again.”
Meantime, the state police command has called for calm, saying members of the patrol team involved in the shooting have been taken into custody.
Spokesman of the command, Asinim Butswat, in a statement said: “The authorities of the Bayelsa State Police Command have identified and taken into custody the patrol team allegedly responsible for the unprovoked attack on innocent women at the Tombia-Etegwe roundabout, Yenagoa.
“The unfortunate incident occurred at the popular Tombia-Etegwe roundabout on November 24, 2020 at about 1945 hours, when the patrol team was stuck in traffic gridlock and one of the Police officers in a bid to clear the gridlock accidentally fired a shot, the bullet ricocheted and injured three women.
“The victims are one Alice Azaghene 17 years, one Mrs Ebinipiri J. Onojamadu ‘f’ 46 years, and one Madufuro Blessing ‘f’ 32 years. All have been taken to the Glory land Hospital, Yenagoa where they are responding to treatment.
“Commissioner of Police CP Mike Okoli, condemned the shooting and called for calm from the citizens and has also visited the injured victims and assured them that the case will be thoroughly investigated and all indicted persons brought to justice.”