By Boluwaji Obahopo
THERE has been unceasing an outpouring of tears in Magongo community in Ogori/Magongo Local Government Area of Kogi State following the violent shooting and killing of a pregnant woman by men suspected to be soldiers from the Nigerian Army. But the Nigerian Army has promptly denied the involvement of its men in the shooting that terminated the woman’s life.
The unpredicted ugly events that culminated in the killing of Mary Ikpelemoh, started around 8:30p.m on December 30, 2020 when the peace of the community was shattered by bouts of gunfire, which the natives took for knockouts sounds that normally usher in Christmas celebrations in the community.
They were wrong, however, as the gunshots continued unabated as it became evident that some men conveyed in three trucks and decked in military gear were behind the sporadic shooting and pursuing a man later found to be driver the armed men were chasing and firing at. As the armed men pursued the driver and kept firing at him, the man was forced to abandon his vehicle after one of the tyres was destroyed by bullets and made to escape into the dark in order to save his life from his attackers.
His escape brought doom to the innocent in the process. As people nearby began to run for their dear lives, Mary Ikpelemoh, who was helping her mother to pack her bean cake cooking utensils home, was hit by a stray bullet from the armed men. She fell and began to foam in the mouth losing blood rapidly. However, as there was no medical help from any quarter, she continued to bleed profusely, begging for help.
The brother of the deceased, Sunday Ikpelemoh, who narrated the events leading to his sister’s death said: “The driver of the commercial vehicle was forced to park after his vehicle was hit a number of times by the soldiers’ bullets. He bolted into the dark, abandoning the vehicle.
“The shooters continued their chase of the driver in the most careless and unprofessional manner, shooting without being mindful of the villagers. In the process my sister, Mary Ikpelemoh, a 33 years old mother of one was hit on the stomach.”
Sunday said one of the three vehicles used for the operation was a white Hillux, and another vehicle with military colour. He said: “In spite of our mother’s cry that her daughter had been hit, the shooters continued their chase, breaking into people’s houses in the most bizarre manner and asking the whereabouts of the driver even when he was not a native of the community.”
He said it took efforts of some of the youth who came out to prevail on the people in military uniforms to take the victim to the hospital even as the victim was bleeding profusely. “They eventually took the victim to a clinic which is far from our community and is a long-distance from Magongo and abandoned our mother and the victim there.
“The victim, already weak from bleeding received only first aid at Dosam Clinic where they were advised to again take the victim to Lokoja the State capital. The family had to continue to search for vehicle to convey her to Lokoja as advised by the clinic but could not find help quickly.
“Help finally came through the local government chairman, Goke Oparison, who heard the unfortunate news from the Head of the Vigilante in the local government and followed them to the clinic. At the hospital, the chairman arranged the local government ambulance to take the victim to Lokoja. But it was about 2.00 a.m the following day before the ambulance came. When the ambulance arrived, the victim was already in bad shape. She died shortly after she was put inside the ambulance.
“Help came too late. Rather than take her to Lokoja the ambulance returned her corpse to Magongo. The development caused serious anger as youths of the community who woke up to hear the bad news took to the street protesting the killing. Though the local government chairman immediately assured the family of investigation into the matter, not much has been done almost two weeks after.”
Piqued by the development, the family along with the Community Development Association took a further step seeking redress. Armed with a letter of protest, they stormed the Army Command headquarters in Lokoja but were bounced back.
The letter signed by the Magongo Development Association Chairman, Mr. Felix Andrew, and copied to the DSS, Police and State government read apart, “We are deeply pained by the attitude of both the soldiers and the driver. Firstly, why would soldiers shoot indiscriminately at a criminal knowing the lethal risk where civilians dwell?”
However, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Army in the state, Major Jafaru Muhammed, when contacted said the “Army was not involved in any operations”.