By Vincent Ujumadu
THE Anambra State Police command and the widow of a late tricycle operator in Awka, Mr. Dubem Okonkwo are trading blames following the death of Okonkwo shortly after he was paraded as one of the suspects that allegedly killed two policemen in the state.
While Okonkwo’s widow, Ebere, alleged that the police killed her husband in detention, the police command, although not admitting that Okonkwo was killed, linked the death of the two policemen to a gang he belonged to.
Sobbing uncontrollably yesterday, Ebere said her husband was paraded a week ago by the state police command and detained, only to die shortly after.
She said,: “My husband , Dubem was a member of the Tricycle Owners Association of Nigeria (TOAN) Awka branch in Anambra State. The police arrested him on March 15 this year without explanation.
“He was paraded alongside other suspects by the Commissioner of Police, Echeng Echeng at the Command Headquarters in Awka. My husband went missing after the parade.
“The police picked up my husband at Unizik Junction Park and the CP has refused to tell the family or my husband’s tricycle association his offence.
“Why did the police kill my husband in cold blood? I am suspecting that someone paid the police to kill my husband. Assuming that he committed any crime, is it right to kill him in the cell without being taken to court ?”
“My husband was killed extra-judicially without trial. He must not die in vain. We visited the Anambra State Commissioner of Police Mr. Echeng Echeng; and police formations across the state and no one was able to say the offence that my 48-year-old husband committed.
“Now that they have assassinated him in the cell, the police will now look for a crime to hang on his neck. But even if he committed any crime, was it right to kill him without taking him to the court?”
“I need justice. Every Nigerian should stand with me in this fight for justice. I demand an explanation for the death of my husband. Why was he murdered?”
“I am crying to the President, Muhammadu Buhari, Inspector-General of Police, Women Affairs Minister, and well -meaning Nigerians to prevail on CP Echeng to bring the policemen and those who paid them to murder my husband to book.”
She pleaded with the President and the IGP to prevail on the Anambra Commissioner of Police to allow the family take her husband’s corpse and give him a befitting burial.
Although the CP could not pick his calls yesterday or respond to a text message sent to his telephone line in connection with the matter, a statement he made on the day Okonkwo and others were paraded fingered the killers as suspected cultists.
Part of the statement he read while parading them said: “You are aware of the menace of cultism in the state, particularly in Awka and environs. You will recall that on 14th December, 2021, cultists attacked the chairman of Tricycle Owners Association in broad day light near Unizik junction. Two Police officers who were in the vicinity were killed and their weapons, two AK 47 rifles, carted away.
“Again on 26th February, 2022 the same cult gang attacked a funeral party at Ebenebe in Awka North LGA killing several mourners.
“These serious incidents motivated the Command to go the extra mile in intelligence gathering and discreet investigation.
“In the past two weeks, several members of the gang were arrested by police operatives working in synergy with important stakeholders in the security sector.
“On Tuesday 15th March, 2022 information was received that the same cult group had launched an attack on Unizik vigilante group at miracle junction, Ifite, Awka.
“Police operatives were mobilized to lay ambush for the gang as they fled from the scene. The effort paid off as the police succeeded in demobilizing the gang and recovering a cache of weapons which included the two AK-47 rifles earlier stolen from the two policemen murdered on 14th December, 2021.
“The leader of the gang, one Uchenna Nwobu a.k.a Anali was killed, while the other gang member was arrested”.
The CP explained that investigation into the matter was ongoing, even as he assured that the police would track down other members of the gang.