For members of the Ugoh family of Sagbaeria in Kolokuma Opokuma Local Government area of Bayelsa State, Sunday, April 15 should not have existed in the 2012 calendar. That was the day some policemen allegedly killed one of the family’s promising sons in circumstances yet to be unravelled by the law enforcement agencies.......
Exactly a week after celebrating Easter with other Christians, the Ugoh family had another cause to celebrate when Erezidor Ugoh, a Prison Warden attached to the Nigeria Prison Services, bought a car and decided to invite friends to share the joy with him at their Wisdom Estate residence, Nikton Road, Kpansia, Yenagoa.
Ugoh, a sergeant at NPS had on April 14 gone to a wake-keep with his wife and shortly after returning to Yenagoa decided to host his friends while his wife went to sleep.
In the middle of their celebration, one of his friends, also an officer with NPS, allegedly fired a shot from his AK47. Some residents of the area, aware that Nikton Road is a notorious part of the community, immediately alerted the police.
According to an eyewitness account, a few minutes after the shot was fired, policemen stormed the area and demanded to know the identities of the officers. All explanations by Ugoh and his friends that they were officers at NPS fell on deaf ears.
One neighbour, who identified himself as Engr. Amaka said the policemen, not convinced with their explanation, called for reinforcement and attempted to forcefully disarm them. Ikpoidenigha, the widow of the deceased took over the story. “I thought my husband was sleeping, but my husband is lying at the mortuary there. They killed my husband in my presence and in the presence of my six-year-old daughter. My husband fell, I tried to find his car key so that I could take him to the hospital, but I couldn’t find the key. I was shouting at the policemen who killed him to help me, that my husband was dying. But they did not do anything.
“We had just come back from a wake-keep and after off-loading what was in the vehicle, he said he wanted to wash the car. We shared some jokes. I told him I was going to sleep because I was tired. But after some hours my husband came and told me that the police had come to arrest him. I asked him to talk to them, that he should explain to them that he was an officer so that they could leave him and his boys alone.
I accompanied my husband to the place and I saw a policeman dragging a gun with his boys. But before we could get to the scene, my husband was shot. Then I rushed at the policeman and held him and told him that he had killed my husband, a fellow officer. But he did not answer me. I was shouting for help. I held on to the policeman three times and cried that he had killed my husband. I asked them to help me take him to the hospital and they threatened to slap me.”
Amaka corroborated her story: “In the process of dragging the gun, the policemen fired a warning shot in the air. But they were still dragging the gun. At the end, the deceased went to the house, changed his clothes and came out and said that we all should go to the police to settle the matter amicably. But as he was coming out of his house, the policeman that issued the first warning shot targeted him and shot him.”
The shooting of Ugoh was said to have immediately stopped the struggle for the gun. However, one of his colleagues escaped while the other one was immediately arrested. Mrs. Ugoh who was wailing as she recalled how she met her husband, vowed that she would fight till she gets justice and the killers are punished. “The killing of my husband has a psychological effect on our daughter who saw policemen shoot her father. My daughter was there. She has been asking me where her father is.
“This is a man that I went with immediately I completed my secondary education. Then he did not have any job. That is the only man that makes me happy. He is the only one I know. I don’t know another man as my husband. Do they want me to go and meet another man again?
“This was the first time I would be carrying a dead body and the dead body that I carried was my husband’s corpse. I did not know where the mortuary is, but my husband is lying at the mortuary. At this early age, I am already a widow. I need justice. The killers of my husband must be brought to book.”
For 25 year-old Benafeigha Ugoh, the killing of the deceased has brought a great calamity into the family, saying the incident has turned their day into a long night. An uncle of the deceased, Mr Ukiye said the family would collaborate with Ugoh’s wife to ensure that the killers of the young man are adequately punished. According to him, the family would do everything to ensure that the case is not swept under the carpet like other cases that involve policemen.
He said when the corpse was taken to the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) the policemen fingered in the killing were not interrogated until members of the family protested. That was when the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Olakpe, ordered their arrest, he said. He disclosed that the family would monitor the investigations and carry out an autopsy to determine the gun that actually silenced the deceased.
“We are going to take the matter up. We are going to meet with the prison authorities and the Homicide Department of the police conducting investigation into the matter. We are also going to carry out an autopsy to know the exact gun that killed him since there are denials by the policemen. They are saying they didn’t shoot. We would strongly reject any attempt to cover up his death.”
But the police said there is no attempt to cover up the case as a result of the involvement of some police personnel.
Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Olakpe said the police have already commenced investigations in the case even as he assured that justice would be done.
“This particular neighbourhood is one of the volatile areas or black spots synonymous with crime in the state capital. Preliminary reports indicated that one of the Prisons’ officers, suspected to have fired the celebrating shots into the air, refused to surrender his rifle to the police and in the process of struggling, one of the bullets lodged inside the chamber of the gun went off and hit the victim who later died at the hospital,” the police boss explained.