Editorial: Ikoku 4 and the demand for justice

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On November 5th 2018, the people of Nkpolu community barricaded the Rumuokoro – Rumuosi axis of the East-West Road in a now-failed bid to draw the attention of the government to the community’s flooding issue. While they were progressing peacefully with their sit-out and protest, a military convoy carrying DSS officers approached the protesting residents and forcefully reached out to remove the table with which the community used to barricade the expressway – they protested. What followed was continuous gunshots that led to the death of a 26-year-old Aleruchi Woko.

But the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army through its then spokesman, Col Aminu Illyasu denied that the army and DSS officers shot at residents. In their usual statements which are known to contain half-truths and misinformation, the army denied eyewitnesses accounts it opened fire on the protesters leading to the death of Woko while many others were left with several degrees of injuries.

Instead, the army’s spokesman blamed the residents for “attacking the convoy which was on its way to Bayelsa” adding that the soldiers had to withdraw back to base.

However, eyewitnesses who spoke to this paper two days after the shooting said the shooting began when the local government chairman, Solomon Eke, came to address the protesters. The DSS officer in the military convoy wanted to forcefully remove the table used in barricading the road but one of the youths confronted him leading to the DSS officer stabbing the youth with his dagger.

“While the commotion ensued, the officer opened fire and the bullet hit Aleruchi on the stomach while bullets ripped through the legs of others,” the sources said.

They denied claims that the protesters attacked the military, saying that some soldiers who were blocked from passing through the road earlier, diverted and followed other routes.

Despite overwhelming evidence that the army and their DSS counterpart were the aggressors, no one was prosecuted for the murder of Mr Woko.

However, the anguish of the community did not end there. On the 9th of July 2019 when late Woko was to be buried, a total of six persons were killed by trigger-happy personnel of the anti-robbery squad of the Nigerian Police. Scores were left with life-threatening injuries. A source said security operatives intervened to stop the vandalization of properties as gang members hijacked the procession leading to a shootout with the police. He said that more than 20 persons were subsequently arrested as the crises escalated. Again, no one was prosecuted.

In June 2019, 47-year-old Mrs Ebi Agori narrated how her daughter invited her police lover into their family dispute which resulted in the death of her son.

Mrs Ebi Agori, wife of a retired naval officer said her daughter, Blessing Agori, invited her police lover to torture her and her sons over a minor family issue.

Mrs Ebi Agori said her daughter’s lover simply identified as Victor, who is a personnel of the IGP monitoring unit stationed in Aluu, raided her home with other police officers, shot and killed her 21-year-old son, Daniel Agori.

She said that the officials arrested her, her two sons – Daniel and David – and a family friend at their residence.

“My daughter is Victor’s lover, who is a police officer with the IGP Monitoring Unit. Blessing refused to prepare some fish that we were to eat and this caused a fight. She then threatened to kill us. She invited the policemen. They came in two vehicles and shot into the air. One of the bullets bruised David’s lap.

“They used a pestle to hit me and Daniel’s girlfriend. They broke all our louvres and took away N200,000 cash from our house. While they were taking us to their base in Aluu, they collected N3,000 from Daniel and used it to buy fuel. Two of them forced my legs open and inserted the nozzle of the gun into my private parts. I was bleeding even while I was in their office, there was blood everywhere.”

“The Commander of the IGP Monitoring Unit later confirmed to me that my son is dead. My late son was a footballer and was into hairstyling. They claimed they found a gun in one of the rooms. But I never believed that. They are only saying that after killing him. The police lied against my son after killing him. If there was anything they heard about him, they did not investigate it,”. Since the new made it to national consciousness, no one has been prosecuted.

These and more are examples of extra-judicial killings by security agents in Port Harcourt alone. The list runs into hundreds in the past two years, more than this post will be able to contain – a clear indication that security agents are now at home with brutalizing the people they are paid to protect. But when will citizens start demanding that security personnel who kill innocent Nigerians be prosecuted for their crime?

A few days ago, the Chairman, Bille Chiefs Council, Alabo Bennett Okpokiye-Dokubo, said Endurance Johnbull and Taminotonye Johnson Dei have allegedly been killed and others inflicted with matchet cuts after they were arrested alongside 10 other youths by the police at the State Secretariat complex on 17th January

The case of the Ikoku four shook the nation like a lightning strike. If not for the efficacy of social media, no one would have known that Mr Chima Ikwunado was robbed and tortured to death by personnel of the Rivers State Command. What followed, disgracefully, was an attempt by the spokesman of the command to weave a basket of lies to the true account of how Mr Chima was murdered and his friends thrown into prison on trumped-up charges.

A Magistrate Court has now ruled after a DPP’s advice that the four accused had no case to answer and that they were arrested on mere suspicion. Going by the court’s verdict, it is glaring that the personnel of the Eagle Crack Unit, notorious for their use of machetes to force out confessions from their victims, killed Mr Chima for no reason other than the fact that they had the power to do so. But power is not absolute and the federal government did not train them to go on to the streets and kill whomever they deemed fit. There must be consequences for their ugly actions.

There is a pattern with which security agents murder residents in Rivers State which have been showed to be very dangerous, yet the people seem to have resigned to faith, leaving the job of demanding for justice to civil society organizations and the media. The people must realize that the times are not friendly and should continue to demand that killers of Mr Chima be brought to book to serve as a deterrent.

The Rivers State Police Command under Mr Mustapha Dandaura must prove himself to be different. While the CP has achieved remarkable success in battling insecurity in the state, especially the Emohua axis of the East-West road, he seems to have little control over the way his men litter the roads to extort commercial drivers and brutalize others. Silence is not required on this issue. The CP should as a matter of public good, disband the E-Crack Unit and prosecute those whose hands are found to be dripping with Chima’s blood.

Justice must not only be seen as being done in this matter but must be totally done. Enough is Enough