Anxiety enveloped Owaelu Uratta, a community in Owerri North local government area, as well as Umueze Uzoagba in Ikeduru local government area, both of Imo state, following the cruel murder of Okechuku Izuchukwu Iwuchukwu.
The Sun reports that a a 26-year-old tricycle operator was allegedly murdered by officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Orji, Imo state.
Okechuku was the only child of his parents – Mr. and Mrs. Sunday Iwuchukwu. The family hail from Umueze Uzoagba but reside in Owaelu Uratta. The young man’s wife, Mrs. Obianuju Iwuchukwu, is expecting the couple’s first child.
Shortly after a horrible tragedy, Governor Rochas Okorocha sent traditional ruler of the community and the acting commandant general of Imo state peace advocate corps, Peter C. Ohagwa, to plead with the people of the town and maintain peace in the area.
According to eyewitnesses, Okechuku was returning from work when he noticed some people lying on the ground. The man thought that robbers were operating in the area and turned round to escape. However, two officers of the NSCDC who were operating an illegal checkpoint in the area reportedly opened fire and killed him.
Aggrieved family of the deceased sent a petition to the Imo state police commissioner through their lawyer, Mr. Williams N. Opara. In the document, Okechuku’s parents expressed shock that the killers of their only child branded him as an armed robber who had a shoot-out with them.
The petition read in part:
“It is our brief that our client’s only child was gruesomely murdered by Inspector Ekere Harrison Ifeanyi and Sergeant Ojoko Paul, who are men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps attached to its headquarters in Owerri on Saturday, the 25th day of July, 2015 at about 11.00pm when he was riding home on his way back from work at Old ELF petrol station situated along Umundula, Owaelu, Owalla Road, Off Orji Junction.
“Sir, it is our further briefing that it took these men of the Civil Defence Corps a period of five hours between 11.00pm to 4.00am to lodge a false report of a shoot-out with “armed robbers” at the divisional police station, Orji which is a distance of less than one kilometre from the scene of the incident. And within the period, we are briefed, these men from the Civil Defence Corps were able to get an old and unused gun, one expended bullet and one live bullet which they planted on the body of our client’s son in order to brand him as “an armed robber” in order to justify their cruel and extra judicial killing of our client’s son.
“Sir, it is our brief that there was no report of any robbery and or armed robbery incident in the neighbourhood and or vicinity on the day our client’s son was killed. It is also our briefing that people were still carrying on with their various businesses around the scene and around the junction area.”
The family called on the state police to investigate the death of their son and bring the criminals to book.
Meanwhile, one of the local residents of Owaelu, who pleaded anonymity, said that the murder of Okechukwu was a big blow to the community.
“Okey is such a quiet boy who is loved by all. In fact, this is darkness for this family. Most annoying is branding this boy an armed robber, but they have failed in that because it happened where people were. It took these officers four hours to report the matter at the Orji police station. They used this period of interlude to organise an obsolete locally made gun and claimed they found it in his keke. When it became clear to them that the incident took place near living homes and that people saw what happened, they went to Governor Rochas Okorocha to intervene and plead with the family.
“In fact, it was when the senior police officer saw the gun that he got angry and sent his men to go and arrest the guys, and we are happy that they have been arrested and detained. So, we plead with the president, attorney general of the federation, Imo state governor, Imo state chief judge, commissioner for justice and all the authorities concerned to give us justice. His father has been down with stroke and his pregnant wife can no longer cope as he is the only son and the bread winner of the family,” he said.
Recalling the fateful day, the father of the deceased said:
“That night we were waiting for him to return. When the time passed, we called his number severally and it was not going. We all became worried and in the morning somebody called his wife and told him to come to the police station, that she should come with one of our brothers who they said was the last person he called. When they got to the police and seeing the condition of the wife, they asked them to go, pretending he was in the cell. They later called the man out and told him that he was in the hospital.
“When the young man came back and reported the matter, he went with some people to see him in the hospital as the police did not tell them he was dead. They went with the police to Aladinma Hospital and they moved round the whole ward and could not see him. After a long time, they now asked the nurses and it was the nurses that led them to the mortuary where they deposited him. He was brought there dead and taken straight to the mortuary.
“Why would people be this wicked? What shall I do now? I want the government to bring those that killed my son to book. I want justice for my son. This is too much for us to bear. Look at his pregnant wife. Why? Why?” he cried.
When contacted, Andrew Enwerem, a deputy superintendent of the police, said that according to the NSCDC report, their officers were engaged in a shoot-out with armed robbers and shot dead one of them.
The deputy superintendent said that he did not even know the name of the deceased, however, stressed that the NSCDC, as a security agency, would be in the best position to give details of what happened.