Contrary to the claim by Abia State Police Command, the eight boys its men killed were not members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Eastern Security Network (ESN), eyewitnesses, investigations and parents accounts revealed.
After the Saturday (May 29) evening attack by unknown gunmen on SCID, the Abia State Police Public Relations Officer, SP Geoffrey Ogbonna, on Sunday, paraded eight corpses he claimed were bodies of the proscribed IPOB/ESN members killed by his men during a gun duel.
He said the attackers stormed the police formation at about 6pm on Saturday, shooting arbitrarily, leading to the death of two inspectors of police.
“Reinforcement from the command headquarters added to the fierce engagement with men on the ground saw eight of the hoodlums neutralised and killed,” the PPRO told newsmen during the press briefing.
However, an investigation by The Realm News and accounts from multiple sources including the parents of some of the victims indicted the police for extrajudicial killing.
“They were boys the military forcefully abducted from their homes and on the streets few hours after the attack on SCID Umuagu, Umuahia, and handed over to the police for proper investigation,” an eye-witness who identified himself as Mr Uche said. He said on the day of the attack on SCID, the boys, numbering 50, wearing all sort of charms and half nude invaded the police formation and chased the officers away.
“On sighting them, the police officers on duty abandoned their duty posts and weapons and fled the police station from all corners.
“They operated freely for about 15 minutes and even encouraged people to snap and video them,” he said.
He added, “they did not take anything from the police station. They only burnt it down and killed one of their members for stealing money from the police front desk. The police never engaged them in any shootout.”
Another eyewitness, a trader at Ubani market, who identified himself as Ogechuhwu, corroborated the account of Mr Uche. He said people wanted to run away when the gunmen started shooting but they (gunmen) encouraged them to remain calm.
“They moved to and fro the road severally and after a while, they stopped a Toyota Hilux pickup van and told the driver where to go and recover his van.
“Except for one of their members they killed for flouting their law, the rest boarded the Hilux van and zoomed off en route Umuahia main town. There was no exchange of gunfire between them and the police,” he said.
Reliving the incident that led to the extrajudicial killing of his son Mr Obinna Ejekwu and his younger sister’s son Mr Onyebuchi Amadi by the police to The Realm News crew who visited his plot 5 Rivers lane Ugwunchara resident, the inconsolable bereaved father Mr Nicholas Ejekwu, 69, said thus:
“I was in front of my compound when we started hearing gunshots. People ran towards our house and stayed here for safety. After the shooting stopped, some soldiers came in the direction of our house. When those taking refuge at the front of the house saw the soldiers, they began running away via our backyard.
The soldiers asked what I was doing outside and I told them that this is my house. They shouted at me to get up from here. So, I stood up and entered my room. The soldiers later entered my house via the backyard, broke the doors and took my sons and other family members outside and ordered them to lie on the floor.
He said they forced everybody, including women and children, to lie face down on the floor and after subjecting them to several inhumane treatments, took away his two sons.
“They later separated my sons from the rest and took them away. Afterwards, we later heard that they kept them at City Base filling station situated at Ugwunchara road. Around midnight, the army called the police and handed my children and others they picked on the road to them and they took them away,” he said.
The bereaved father said one of the staff of the filling station who watched the scene from his office where he was hiding said the soldiers told the police that they picked his children from their house and the rest on the street.
“The filling station staff told us that he overheard the soldiers tell the police to detain them for proper investigation. But the police ignored this order, killed my children and the others and claimed the next day that they were the unknown gunmen killed in a gun battle,” he said.
He added, “I don’t know why they (soldiers) came to my house. Obinna, one of my sons that they killed, had a wife and three little children. He was a printer and had a shop at Warri street by Niger road in Umuahia. His younger brother Onyebuchi was a tailor. They were not problematic. I don’t know why the police would kill them without investigation.”
The uncles and auntie of the slain boys, Chief Nwabuisi Ejekwu, Paul Ejekwu, Agu Eze Ben Ezeonu and Mrs Ngozi Nwachukwu corroborated the narration of the bereaved father.
According to them, the soldiers kicked down the doors with their legs and forced everyone outside.
“They brought us all out and made us lie on the ground in front of our house. After a few minutes, they picked my nephews who just came back from work and one man that was also coming back home and left,” teary Mrs Nwachukwu said.
She said Onyebuchi was her younger sister’s son while Obinna’s father is her eldest brother. According to her, all efforts to locate them proved abortive until Sunday when they saw their corpses with others paraded by the police as the unknown gunmen.
“My sister and Obinna’s wife went to CPS early on Sunday morning, but the police didn’t allow them to enter. They even flogged them for trying to enquire about the whereabouts of her son.
“Obinna wore a wine-coloured long sleeves flowered shirt and blue jean trousers because he just came back from work while Onyebuchi, because he was in the house resting when the soldiers broke into his room, wore white knickers.
We were surprised when we saw their lifeless bodies. They had changed Onyebuchi’s white knickers to black with charcoal robbed all over his body. Obinna’s blue jeans had also turned to black. I believe the police did that to make them look like the so-called unknown gunmen.”
The uncle of the slain boys, Chief Nwabuisi Ejekwu, said when he heard about the incident on Saturday night, he called Obinna at about 10:56pm and he picked but sounded distressed.
“He told me that they were at City Base filling station with soldiers. I called him again by 11pm to ask what was happening but his phone was switched off.
“We began looking for them on Sunday because people that watched what happened from their living rooms told us that by midnight, the army called the police and handed the arrested individuals to them. That was why we started going from one police station to another.
On Monday morning, between 10 and 11am, we saw our nephews on the internet. They had killed them. We rushed to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Umuahia and saw where they dumped their corpses in front of the mortuary.
“We even found the keys to Mr Obinna’s shop inside his jeans trousers. The mortuary attendant told us to write the government for approval before we can claim their bodies.
When The Realm News crews visited, Mr Obinna’s printing shop at 39, Warri street by Niger road, his dumbfounded neighbours were seen laying curses on the police for killing a young industrious father and tagging him one of the unknown gunmen.
“We all attended the wedding of one of us and later came back to the shop. It was not quite long after we left to our various homes that the pandemonium broke out. We were surprised when we saw his lifeless body on the internet.
“At first, we thought he was killed by a stray bullet. It was very embarrassing for the police to kill Obinna and tag him an unknown gunmen.
“Obinna was a quiet young man. He didn’t deserve such a cruel death from the police that ought to protect him,” one of his neighbours said.
Repeated calls put across to the state PPRO proved abortive.
Multiple sources told The Realm News that the police have killed over 100 young men in Abia state in the past few weeks, tagging them unknown gunmen.
Similar killings triggered EndSARS protests in 2020 and led to the dissolution of the infamous Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) but there is nothing to indicate that the police have abandoned their old ways.