Eziomume Solomon, Nnewi
As the various state governments, including Anambra set up judicial commissions or panels of inquiries to look into the atrocities committed by the operatives of the proscribed special anti-robbery security outfit, with the view of bringing culprits to book and compensating victims, Mrs. Nkiruka Ugochukwu, a 75-years-old widow from Obosi in Idemili North Local Government Area has vowed not to forget the evil that was perpetrated against her and her family by operatives at Awkuzu Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) state headquarters office.
She has just revealed how the operatives killed her beloved son, Chimezie, an Angola-based businessman, over some spurious criminal charges, after fleecing them of large amount of money and confiscating his property.
To be sure, she was not among the protesters that marched to the place in the company of famous musicians like Flavour, Phyno, Kcee, Rapper Zoro and Nigerian ace actor, Yul Edochie, during the #EndSARS protest, to register their angst at the human rights atrocities allegedly committed by the operatives against Anambra State indigenes and, indeed, many Nigerians while their reign lasted.
Various accounts that have emanated from surviving victims or families of dead victims some of whom were said to had been shot and buried in shallow graves or thrown into Ezu or Oji River, in the middle of the night, showed that the operatives conducted themselves like an occupation army, in fact, more like the Adolf Hitler’s infamous brutal Gestapo Army.
How the journey of no return began
At 75, there was no way the elderly widow could have joined the protest as she is not physically fit to do so. But as the 21-man panel set up by the administration of Governor Willy Obiano and chaired by Justice V.N. Umeh (retd), to look into atrocities committed by the unit, one of the cases the panel should be looking into within the 30 days allotted to them is the pathetic case of this widow whose son was killed in cold blood by the dreaded security outfit.
Even though she was not among the protesters led by Yul Edochie, Flavour and other musicians, all the same, her spirit and all that is within her are protesting over her son’s inexplicable death in the hand of the operatives of the unit said to be headed at the time of the incident by Obiano’s sacked security aide, James Nwafor, at the time an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP). And, her spirit and perhaps, that of her dead son might not rest until justice is done and seen to have been done.
Her story is one of the chilling ones that have been coming to the fore about the horrendous escapades of the defunct Awkuzu SARS said to be the most notorious den of the dreaded units of the Nigeria Police. In a chat with Saturday Sun, the aged woman said that SARS operatives from that unit cut short her son’s life and ruined her entire family when they killed Chimezie who was, until his untimely death, the family’s breadwinner.
She narrated: “They murdered my 32-year-old son about one week after he came back from his base in Angola. He was a successful businessman based in Angola. It happened that sometime in June, 2016, I fell sick, and was hospitalised. So, in July, he came back to Nigeria to see me, to pay off my bills, and to also see his wife that resided in Asaba, Delta State.
“My son, Chimezie’s journey to the land of the unknown started on a certain Monday, in the month of July, 2016. On this fateful day, he and his wife who was eight months pregnant were together at their residence in Asaba. A certain person called him and told him to come to a certain place known as Summit Junction in Asaba. Chimezie’s wife was not comfortable with that invitation. She tried to discourage her husband from going out to answer the call but he told her the call might be for something very important.
“In fact, his wife seized his car’s key; so, he had to board a tricycle to meet the caller. On getting there, he met some men who told him they were police operatives from ‘A’ Division, Asaba. They handcuffed him and took him to the police station. On reaching the station, he contacted his brothers to notify them of his whereabouts. When they got to the station, they were told that it was SARS operatives from Awkuzu that actually wanted him. “But when after some days, the operatives did not show up, the police at ‘A’ Div, Asaba, invited us to take him on bail. No sooner had we got to the Division than the SARS operatives arrived and took Chimezie away in our very presence. From that day, we started frequenting their office at Awkuzu to secure his release.”
The devastated widow noted that neither the ‘A’ Division in Asaba nor SARS operatives at Awkuzu told them the offence her son committed that led to his arrest and detention. “My son was a successful businessman based in Angola. His wife was in Asaba looking after his transportation business here in Nigeria. So, upon his return in July, 2016, he was arrested; but nobody told us his offence.”
Killed over alleged purchase of stolen car
She said that it was after two weeks in detention that they told the family that Chimezie bought a stolen vehicle. “We begged them to tell us the basis for their allegation or show us the stolen vehicle he bought. They refused. I personally met the then Commissioner of Police in Anambra, Sam Okaula, over my son’s case but he could not help.
“After about three weeks in detention, and persistent pressure from our family, Chimezie’s Investigation Police Officer (IPO), one Inspector Uzor, told us to pay the sum of N800, 000 as a condition for his release. We were able to raise the sum of N500, 000, which we handed over to him. After receiving the money, he told us to go home, adding that Chimezie sustained some bullet wounds and that a medical doctor was treating the wound, after which we could take him.
“About three days later, they compelled him to call his wife to bring his ATM card to SARS office. The operatives in Awkuzu used the ATM to withdraw all the money in Chimezie’s account. The next day, they compelled him again to call his wife to bring his Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV). That was also how they took his private vehicle. About three days later, again, they compelled him to call all his drivers to bring all his buses. They said that would be the final condition for his unconditional release. He did so, and his drivers were able to bring 16 L-300 buses to Awkuzu SARS office.
“After all these, we were hopeful that he would be released. As we awaited his release, we were shocked to receive a letter from them that my son could not survive his bullet wound. In that letter, which was not signed by anybody, they claimed that they fought hard to help him survive but Chimezie could not make it.”
Her cry for justice
Neither did they release his body to the family for burial. She also recounted that when the family later called the IPO Inspector Uzor on the phone, he refused to pick their calls. But when they went to their office to request for Chimezie’s vehicles and monies they withdrew from his account, the operatives threatened them and warned them never to set their feet in their office again. Mrs. Ugochukwu, however, said she was still doubtful that her son was dead as prayer houses she visited kept reassuring her that her son was not in the grave. “I took Chimezie’s pictures to many pastors and prayer houses, and they all assured me that they did not see Chimezie in the grave. So, I am still hopeful that one day they would release him from where they detained or hid him,” she said.
The aged mother who said she was battling high blood pressure and other age-related ailments further begged the federal and state governments to prevail on Awkuzu SARS to release her son, his property and money as, according to her, she and Chimezie’s young family had no means of survival.