George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
If he had known that it would lead to his death, Osita Duru-Awuzie, 26, who was shot on Sunday, December 1, for daring to argue with a police officer, at ATM point in somewhere in Imo State, where he and his siblings had gone to make some cash withdrawals with their ATM card, would have taken no such risk with a gunman. But he is dead. The evil deed has been done and it is too late for him or anybody to do anything to undo it.
Problem allegedly started when he joined the ATM line. But somewhere along the line his phone rang and he left the line to answer the call. But on coming back the man who was previously standing behind him refused to allow him access back to his position on the queue.
The altercation that led to fatal shooting
This reportedly led to an altercation and later brawl between Osita and the man during which time the killer policeman, one Inspector Kelechi Chikwe from Agwa community in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State, who was said to be watching the brawl from the side reportedly slapped Osita and tried to drag him away by his trouser waist, to their waiting Hilux van parked outside the bank premises. He stoutly resisted the arrest.
Infuriated by his daringness, the police officer was said to have in a moment of display of bravado, cocked his rifle and shot the young man twice, first on his lap and, secondly, at the back. In the confusion that ensued everybody scattered and ran for safety, including the man he was quarreling with.
The shooting stirred up tension in the town as youths in the area mobilized and swore to burn down the police station to which the police officer and other operatives were said to have driven into with bloodied Osita. But they were prevented from doing so by elders of the community. Confirming the incident, the state police commissioner, Rabiu Ladodo, said that the command was doing everything possible to contain any further crisis that might arise. He disclosed that the killer policeman has been arrested and assured that appropriate punishment would be meted out to him if he were found guilty of culpable homicide.
Facts about the dead man
More facts that have emereged since the incident happened showed that the young man said to be a sand dredger planned to have his traditional wedding this December before the tragedy happened. In fact, it would have been on the way but for the death of his father-in-law, that is his fiancee’s father. Incidentally his funeral was said to have taken place on Saturday, November 30, the day before the shooting. He is also fatherless, having lost his own father in 2013. As if tragedy had not finished with the family, in April, 2019, he lost his elder brother.
When our correspondent visited the home of the Duru-Awuzies, at Umunwawu Isiozi Umuaka, in Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State, he found Osita’s distraught mother, Lolo Rose Duru-Awuzie, a widow and retired nurse, in deep mourning. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she narrated how her son and two of his siblings, Miracle and Nzube, went, on Sunday, December 1, 2019, to UBA ATM point at Umuaka to make some cash withdrawals and came back with the tale of the unexpected.
She dismissed with a wave of her hand, the story making the rounds about her dead son allegedly dragging the policeman’s rifle with him, calling it an afterthought fabrication by the police to justify their heinous crime of murder. She queried how that could have been possible when the gunshot wounds showed that her son was shot deliberately twice, first on the lap and secondly, at the back, on his waist region, leading to the shattering of his spinal cord.
His mother’s account of what happened
She was asked how the shocking news got to her and the trauma she has been going through since then. Her words: On December 1, which was a Sunday, Osita and two of his younger brothers, Miracle and Nzube, had gone to the UBA ATM point at Umuaka at about 8 am to get some money. The previous day being Saturday he had attended the burial of the father of his wife-to-be. But about two hours later, I was informed that my son had been shot. I immediately rushed to police station and found Osita who was still bleeding was shot first on his lap and secondly on his waist and dumped inside the police Hilux vehicle.
“The police had also arrested Miracle and Nzube who tried to intervene to save their brother’s life and locked them up. It was through the intervention of the youths who insisted that the police must take Osita who had already lost much blood to hospital and also release his brothers, that he was released to be taken to hospital. First, we took him to a hospital at Umuaka and later to FMC (Federal Medical Centre), Owerri. But the attitude of the medical personnel we met on duty was not encouraging as the doctors refused to attend to us for over four hours. By the time they decided to attend to him he was already dead. The blood we bought could not be transfused into him on time, leading to more loss of blood. Same for oxygen! So he died just like that.”
At this point, she paused momentarily as the memory of what she passed through on that fateful day came flooding her mind, shook her head, clapped her hands mechanically and said: “The police officer who killed my son will never have peace all the days of his life and he will die the same way my son died because my son was a convenant child.”
The woman who accused the police of manifest insensitivity disclosed that after killing her son in cold blood, the same police is requesting her family to provide money for autopsy and for preparing official letter to the manager of the bank to provide the close circuit monitor footage of what had transpired that day. “They have not come to say even sorry,” she sighed.
On what the loss of Osita means to her, Lolo Duru-Awuzie, said: “I lost my husband in 2013 and his elder brother was buried this April. Ever since it was Osita who had been taking care of everyone in the family and he had even moulded block with which to commence the building of his own house. He was a very hard-working young man because he was into sand dredging business and he was doing.”
His sibling’s narrative
Giving some insight into how the cold-blooded murder took place, Nzube who along with Miracle were with Osita when he went to the ATM to make some withdrawals on that fateful day said that Osita had had an altercation with another person who tried to jump the queue and that as they were exchanging words, the Police Inspector rather than settle the matter amicably between them chose to take side. He held Osita by his trouser waist and started dragging him away to the police Hilux van, leading him to protest why he should be arrested when the cause of the problem was left to go scot-free.
When Osita refused to go with them, he said the police officer started beating him. Contrary to the police account, it was at that moment that the officer shot him first on lap, before shooting him again at back.
His words: “We rushed to help him but the policemen who by now included officers of the SARS pointed their guns at my head and that of Miracle and prevented us from helping. He was bleeding profesuly from the gunshot wounds and could not move because he was already paralysed because his spinal cord was already shattered. They took us to the station and locked us up, locked their gates and dumped Osita in the Hilux vehicle. It was when the irate youths gathered and threatened to burn down the station if we were not immediately released that they released us although they later arrested the President General of our community and he had to pay N70, 000 before he could be released on bail. They also insisted that they must take Osita to hospital. But if not for intervention of the youths, they would not have been released us because they had already accused of us being armed robbers.”