Chuks Onuoha, Aba
The first female Commissioner of Police in Abia State, Janet Agbede recently visited the family of the young man that died in the April 17 mayhem at Ebem Ohafia, 22-year-old Friday Kingsley Arunsi.
The trip was her first official visit after taking over as the new commissioner in Umuahia.
The deceased died at the Federal Medical Centre Umuahia following injuries sustained after being shot by a police officer.
He was first rushed to Mben hospital, which could not handle the situation. He was transferred to the FMC, Umuahia where he died, having lost too much blood.
The news of his death led to so much violence.
Some police officers and residents, who spoke narrated how they watched helplessly as hoodlums, who capitalised on the incident broke into their homes and the police barracks to loot property.
A police source said that there was an order from the Inspector-General of Police that on no account should the police shoot at anyone protesting.
This order, they noted, put the police at a disadvantaged position. He said police officers were chased out of their houses by the hoodlums who proceeded to loot their property.
“Our belongings were being packed out of our homes and shared,” a female officer said. “We ran out of our houses with our children to a safe distance and watched how they shared our property. They even wanted to fight over who should take the television that I bought last month. Two carried my box of wrappers and put it into their vehicle. They removed everything, including the cooking utensils, and carted them away. What we have here are the things we are putting on now.”
Another police officer narrated that the only belonging left for him was the T-shirt he was putting on, noting that policemen were constrained to obey the order of the IG. He said they watched helplessly as their goods were carted away.
“There were so many groups who came for different reasons. While some came for our property, others came for the machineries. There was a group that came with a truck and dismantled the biggest generating set used to power the machine that supplies water to the complex and even removed the machine from the borehole and made away with them.”
The reporter saw that over 20 houses and 15 vehicles of different brands, both private and operational, that had been burnt. The Ebem Police station complex was burnt after the property in the building had been looted. It was learnt that those in charge of the armoury had removed the guns before the hoodlums arrived.
Two High Court complexes, one Magistrate Court, residential quarters and other Government buildings also went up in flames in the mayhem.
The residential building of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Mr Daniel Wethem, which was some distance away, was not spared by the looters. They stormed his house with machetes, clubs and other dangerous weapons. They set his vehicle ablaze and the vehicle of one of his friends, a Mercedes ML which was parked there for safety as the owner had travelled out of town. They then removed everything in his house and shared them right in front of the building.
It was learnt that whatever could not be shared was burnt. The Communication Building was ransacked and three big GP tanks that supplied water to the complexes and other items were removed and carted away.
It was learnt that over 5, 000 hoodlums attacked all the police and government formations in Ohafia. The DPO, who briefed the commissioner, said the clothes he had on were the only belongings he now owned following the violence that lasted for two days.
Policemen from Mkporo, who had been mobilised and were moving to Ohafia, were ambushed on the road, and their vehicle burnt even as they fled into the forest.
Speaking earlier at the home of the deceased, the new commissioner of police, Janet Agbede sympathised with the family.
“We sympathise with you, and we are truly sorry for the unfortunate incident,” she told the head of the family, Mr Kingsheart Ubani Kalu Ukpai at the family house in Ebem Ohafia.
In his response, Kalu Ukpai expressed gratitude to the commissioner for coming to visit the family.
“”Despite the distance and the lockdown, you still found time to visit. The family welcomes you, and we pray that God will give you the knowledge and wisdom to handle things in Abia.
“Our problem is that the boy’s corpse is still lying in the mortuary. We also ask you to see how you can help us to bury him, so that the sorrow of the family will begin to heal.”
The commissioner promised to look into the matter to ensure that the young man was buried.
In her maiden speech the previous day, Agbede expressed happiness that she was posted to Abia, but stated that she had the mandate of the IGP to ensure that Abia state was free of crime.
“With the support of the people and government of Abia, I pray that God will make me and my men to succeed,” she said. She sought the cooperation of the press and warned criminals in Abia to flee the state.
From the family house of the slain man, the CP drove to the police barracks at Ebem, where the mayhem was unleashed.
She expressed shock that government property could be so looted and destroyed. She said even though no property could be compared to a single life, she noted that the hoodlums who carried out the protests went too far.
She encouraged the police officers to take heart and see their ordeal as part of their sacrifices to their father land. She promised to take the matter to the IGP to ensure that the officers got some compensation.