• Protests rock Agbaja over killing at PDP’s rally as residents demand justice
Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Tension is brewing in Agbaja community in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State following the killing of a 21-year-old man, Mr Elias Nwankwegu, at a political rally held at the premises of Nwofe Primary School on Saturday being 17th February, 2018.
At the moment, the residents of the area especially the youths have vowed to keep the atmosphere rowdy and tensed until the killers of their son are fished out and made to face the full wrath of the law.
Elias, popularly known as Okirika, was gunned down at the political gathering reportedly organized by stakeholders of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the area and was reportedly attended by some government officials.
The deceased’s family members alleged that he was invited to the function by an aide to the Governor (name withheld) who informed him that he would be given a brand new motorcycle on the venue.
To work their threats, some youths on Monday, 19th February carried placards with various inscriptions and protested in the community. Some of the inscriptions read thus: ‘Federal Republic of Nigeria come to our aid’, ‘Igwekaenyi Agbaja village is not happy’, ‘Please, Izzi LGA PDP Ebonyi State Nigeria bring back our son, Elias Nwankwegu’, among others.
The youths commenced their protests shortly after the village meeting of the elders of Igwekaenyim village, Agbaja to deliberate on the tragedy which befell them with a view to taking appropriate actions.
Speaking to newsmen, an eyewitness who attended the said PDP rally, Mr. Marcel Onwe Mbam, narrated how the incident took place.
“I was there in the rally when it happened. I sat close to the Chairman of the occasion who invited me. He is my good friend. We sat in the front seat. Others sat behind us. Right behind us was school building. Others who did not have seat to sit stood behind us.
“After sometime, we heard the sound of gun twice; ‘kpai kpai’. I thought it was the policemen who gave the gunshots because there were so many policemen there. Little did I know that it was somebody that they shot.
“Immediately after the gunshots, half of the people in the field deserted. People started running helter-skelter. It was later that I learnt that it was Mr Elias Nwankwegu that was shot. I asked them if he was receiving treatment but they said no; that he was already dead.
“It was later that we were informed that Mr Elias was informed a night before the rally that that he should come to the rally that they have a motorcycle for him. I think that was why he came.
“But when I came, I observed that there was no motorcycle there. I looked at the buses in the field; there was no motorcycle even in the bus. It was based on this that we started suspecting that it was politically motivated. So, that is the much I know.
“When I heard the gunshots, I thought it was some of the policemen that shot the guns; little did I know that it was somebody that they shot. The policemen did not arrest anybody. Rather, what the policemen did was to ask the people standing behind to come to the front of the field” narrated Marcel.
Corroborating, Mr Marcel, another community leader and relative to the deceased, Mr Sylvester Nwankwegu, said that he was at an event in another community, Ishieke, when he was contacted on the development.
“On reaching there, we were told that three boys with gun held the boy hostage. One of them called Emma brought out gun and shot him” he said.
The bereaved wife, Uzoma, could not hold back her tears while she poured out her heart to journalists. She lamented that both of them had made plans on series of ventures to execute before his tragic death.
Also, the deceased’s father, Mr Nwibonshi, while corroborating others, lamented that the death of his beloved son has shattered his world. He, therefore, appealed to the state Governor, Chief David Umahi, and the security agencies to fish out his son’s killers.
Meanwhile, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has distanced itself from the said political rally. Chairman of the party in the state, Mr Onyekachi Nwebonyi, a lawyer, said that he was unaware of such rally.
“As for the one in Izzi Local Government Area, the party (PDP) did not hold any rally there because if we did, I was supposed to be there. And I should be talking authoritatively and telling you what transpired. And if anything happened there, they should not call the party into it. The PDP is not privy to anything that happened there” he said.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Mrs Loveth Odah, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, confirmed the killing. She said that one Emmanuel (surname withheld) has been arrested in connection with the murder.
“On 17th day of February being Saturday, according to the DPO of Izzi, he said around after 2 O’clock, some people came and told him that a large number of people are gathered at one primary school at Nwofe.
“Last Monday the CP had meeting with all the DPOs and HODs in Ebonyi State, he directed actually that in any gathering people numbered ten and above, the DPO should lead policemen to the area including weddings. He gave the directive because of the recent attacks here and there.
“He said that before he could get there, one person had been shot dead. He said that he was not notified by writing, verbal or in any means that such a rally was going to be held in that venue.
“He saw a large number of people, according to the CP’s directive, he rushed to the venue. On reaching there, it was a political rally organized by the PDP political stakeholders.
“He said that on getting information that somebody was just shot dead, he rushed to the classroom where the Elias Nwankwegu was shot. He carried the body in the pool of blood to the Federal Teaching Hospital for treatment. On reaching their, the doctor confirmed him dead” she said.
Meanwhile, the residents of the area are seeking justice over the gruesome murder of Elias Nwankwegu, a relative to the former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Augustine Nwankwegu.
They have, therefore, appealed to relevant authorities to intervene to ensure that the deceased got justice and his young family compensated adequately to enable them carry on with life.