Imagine this scenario: a man met a lady. Both of them got talking. One thing led to another and they both agreed to live together as husband and wife for the rest of their life. For two good years, they courted, dreamt dreams, ruminated on how they would go about their life and finally are joined together in holy wedlock.
What follows is the reception where nice things are said about the couple. There are smiles all over, the bride and groom grinning from one corner of the mouth to another. On such a day, appetite will take a flight. The stomachs of the duo are naturally filled with joy, not food. Some dance steps follow. Gifts are exchanged. Flower bouquet is thrown at spinsters by the bride. The story of how they met, sometimes in edited version, is told.
Five days after, while people still reminisce on the beautiful wedding, the groom is gunned down by a heartless, satanic individual who put paid to a jolly life of marital bliss that was just about to begin.
The questions are: how will the wife feel? Was she married or not? Can she move on with her life? Can she revert to spinsterhood once more? Will anybody readily go for her again, given the cultural and traditional beliefs of people in this part of the world? What should she do?
I have tried to recreate what has befallen the family of Ugochukwu Ozuah and Joan, his wife, who got married on September 15, 2012. The couple’s joy was abruptly cut short five days later, when the groom was allegedly shot and killed by policemen attached to the Anthony Division, Lagos, while dropping his friend off.
The friend, Erikefe Omene, said that he still could not understand why the policemen shot the deceased. According to him, “We got into his car, a Honda CRV, and he drove out. As we approached the expressway, policemen came around. Ozuah parked the car and we both alighted so we could stop a taxi. But before he made to shut the door, one of the policemen said, ‘Who’s there? Who goes there?’, and shot Ozuah, who then fell flat on the floor. I thought the policemen might come around to shoot. So, I ran back into the estate.”
Omene said he went to the deceased’s house to inform his wife about what had happened. He said Joan and her in-laws took another car and drove back to the scene. Upon returning to the scene about 10 to 20 minutes later, he saw more policemen, including the Divisional Police Officer, standing near Ozuah, who was lying down in a pool of his own blood. The DPO said he just received a phone call that someone was shot. I then told the DPO that it was a policeman that shot my friend. The DPO then asked me to explain and I narrated the story to him. He said, ‘Are you sure it wasn’t someone in black that shot your friend?’
Omene said he remained with the DPO and reiterated what had happened but the DPO was adamant, saying the killers must have been armed robbers in police uniform. Omene added that he and the DPO then drove to the hospital where the doctor said Ozuah was dead. Omene said he was later taken to the police station where he wrote a statement, while Ozuah’s remains were deposited at the morgue.
What is baffling in this whole episode is the police insistence that it was actually armed robbers and not policemen that murdered the young man. Since the incident occurred, Ngozi Braide, the spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command had continued to inundate the public that indeed it was some ‘unknown’ armed robbers that snuffed the life out of Ozuah.
From the behaviour of the policemen from Anthony Police Station and their DPO, who quickly came to the scene, one cannot understand the spurious attempts to cover up this heinous crime. The DPO said he responded to a call that armed robbers had shot someone. And when he got there, he did not know what to do than to stare blankly at the helpless man on the ground. He waited till Omene came back before deciding to take the dying man to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“I am sure if policemen and other security agents work according to their callings, half of the insecurity problems we are now battling with in Nigeria would have been permanently solved”
Why will the DPO ask if Omene was sure that it was a policeman that shot Ugo and not somebody in black? Ugo had money in his wallet, his car, as well as, his cell phone was intact, so what was the motive of the armed robbers? Although nobody can stay in the comfort of his home and pontificate that it was a policeman that shot Ugo, but, the storyline of the police, especially Braide, is loaded with either half truths or outright fallacy and falsehood.
That reminds me of an incident not too long ago. A driver of the Lagos State Ambulance Service, LASAMBUS, Jimoh Fasasi, reportedly died after he was allegedly brutalised by some policemen from the Surulere Police Station at Barracks Bus Stop, Lagos. Eyewitnesses said Fasasi was on his motorcycle when he was arrested by policemen on the fateful day. An argument then ensued between the two parties. One of the eyewitnesses alleged that one of the policemen hit the driver with the butt of his gun. The man fell on the ground.
“Not long after that, some LASAMBUS staff got a call. The caller was shouting that they should hurry, that Fasasi fell down after he was hit with a gun and that he was foaming. By the time they got there, he was stone dead.” Another eyewitness, in the area, said immediately the policemen realised what had happened, they fled the scene and took the motorcycle away.
In her moonlight tale, Braide, said the eyewitness’ accounts extracted by the police were different: “The eyewitnesses we talked to said after he begged and they did not listen to him, he wanted to rest under an umbrella owned by a recharge card seller there. They said he started panting and later fell. He then hit his head on the ground. Braide said the deceased’s visible head injury was because he hit his head on the ground”. That story is probably meant for the marines.
In spite of what happened, the policemen did not rush him to the hospital but left the scene with his motorcycle. It is obvious that Braide was being economical with the truth. An officer who until recently was Braide’s boss at the Special Fraud Unit, Ikoyi, Lagos, described Braide as an intelligent officer. I know that the job of a police spokesperson is very tough – daily defending the indefensible. I can only pray that she should use her intelligence positively and not to pull cotton wool over people’s eyes.
I have encountered excellent policemen who carry themselves with respect, dignity and candour. But again, there are many of them, even senior police officers, who I cannot stand. I am sure if policemen and other security agents work according to their callings, half of the insecurity problems we are now battling with in Nigeria would have been permanently solved.
However, the resolve of Mohammed Abubakar, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to identify and fish out the killers of Ozuah is reassuring. Already, a dedicated email address and phone lines have been put at the disposal of the public to enable anybody an unfettered access to the investigating team. That is the hallmark of a God-fearing IGP who brooks no nonsense. I am not surprised though. Fasasi’s case is still pending too. It is only hoped that at the end of the day, the killers of Ozuah and Fasasi will be unmasked and brought to justice. We cannot continue to lose our citizens in this senseless manner.