Chiemelie Ezeobi recently spoke with 28-year-old Chinonso Ozoemena, who was shot in the eye by an alleged drunken police corporal, Mohammed Abubakar, and abandoned to his fate despite his pains
When Chinonso Ozoemena came to Lagos exactly three years ago from Idemili, his hometown in Anambra State, he was brimming with hopes and aspirations. His goal was to make enough money to cater for his family, get married and enjoy life.
And burdened with that responsibility of caring for his six siblings and his widow mother after the death of his father in 1999, Ozoemena was determined to be fulfilled in Lagos, his new found environment.
So within three years after coming to Lagos, he had a bustling restaurant at the Trade Fair Complex along Badagry Expressway. The restaurant has provided Ozoemena with financial independence and he was able to support his family until Monday, August 5, 2013, when he was assaulted and left blinded by a drunken Police Corporal identified as Mohammed Abubakar.
When Ozoemena closed from work on August 5, he had no inkling what fate had in store for him. After battling the usual traffic snarl along the Mile 2/Badagry Expressway, his simple thought was to get home and rest in preparation for the next day's work.
But as he was approaching his residence at Diamond Estate, FESTAC Town on that fateful day, he saw a crowd trying to disperse an alleged drunken policeman, one Corporal Mohammed Abubakar allegedly attached to Ashaka Security Company Limited (ASCON), Diamond Estate, FESTAC Town, who had engaged a civilian in a brawl.
Narrating the chain of events that led to his partial blindness, Ozoemema said, "People were begging the policeman to stop as he was drunk. He left and we all breathed a sigh of relief but the next thing we knew was that he came back with a gun. He started shooting sporadically and indiscriminately and one of the bullets hit my right eye."
John Bright, a barber who was on location when the incident happened was not so lucky. The bullet from the drunken policeman hit him and he died.
Ozoemena confirmed Bright’s death saying,"one of the people that died in when the policeman fired the shot was John Bright, a barber in the neighbourhood. Some others were also fatally injured in that gun fire.
"I was rushed to the Accident and Emergency unit of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos State, where the medical doctors battled for hours to salvage what was left of my right eye," he said.
However, despite the concerted efforts of the doctors to save his eyes, Ozoemena is still permanently disfigured and clinically blind on the right eye and virtually disabled as the doctors had to disgorge the entire socket in his eye to be able to remove hot lead and bullet shrapnel from his eye.
In an emotion-laden voice, he told THISDAY that he was going through excruciating pains at the moment from the hot lead which was pumped into his eye by the drunken policeman.
Now, Ozoemena's restaurant is a shadow of itself. Due to his challenge, he had to close down his shop as customers were turned off by the condition of his eye which has gone terribly bad with pus seeping out of the battered eye and streaming down his cheek continuously.
To make matters worse, he said he does not know how to inform his mother of his present condition because of her failing health.
He said: "How do I tell my mother what happened? She’s presently not in good health and this will just compound the problem. She is all we have now. I need my eye back so that I can continue to take care of my family.
To compound his woe Ozoemena was hit by a vehicle on Sunday, August 18, while attempting to cross the road near his house, because of his condition.
Quest for Justice
For justice, the victim took the matter to the chambers of Greystone Law and Risk Incorporate, a law consulting firm in Nigeria but with branches in the United Kingdom.
Speaking to THISDAY, the solicitors, Messrs George Nwahajioke (esquire) and Kingsley Ughe, decried the manner in which the police and Ashaka Company had treated their client.
They noted that beside the sum of N146,000 ASCON sent to settle part of his medical bills, they have since neglected and abandoned their client in the hospital despite the emotional trauma they caused him.
They said: "It is curious that the IG has kept mute despite our letter to him demanding amongst others, due compensation to enable Mr. Ozoemena travel to India for proper medical treatment. It is equally distressing that ASCON to which the killer police was attached as a guard duty at the time when the incident happened has wickedly refused to live up to its corporate responsibility and duty owed to our client in this situation.
"It is instructive that the killer corporal was one of the armed policemen employed by ASCON within the Diamond Estate for its private business. At the relevant times, the control and responsibility of Corporal Mohammed Abubakar rests in part on the shoulder of the company but they have abandoned him in the hospital.
"In view of the above, we are demanding N100,000,000 as compensation from the police and the errant company, jointly and severally to enable our client get the urgent medical attention he needs. In the unlikely event of the repos dents herein failing to meet our demands in the next working seven days, we shall have no choice but to resort to court action to compel the compensation."
THISDAY gathered that although the corporal was employed by Ashaka Security Company Limited within the Diamond Estate, Amuwo Odofin, he was in the state without the knowledge of the state police command.
According to investigations Abubakar as a mobile police officer was attached to Mopol 17 Akure and therefore had no business being in Lagos or attached to a private security company.
Police sources who would not want to be mentioned alleged that the state Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, is currently trying to unravel who posted the suspect to his command without his knowledge.
To this anomaly, Nwahajioke said, "Nigeria is a country of about 150million people and the police force has resource strength of about 300,000 rank and files. However, 100,000 of the 300,000 are being employed as VIP escorts, body guards and private security details in residential and business premises.”
Interestingly, the whereabouts of the Abubakar is yet unknown as ASCON and police authorities could not give account as to his location after the said act.
Lagos Police Reacts
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Spokesperson, Ngozi Braide, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), said investigations are ongoing into the matter.
She said: "Our stance is that we are currently investigating all the grey areas in the case. I cannot tell you everything that I know but be rest assured that the police is on top of the matter."
Braide said her command is yet to get a letter seeking compensation from the police from the victim’s lawyers.
Attempts to reach the said security company proved abortive as they neither picked calls put across to them or returned the text messages and email sent to their number as at press time.