Lagos Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ngozi Braide
By Chiemelie Ezeobi
In the face of mounting public outcry against the alleged murder of 36-year-old Ugochukwu Ozuah, the Lagos State Police Command has maintained its stance that the deceased was shot by suspected armed robbers in police uniform and not police officers as alleged.
This came as the principal witness in the entire saga, Omene Irikefe, the deceased’s friend who was also with him on that fateful night was alleged to have fled to safety following purported attempts to arrest him.
It would be recalled that the deceased was killed last Thursday by gunshots allegedly fired by some police officers at Gbagada barely five days after his wedding ceremony with his heartthrob, Joan.
THISDAY investigations revealed that the police had stormed Irikefe’s house for questioning but met an empty apartment as the principal witness, acting on a tip off, fled to safety.
According to a member of the deceased’s family who spoke on conditions of anonymity, Irikefe had fled for fear of his life because of the purported cover-up of the incident by the police.
He said: “The police had alleged that Irikefe did not make any statement on the night the said incident happened but Irikefe maintained that he did and we believe him.
“How did the police know his house address if he did not make any statement? In fact, it’s hard to believe that a whole Divisional Police Officer (DPO) drove Irikefe to the station and later drove him to the hospital without asking for a statement.”
He added: “With the way the police were going about the entire situation, he had no option but to run for his life. After writing a statement, the police claimed he did not.”
Speaking to THISDAY Monday at their residence in Lagos, the family’s spokesperson and elder sister to the deceased, Mrs. Nkechi Nnonyelu, said all the family was asking for, is for the truth from the police for justice to prevail.
She said: “So far, the police are not taking responsibility and it’s very funny because from all indications, there is a cover up going now. Anyone can make mistakes but it’s another thing owing up to that mistake so that the family can move forward and begin the healing process.
“It’s very strange that an accident like that happened and a whole DPO will attend to the scene of the incident and in his words, when he got there, Ugo was still jerking.
“We then asked him why Ugo wasn’t first taken to the hospital before the blame game began. He was there watching all the while till he breathed his last and they didn’t do nothing.”
She added: “Without prompting, the DPO also told me that they had already scouted the scene of the incident to look for shells that might have emanated from the gun.
“My husband then asked how they could have searched the area for bullets because it was pitch black. The DPO said they used torch lights. So what are they covering up?”
On whether the family would take legal action against the police, she said: “First and foremost, we want justice for Ugo and that is why we are fighting so that the incessant killing of victims by the police would stop.”
Speaking on the controversy surrounding the purported statement, Nnoyelu said the DPO also told her at the hospital that he drove Irikefe to the station first to drop Ugo’s car and then make a statement.
She said: “I was surprised on Saturday when the same DPO that told me he was waiting for Irikefe to finish writing his statement, turned around to claim he never wrote any.
“We find it very strange and we believe a cover-up is going up. Why would they demand for another statement? When my husband confronted them, it was then they said they remembered he put something down.”
However, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ngozi Braide, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), maintained that Irikefe did not make any statement to the police as alleged.
She said the police had gone back to invite him to the station only to learn that he had gone back to his base.