The family of Okoniba in Irrua, Esan Central Local Government Area of Edo State, are demanding justice for the death of their son. Mr. David Okoniba, who was allegedly pushed to his early grave by policemen attached to Esigie Divisional Station in the state. Adibe Emenyonu reports
The Okoniba family of Irrua has challenged the Inspector General of Police, Abubakar Idris to rid the force of bad eggs who have continued to drag the image of the force to the mud through their excesses and unprofessional conducts.
The call was premised on the alleged pushing of their son, a driver to death because he refused to part with N200. THISDAY gathered that policemen attached to Esigie Divisional Station in Oredo council area on an early morning road check at Upper Igun Junction on Murtala Mohammed Way (Third East Circular Road) had pushed David, a taxi driver, who uses a BMW, after he refused to part with N200 to the officers following his inability to produce the vehicle particulars at the spot.
The Okoniba family said their son David, aged 26 years, with his wife, Ruth, were on their way to church on that Tuesday morning when the policemen numbering about five stopped them and demanded for his vehicle particulars but he plainly told the policemen that he deposited the vital documents with another set of policemen the previous week at Ahon Station after he took an accident lady to a nearby hospital in the area before she gave up the ghost.
A senior brother to the deceased, Mr. Festus Okoniba told newsmen at the Urora residential apartment of the late driver that David had only N110 on him when they had an encounter with the policemen at which the deceased gave them N100 as against N200 allegedly demanded by the police which was rejected.
According to Festus, the deceased had entered his car and jacked down the driver’s seat to rest after much argument with the policemen hence the officers threatened to take him to their station when his wife afterwards brought out N1, 000 note from her purse which she gave to her husband to give the policeman to give them the balance and allow them to go, but in anger, he was punched by one of the policemen into a moving truck which killed him.
He said: “I am the elder brother to David. I saw him (late David) last two weeks. We were together, he carried me and told me everything about his marriage that is to come up in the next two weeks.
“He was a taxi driver and worked with BMW to do his taxi work. On Tuesday, I was at home when my younger sister called me, brother, bother did you hear what is happening and I said no. she said I should call my younger brother’s number and I asked what was happening and she said he had an accident at New Benin. I called his line and somebody else picked the call, saying that they were at the Military base on Airport Road and I asked what happened, he said a policeman pushed David to his death.
“He and his wife, Ruth were going to church early in the morning when policemen stopped them at Igun Junction on Third East Circular Road and demanded for his vehicle papers; he told them that he rescued one girl last week when a car smashed the girl and on his way to the Central Hospital when suddenly the girl died. And they referred him back to Ahon Station to make his report there and police collected his papers.
“But the policemen said they don’t care and that they will take him to the station. He fell his seat inside his car; suddenly the policeman met him and said do you not know what to do so you can go? He brought out N100 and begged the policeman so he can go but the policeman said he would not collect. So, he went back again and brought N1, 000 from his wife and said sir you take N500 and give me N500 this is the money they have; they are going to church. As he was begging the policeman, the policeman asked him to dress (shift away) and that was how the policeman pushed him and the truck smashed his head.”
Investigation by THISDAY revealed that immediately the incident happened, the policemen fled the vicinity which sparked off protest that later spread to Akpakpava Road, Murtala Mohammed Way and 2nd East Circular Road where angry youths set ablaze four police operational vehicles (Hilux van) and another van belonging to a task force attached to the Edo State Government.
Bonfires were also set by the angry youths in protest of the killing of the commercial bus driver, thereby obstructing the free flow of traffic for several hours.
The protest later turned violent and resulted to a clash between youths and some mobile policemen deployed to the scene.
As the policemen fired tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters; the demonstrators threw stones at the security personnel.
It took the deployment of the military to remove the body of the driver as large crowd that gathered at the scene, rained curses on the police.
The Edo State Commissioner of Police Johnson Babatunde Kokumo, when contacted, confirmed the development, saying the police is currently investigating the matter.
He said: “As it is now, it is still an allegation against the police and not until investigation is done we cannot say if the police is culpable or not.”
However, 24 hours later, Kokumo issued a statement, confirming the arrest of five policemen that allegedly pushed David to his death.
Although the identities of the affected policemen were not given but the CP said he has set-up a departmental investigative panel of inquiry to look into their involvement in the fatal accident that killed the driver.
He stated that the policemen attached to a patrol vehicle were alleged to have caused a fatal accident. Whether they pushed him or not is a matter to be investigated.”
According to Kokumo, “We have set departmental investigative panel of inquiry to look into their involvement in the fatal accident that caused the death of a driver.”
The Edo CP did not stop at that, he also visited the family of late David to commiserate with them. Festus, elder brother to the deceased, who confirmed the visit, commended the Edo police boss for coming to commiserate with the family on the unfortunate event, adding that the CP coming shows he is a family man.
Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, during a courtesy visit to the deceased family announced a N10 million education fund for the training of two children of late David Okoniba, whose death was allegedly caused by an exchange with a police officer at Upper Igun, Third Junction area of Benin City, the Edo State capital.
The governor who disclosed this when he led some members of his cabinet on a condolence visit to the family of the deceased at Urora community, in Benin city, said he was at the victim’s home to assure his relatives that the government of Edo State share in their grief, assuring them that those culpable in the killing will be brought to book.
“I am here today to get the details of what happened. Listening to you, I am heartbroken. I can feel your pain and appreciate your pain and anger. I want to assure the family that the case will not be swept under the carpet.
“It will be followed to a logical conclusion as a reputable retired Judge of Edo State High Court, Justice Olubo has been selected to head the panel of inquiry which will investigate what truly happened on the said date of the incident that led to the death and consequent fracas between the youths and the police.
“I learnt that the deceased has two children. I have released N10 million fund to be used for their education, to reduce the pain of the absence of their father and ensure their education does not suffer much because of this incident.”
The governor who also assured the family that government will support in the burial of late David Okoniba, advised the family to take the wife of the deceased to the hospital for medical attention at government expense, as she was still traumatised from the incident.
The family’s spokesperson, Mrs. Roseline Aremu, expressed appreciation to the governor and the state for the visit to the family, noting that the presence of the governor has given them hope for justice.
She also thanked the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Johnson Kokumo, who visited the family and showed concern over the death of David, thanking him for promising to get to the root of the mater. “We appeal to the governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki to help the family ensure David gets justice. His death must not be in vain as he was the pillar of the family. He had two children and his formal wedding was to be in two-weeks’ time. His wife who was an eyewitness of the incident is psychologically affected and seriously traumatised,” she added.
Beyond this, the family is still battling to stabilise the deceased wife, Ruth, who is pregnant and traumatised by the incident as she was present when the ugly incident happened. She will be only one now to take care of their two kids, Success (four years) and Favour (three years) left behind by the deceased from his previous marriage.