By Chiemelie Ezeobi
Once more, the Police have killed innocent persons in circumstances that are far from crime control. Although it little shocks Nigerians anymore that the Police killed innocent persons, yet, it deepens the slur to which the image of the Police Force is often dragged each time it occurs. And many are the times indeed.
In a recent incident, four policemen attached to the State Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), were said to have been more than tipsy, having spent hours carousing at a Night Club, Monalido Club, Kalakuta road, off Creek Road, in the Apapa district of Lagos State.
In foggy circumstances, the Police men who were said to have escorted a certain sailor, one Captain George¸ to the club last Saturday, as they usually did in the past, had gone into the club with their loaded weapons. The police officers are two corporals and two inspectors.
Eyewitness account said the Lagos socialite had gone to the club to unwind with his escorts; and stayed till the wee hours of the next day however, as they were about to leave, the escorts were said to have fired their guns purportedly into the sky in sheer mark of revelry, having lost full control of their emotions.
The shooting surprised the club members and many of them began to run helter skelter for shelter from the flying bullets. But two persons, one Azubuike Benedict and a lady simply identified as Joy were not as lucky as the bullets hit them on the stomach and neck respectively. Others were inured. One of them, Darlington, received a bullet on his knee.
THISDAY further gathered that the police officers were fond of shooting sporadically into the air to celebrate while their boss sprays money on fun seekers anytime they came to the club to unwind. Observers are thus worried at the flippant excuse at which live bullets are expended by policemen. Another question raised by this incident is on why the police would go into a club with their guns when they face the danger of being inebriated?
Speaking to THISDAY Thursday in Apapa, friends of Azubuike called on the appropriate authorities to see that justice is served. Narrating the scenario, one of the deceased’s friends, Deji Nathaniel, said he was hanging out with Azubuike when another mutual friend showed up and asked them out to Monalido to unwind. It turned out to be Azubuike’s last outing ever. Azubuike hails from Kwale in Delta State.
According to Nathaniel, the 39-year-old father of Esther (6-years-old) had just come back two months ago from Italy where he resides. Described by friends as an all round entertainer and mentor, the death has shocked all who knew him.
Nathaniel said: “We were all together that day when I stepped out. The next thing I knew, a lady rushed to me and told me that Zuby (their pet name for him) had been shot dead. When I got to our spot, I was told he had been taken to Lagoon Hospital for treatment.
“I rushed there only to see Zuby lying in a pool of his own blood. Even though he was in pains, he was still talking. He asked me to hold his hand which I did and was assuring him that he would survive. He complained that his stomach was hurting him because he was shot in the ribs.”
Nathaniel said he held the hand of the deceased until he was rolled into the theatre for surgery and about five hours later, they got a call to announce his death.
“When we took him to the hospital, they demanded for N1million before treatment would be carried out. We quickly rallied round and raised N800, 000 before treatment commenced.
“First they gave him four pints of blood but it obviously was not enough as the hospital told us that they needed six more pints. We went around to different hospitals to get that. It is painful that despite all our efforts, Zuby still died.”
According to Nathaniel, the said Captain George had stormed the club with his ash coloured Toyota Forerunner Jeep with registration number FST950AJ while his escorts were in a white Hilux truck.
“We want the authorities to do something about this matter and not sweep it under the carpet because this has been Captain George’s modus operandi. He comes into the club with his escorts and after they have enjoyed themselves, he would throw wads of cash in the air while his escorts will also shoot into the air in joyous mood.”
One of the victims, who was identified as Darlington, who was lucky to have survived the gunshot on his knee was brought to THISDAY after treatment to narrate his account.
According to him, they were catching their fun when the stillness of the night was broken by sporadic gunshots. He said while the fun seekers quickly dispersed, he took cover but was hit all the same.
He demanded that, “the police officers who did this should be brought to book since they are known. I was lucky the bullet did not kill me.”
Also speaking to THISDAY, one of the petty-traders around the club precinct, one Gbenga, claimed the policemen were drunk and as result fired their guns even though no one threatened them or their boss.
He said: “Captain George is a very popular face at the Monalido Club and so that day, he had come as usual to the club and as they were leaving, his police escorts shot sporadically into the air. The bullets killed two people instantly and injured so many people.”
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Joseph Jaiyeoba, a superintendent of police, had confirmed the incident but said he could not say if the policemen were drunk as alleged.
He said: “The incident happened quite alright but we do not know if the policemen were drunk. From what I deduced from the information reaching me, the shots were accidental.
“The police officer in question tried to shoot his gun up in the air but his gun jammed and hit his hand thereby bringing the gun down. It was in the process that two people were killed.”
Jaiyeoba said investigations are going to ascertain what truly happened as well as secure the arrest of the two fleeing officers.
The two arrested officers have since been handed over to the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Mr. Muhammed Muazu, of Apapa Police Division.
It would be recalled that on assumption of office, the acting IGP, Mohammed Abubakar, as part of his reformatory agenda for the police, had ordered the withdrawal of all approved police escorts from private individuals and corporate bodies across the country.
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