Ugochukwu Onyeme, was distraught. His voice was laden with sorrow as he struggled to fight back tears. Since Tuesday when his younger brother, 30-year-old Nonso Onyeme, was cruelly murdered by a bribe-seeking policeman in Agulu, Awka area of Anambra State, gloom had enveloped him.
Aside from the difficulty he would have to heal the life-long wounds the tragedy inflicted on his heart, Ugochukwu would find it more painful in the coming years when he would have to narrate to Nonso’s only 18-month-old child how a gun-trotting cop snuffed life out of his innocent father.
“I was shocked when I heard about his murder. For two days, I could not tell people, who were asking me how he was killed, anything. I was just crying. I am just getting courage to talk about it. He was a very intelligent man. There is no way you would have conversations with him and would not salute his intelligence. I could not wish for a better brother. He was a star in our family. It was hard to believe he has been killed,” Ugochukwu recalled during an interview with INKLING on Thursday. “He was a graduate of Political Science. He was just 30 years old,” he added as he broke into tears.
After a short pause, Ugochukwu explained how he, Nonso and their eldest brother, who lives abroad, had planned to build a mansion on the expansive compound their late parents bequeathed them.
He said, “After he finished from polytechnic, he could not get a job. We started frying groundnuts. We package it in bottles and distribute to customers within and outside the state. He takes the groundnuts to Port Harcourt, Rivers State while I go to Enugu. It will be very hard for me to continue the business alone.
“Our late father always told us to build our houses on the family’s big compound. With the income from our business, we have been trying to let that dream come through. He had a son out of wedlock. The child is a year and six months old. What will I tell him about his father’s death when he grows up?”
A police team comprising 10 cops in two Hilux vans with the inscriptions ‘Metro Patrol Police, Awka,’ had on August 7, around 1pm, flagged down one Ngini Ebelechukwu who was in a van loaded with bottled water.
The policemen reportedly held the van for 20 minutes as Ebelechukwu refused to give them a bribe. While Ebelechukwu was being delayed, a Sienna conveying Nonso and some of his friends was stopped by the policemen.
One of the policemen was demanding a bribe from Nonso’s friend, Chiwoba Agbim, who drove the car when another cop suddenly pulled the trigger. The bullet was said to have grazed the face of one Chigozie Okoye, who was at the front passenger seat, before it subsequently hit Nonso at the back seat.
Nonso died on the spot and Okoye was rushed to a hospital for treatment as the policemen hurriedly fled the scene in their vans.
Ebelechukwu told our correspondent on Thursday that he was still traumatised by the scenario.
He said, “I was unable to sleep for two days. I still hear the gunshots and the voice of the killer cop who threatened to shoot me when I asked him why he pulled the trigger. A police checkpoint is a place where one could be killed for nothing. Being alive each time after crossing a checkpoint is worthy of thanksgiving.”
Meanwhile, a group, Behind Bars Human Rights Defenders, has petitioned the Anambra State Commissioner of Police on the incident, demanding justice for the victims.
The petition, dated August 9 and signed by the Director of the group, Harrison Gwamnishu, berated the command for failing to treat the case with utmost seriousness.
The petition read in part, “We wish to register our displeasure at the dastardly murder of Nonso Onyeme, a businessman from Odidiama village, Agulu, Aniocha Local Government Area, Anambra State and attempted murder of Chigozie Okoye by ten policemen led by Emerghene Benaro attached to Metro Police Patro, Awka, Anambra State Police command. We are dismayed by the killing of Nonso and shooting of Okoye on Agulu Awka Road, near WAEC Office.
“After the ugly incident, the policemen embarked on a shooting spree and threatened to kill anyone who came close to help a Nigerian, a father of one, thereby throwing the peaceful neighbourhood into pandemonium.
‘‘It is more worrisome that about 24 hours after the gruesome murder, the policemen have yet to be arrested and the command has yet to make an official statement. As of today (Thursday), it is on record that the command has not visited the family. We insist that the police produce all the culprits involved.”