Police denies speculation
By Francis Ekpone and Phil Okose
Confusion and controversy have continued to trail the actual cause of last weekend’s killing of a yet-to-be-identified man by a police officer at a traffic gridlock along the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, at Nkpor, Idemili North local government area, Anambra state.
Orient Daily gathered that the incident, which took place late last Friday, shortly after the All Progressives Congress (APC) rounded-off its Anambra governorship campaign kick-off at the All Saints Cathedral Church, Onitsha, has resulted in a media backlash between the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the APC. Both camps have accused each other of being responsible for the bloody incident that nearly snowballed into a mayhem at Tarzan area of Nkpor, last weekend.
As the dramatic incidents unfolded, that fateful Friday evening, a message warning motorists to “avoid the Tarzan Junction for the moment” was trending on the social media. The message, which allegedly emanated from the APGA media campaign team and shared through Facebook and Whatsapp by the senior special adviser (SSA) to Governor Willie Obiano on social media, Mr. Ifeanyi Aniagoh, claimed that three people were killed at Onitsha when “a reckless convoy of APC candidate and his visitors ran into a crowd at New Tarzan junction.”
Video clips of the moment gunshots were being fired and people scampering for safety was equally shared.
The message read in part: “The report has it that a bitter engagement between the convoy and the people at the junction led to the sporadic shooting resulting to the death of three persons. Presently, persons with APC uniforms are removing them and running into hiding as people of the area are so pissed at the reckless killing of the innocent souls. Please, let the peaceful loving Ndi-Anambra avoid the temptation of being violent.”
APC reacted swiftly, distancing itself from the incident and, instead, accusing Governor Obiano and his campaign team of culpability in the incident. The APC, in a statement issued through its state publicity secretary, Mr. Okelo Madukaife, read in part: “APC has since distanced itself from the incident, in which all those wrongly accused had no reason to be on the said Enugu-Onitsha Expressway on the fateful day.”
The party also demanded for the arrest of the governor’s media aide, allegedly responsible for the false accusation.
“We call for the immediate arrest and prosecution of Mr. Ifeanyi Aniagoh, senior special assistant to Governor Obiano on the social media in order to bring the matter to book and establish that the emotions of the people of Anambra state should not be taken for a ride.”
Mr. Madukaife stressed that, by instructing Mr. Aniagoh to lie to the public in such a manner, “Governor Obiano ordinarily ought to be arrested and prosecuted for misleading police investigation, inciting the public and libel, but for the immunity conferred on governors by the constitution.”
APC went further: “Yet, that, unfortunately, has become a trend because the governor has taken pride in presiding over the first state to have assassins invade a church in Ozubulu and kill over a score of persons without consequences or state action. Rather, it is more important to the out-going governor to stir diversionary anger in Ndi Anambra, apparently to cover up for non-performance.
The party disclosed that it might explore the option of a legal suit against the incumbent candidate and his media team. “Our party does not rule out the option of instituting a civil case in court to press the linking of its reputable and winning name with made-up pedestrian crimes at a time (5.05pm, Friday October 20, 2017) when, as God would have it, over 30 million Nigerians could witness the location of those maliciously accused by Aniagoh and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Mr. Ikechukwu Emeka Onyia, a former media aide of Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah and Governor Obiano critic, also reacted angrily to the claims, accusing the APGA campaign team of raising false alarm and playing politics of propaganda. According to him, the claims that the APC had a hand in the incident was false. He said: “APC governors used the Owerri airport (for their departure) and, by implication, they don’t have any business at Tarzan Junction, Nkpor but the Onitsha-Owerri road. So, you see that the APGA lies can’t fly?
“On that video, there was no APC or convoy of anybody, not to talk of governor that was captured in that video being shared by the members of Governor Obiano campaign team. So, why using death to campaign”, he queried.
He adds: “Investigation also proved that, as at the time APGA media team were busy sharing the video, claiming that APC governors’ security personnel attached on the convoy killed someone at Tarzan junction, almost all the APC governors, with the party candidate, Dr. Tony Nwoye were at the palace of Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha”.
However, Orient Daily findings, through independent sources, indicate that, as the APC hosts and their guests, most of who came from Abuja, Lagos and other states, took different directions to their destinations, the convoy of a yet-to-be-identified APC chieftain was caught in a traffic gridlock as it sought to pass through Tarzan junction Nkpor.
‘The police orderly attached to the chieftain, who reportedly alighted from one of the escort vehicles to ascertain the cause of the gridlock, pulled out his service gun and shot the driver of a commuter vehicle at point blank range”, a source who gave his name only as Chidi said.
“The shooting resulted in stampede as those caught in the gridlock and passersby scampered for safety. One of the fleeing persons, while attempting to cross to the other side of the dual carriage expressway, ran into speeding vehicle and died also”, he adds.
According to him, those who witnessed the incident, mostly youths, in a spontaneous reaction, mobilised themselves into mob and set ablaze a police van that was passing through the scene.
Nevertheless, the Anambra state police command had issued a statement on its version of the incident, albeit describing the alleged connection of the incident with APC as false, untrue and a political propaganda.
According to a press release, issued through the state’s police public relations officer, Mrs. Nkeiru Nwode, the slain driver was gunned down in a spontaneous action when he allegedly refused to stop after being flagged down by police patrol team on stop-and-search duties at the Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS) roundabout, Onitsha on suspicion of his vehicle.
The police statement clarified: “At about 1800 hours of 20/10/2017, a police patrol team on stop-and-search duties stopped the driver of a suspected Camry Vehicle for routine check. However, the driver failed to stop as directed. He was chased by the police team from Dennis memorial Grammar School (DMGS) roundabout, Onitsha and subsequently accosted at Tarzan Junction, Nkpor as a result of traffic build-up. In a bid to search the vehicle properly, a melee ensued and the driver was shot by police. Unfortunately, the driver died on the spot. A thorough search of the vehicle revealed fifteen (15) bags of weeds suspected to be Indian hemp.
“Consequently, the angry mob set ablaze a security pick-up van that was seen approaching the junction. The driver of the vehicle escaped unhurt. Sadly, a motor boy, on an approaching trailer vehicle, on sighting the angry mob, jumped down from the trailer and lost his life at the spot. He was reported to have been crushed to death by a hit and run vehicle.
Nwode further disclosed that some miscreants, ignorant of the true facts behind the incident, took advantage of the situation for a mob action. “The Command wishes to use this medium to warn against spreading false rumors targeted at heating up the polity as the incident has no connection with any political party or its activities. We wish to also appeal to members of the public, especially those who witnessed the incident, to feel free to provide useful information to the police in arresting the fleeing hit-and-run driver,” she said.
She further disclosed that all the police officers involved in the unfortunate incident were already in custody where they were undergoing interrogation.