Police accused of cover up in murder case involving lawmaker

Posted by From MURPHY GANAGANA, Abuja on 2009/01/20 | Views: |

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Police accused of cover up in murder case involving lawmaker

For the inhabitants of Umuakum village, Ekwe, in Ekwedim Autonomous Community of Isiala Mbano Local Government Area in Imo State, it’s been a tale of pain, anger and frustration, more than a year after one of their own was murdered at dusk in cold blood.

• Community petitions Okiro

For the inhabitants of Umuakum village, Ekwe, in Ekwedim Autonomous Community of Isiala Mbano Local Government Area in Imo State, it’s been a tale of pain, anger and frustration, more than a year after one of their own was murdered at dusk in cold blood.

Sadly, since then, the echoes of their loud cry for justice has seemingly not received due attention of the police authorities and their patience appears to be waning by each passing day.

While they had woken up on April 13, 2007, with high expectations of a successful palm fruit harvest ceremony for the purpose of raising funds for the development of their community, the euphoria that heralded the commencement of the exercise dimmed barely 48 hours thereafter, and in its place came tears, sorrow and anguish, which had hung over the community till date.

The harvest festival ended peacefully on the first day, but was not so for the following day, April 14, when after casting their votes in the governorship elections, members of the community filed out in their droves into the forest to continue with the palm fruit harvest carnival. By 5.pm, Augustine Diogu, the community’s chairman, dispatched one of his dedicated and boisterous kiths, Augustine Igbokwe, to move into the forest and call off the exercise for the day. He went as directed, but never returned alive to relay his message of mission accomplished.

Barely one hour after his departure, Igbokwe laid dead in a pool of his own blood on Okpouhuru Road, where hot bullets were pumped into his body allegedly by a member of the Imo State House of Assembly (names withheld), who, eyewitnesses, claimed, rode to the scene of the dastardly act in a green SUV, accompanied by two others. Two of the occupants of the vehicle, including the lawmaker, were said to be armed with guns.

Determined to ensure that he was stone dead, the assailants allegedly shot Chinedu Ngumas, also a native of Umuakum village and witness to the macabre show of man’s brutality to a fellow being, who summoned courage and attempted to rescue Igbokwe from the cruel claws of death. He did not succeed in his desire, but he is alive by sheer luck, to tell the gory tale of the evil day.

He recounts that before Igbokwe succumbed to the hail of bullets fired at him, the legislator confronted him over the village’s traditional stool. “He called Augustine Igbokwe and asked him, ‘are you the person that said I will not be Igwe?’ Augustine replied, asking what he was talking about. The assailants came down from the Jeep; two of them were carrying guns. I saw him pull out the gun with him and shot Augustine. When he was shot, I rushed to carry him, and I was also shot. Thereafter, I fell unconscious and did not know what happened next,” Chinedu said in an affidavit sworn at a magistrate’s court in Abuja on November 26, 2008.

However, before Chinedu’s tale in the law court, the Umuakum community had petitioned the Imo State commissioner of police shortly after the incident, with a plea to bring the perpetrators to book, no matter how highly placed. When all efforts appeared to be hitting a brick-wall, they took their complaint to Access to Justice (AJ), a human rights organization, which drew the attention of the Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, through a letter dated April 29, 2008.

One week after, the rights group forwarded details of the incident in another letter to the IGP dated May 6, 2008, in which it expressed fears over clandestine, but effective moves towards stalling police investigation of the case. The letter signed by Leonard Dibia, urged Okiro to heed the cry of the soul of the deceased and the Umuakum community for justice.

It reads in part: “Fresh investigations, which followed your directive practically achieved nothing other than obtaining statements from the surviving eyewitnesses …This outcome of futility was clearly envisaged as the homicide team that visited Owerri late

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