Mrs. Nkechi Nnonyelu, elder sister of Ugochukwu Ozuah who was allegedly killed by the police five days after his wedding in September 2012, captures the family's agony in this interview.
How are you related to the deceased? - He was my younger brother. I am the eldest of them all. We used to be a family of five. But then, I lost one of my brothers before Ugochukwu passed on.
Was he the last child?- No. He had just one person following him.
What was he into? - He was a mechanical and computer engineer. Before he died, he was pursuing a Masters programe in Operational Research at the University of Lagos. He was about to write his final exam before the incident.
Can you recall what really happened on that fateful day? - I don't mind saying it again and again. Ugochukwu got married on September 15. So many guests came from far and near to attend his wedding. After the death of my other brother, Ugochukwu represented the head of the family. He had become the only son and everybody was elated that he was getting married. So, people came for the wedding. One of his closest friends came all the way from England to attend the wedding. Few days after the wedding, this friend of his came to visit him on September 12, 2012 so they could talk about the old times.
Where was Ugochukwu living? - At Gbagada. His friend stayed quite late that evening and eventually, he got up to go. Commercial vehicles are not allowed into the estate. So, Ugo decided to drop his friend somewhere nearby where he could take a vehicle back to his house.
How come he didn't take his friend home? - If it were much earlier, he probably would have. That was just typical of my brother. But he just got married and had come back from his honeymoon a day before his friend came to visit him. So he decided to drop him at the nearest point which was UPS at Gbagada. They got down from his car to get a cab. Apparently, there was an illegal police checkpoint there.
Who gave you this account? - His friend told us. He said what they heard next was the policemen at the check point asking 'Who goes there?' and the next thing, they shot at them.
Just like that? - Yes! The shot they released pierced my brother’s heart and came out from the back.
Where was his friend at that time? - He was on the other side so he took cover. That was how he was able to escape. He ran back towards the estate they were coming from to notify Ugochukwu’s wife. He didn’t know how to tell her that her husband had been shot by the police.
But he eventually told her? - Yes. He went back to the scene with her and some other people that were there. On getting there, they saw a beehive of activities there. So many policemen were already there, including the former DPO of Anthony Police Station. He helped to put my brother in the car and take him to the hospital.
Was he already dead then? - The DPO said when he got to the scene, he met my brother alive but jerking. I met them on the way to the hospital and as we got there, Ugo was confirmed dead on arrival. So, while we were at the hospital, I told his friend to give me an account of what really happened. While he was telling me, the DPO cut him off and said it wasn't the police that shot my brother. But he insisted that he saw what happened and that it was the police that shot him. But the DPO insisted they weren’t policemen but armed robbers in police uniform.
What else did the DPO say? - Without being prompted, he said they went to the scene to see if they could get the bullet shell but they didn't see it. I was amazed. How could he have gone there at that time of the night? He said they went with torches. But I wondered aloud what the DPO was actually doing at the hospital. I asked him if that was how they usually escort victims to the hospital. I told him something wasn't adding up. I wondered why he was even there at the scene. And since he said he met my brother alive, why didn’t he rush him to the hospital? He was there when other people came and moved him from the crime scene. He said he had wanted to, but he didn't know how to.
And since then, nothing has happened? - These are the questions I want answered. My brother's friend had gone to the police station to make a statement. The DPO even said he had to wait for him to finish writing his statement before they could come over. But by the next day, the DPO must have read the statement and found out that it implicated them and the next thing, the statement got missing. They said my brother’s friend should come back and make a statement.
Did he go back to make the statement? - No. My husband insisted that he shouldn't since he had already made one before. It got to a time that he was due to go back to England. Just after he went back, armed policemen went to his house and demanded for him. They were told he had returned to England. How did they get his address when they claimed he never made a statement? Why did armed policemen even go looking for him in the night? The police PRO went on air and said the people that shot my brother were armed robbers and that his friend had questions to answer since he escaped back to England. I felt that statement was callous. I am not trying to teach them their job, but I think they should have condoled with the family. They should have made their investigations first before coming on air.
We learnt the Inspector General of Police got to know about the case. - Yes. Through the outcry of the family and mass protest in the social media and the media, the IG set up a 12-man committee headed by the deputy commissioner of police to investigate the matter. He did promise us that they would do their best to get to the bottom of this. Why did the police flout the orders of the IG by putting up a roadblock? The police just asked my brother and his friend, 'Who goes there?'. They never gave them the chance to identify themselves. Then they started shooting at them. Even if they were armed robbers, didn't they have the right to be charged and taken to court? They say the police are our friends, yet they opened fire on defenceless citizens. What is the friendship in it? How will I trust them to be my friend when they shoot without any provocation? Why didn't they just shoot him in the leg?
What happened to the committee the IG set up? - The team started their investigation. I commend the IG for stepping in. His friend came down again from England even when the police PRO had gone on air to say that he escaped. Somebody can only escape when you capture him. Anyway, he came and talked to the committee and gave them the information they needed and he went back. We are yet to know the outcome of that investigation. They came to Lagos for the investigation and they told us they had finished. They said they would write a report of what they had done. I didn't say they should report back to me, but then, there should be a channel of communication to tell us how far they have gone. We are still in the dark.
But we learnt some policemen were arrested in connection with the case. - Yes. We were told five policemen were arrested and they were in custody in Abuja undergoing interrogation. But now, we don't know what has happened to those people. We don't know how far with the investigation. We need to know what is going on.
The police were at your house last Sunday; did they come to give you information concerning the case? - No. The team, headed by the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 2 and other top police officers came to our house and said they came to condole with the family. They said the IG sent them. We appreciate the visit. But is it not a bit too late, five months after the incident? The healing process is gradual, but it was like reopening the wounds.
How is your mother taking the loss of her son? - I told you earlier that we had already lost our brother some years ago and Ugo represented the first son. We are Igbo people. The male child is of significance to the Igbo people. They say he will carry the family's name. It is that only son who would have represented the family name that was snatched from us five days after his wedding. So you can imagine what my mother is going through at her age. It is believed that the children will bury their parents and not the other way round. He was my younger brother, but he represented the father figure to all of us. It is indescribable what we are going through.
What of his widow? - I don't have any comment on that. It is beyond words what she is going through. You don't need to ask. She was still in the euphoria of her honeymoon and her husband was killed. This is a deep pain. This was somebody that wasn't ill. Life has been ripped out of us. I am not over it yet, but somebody has to be strong for everybody.
What of your father? - Our father is late. He died about 25 years ago. So you can see, we were quite close. He was the man in the house. He was the head of the family and it was a role he played so well.
How did your other brother die? - I wouldn't want to go into that. It will be a distraction. It will well up some emotions that we are trying to forget.
Are you still hoping that something will come out of the case? - Of course! This is not going to be one of the numerous unsolved cases. Perhaps, the people that did this never expected that it would end up being a high profile case. They didn't know the kind of family he came from. Even if he didn't come from a privileged background, he still had the right to life. It would be a crime against God and humanity if we do not get to the bottom of this. We want to send a message to the police that it is time they started having value for human life and protecting people and not killing them. All we want is justice. It is my brother today; it could be any other person’s brother or husband tomorrow. This is one killing too many. Enough is enough. Those that are not meant to be in the police force should be removed. Those who are meant to be there should be trained.