Youths protest death of 22-year-old man during curfew in Anambra
Youths numbering over 300 on Thursday, staged a protest over alleged extra judicial killing of 22-year-old Anthony Okafor, by police operatives enforcing curfew imposed by the Anambra state government to contain spread of Coronavirus pandemic.
Orient Crime Desk gathered that the incidence occurred opposite Nkwo Market, Enugwu-Ukwu, in Njikoka local government area of Anambra state, at about 8:30 pm on Wednesday night, when the victim returning from work, fled on sighting police patrol vehicle, in desperate bid to evade arrest, was knocked down by a commercial tricycle.
The victim, who was later taken to a private hospital by the police operatives eventually died.
The irate youths, who took over the Enugwu Ukwu- Nwafia axis along of Old Enugu – Onitsha expressway, chanting songs depicting their anger, and setting tires on fire in the middle of the road, later headed to Nimo Divisional Police Station to register their grievance over the role played by police operatives in the death of the youth.
Unconfirmed report had it that the deceased, who hails from Iru village, Enugwu Ukwu, was the only son of his mother.
A witness said the protesters later dispersed, when police operatives drafted by the state command stormed the station.
“Police personnel at the station were initially firing gun shots to scare the youths away, but they remained adamant until a re-enforcement team came and dispersed them”, the source said.
When contacted, the President General of Enugu-Ukwu Community Development Union, Mr Boniface Nkwuaku, told this paper in a telephone interview that the incident happened when the man returning from work tried to escape, having being captured by policemen enforcing curfew.
He said that youths from the village mobilised themselves for protest, following alleged refusal of the police personnel to avail the victim of emergency medical treatment before his death.
“We learnt that he was knocked down by another vehicle also trying to evade arrest. But the youths said they should allow them take the man to the general hospital at Enugu Ukwu for urgent medical attention, but they allegedly refused; insisting that they would take him to hospital themselves. When the youths later heard that the boy died, they mobilised for protest.
“But, when I heard about it, I quickly mobilised our people and police to the scene to quickly uprising, so that it would not escalate. Thankfully, the situation was eventually brought under control by police operatives.
The community leader, however, expressed reservation the way police operatives enforcing the curfew handled the situation.
“We know that if the man was quickly rushed to the nearby hospital, his life would have been saved. Again, there is also the issue of extortion of people by police and that was probably the reason the young man returning from work decided to run away. And to make matters worse, they continued pursuing him until a vehicle knocked him down.
Nkwuaku called on the state police command to put in place necessary mechanisms to checkmate corrupt activities by its officers and men.
In his reaction, the Anambra state police command’s Public Relations Officer, SP Haruna Mohammed, told Orient Crime Desk that the man died as a result of fatal accident that took place in the area around 8:30pm on Wednesday.
“There was a fatal motor accident on May 20, around 8:30pm during curfew hours, and the incident led to the death of the man.
“The following morning, youths in the area mobilised themselves and stormed the Nimo Police Station, ostensibly to burn down the place; but the commissioner of police dispatched team of policemen, who brought the situation under control.
“The youths were dispersed, but the CP asked them to send their team leaders to meet with him for him to hear their grievances, to be able to get to the root of the matter.
Mohammed, however, dismissed claims that the victim was chased to his death by police officers enforcing the curfew.
“The people that made this claim, were they there when that incident happened? People were supposed to be indoors during curfew hours. How did they find out what happened? The truth of the matter is that it was a fatal accident. Anybody that made this claim, either violated the curfew or not speaking the truth. It’s only the police that was there and they took the man to the hospital to save his life.”
On the allegations of extortion during the curfew and enforcement of Covid-19 lockdown, Mohammed insisted that the state police command maintained zero tolerance for corruption.