THIRTY-YEAR –OLD Peter Okeke, a Police Constable with the Rivers State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had left home to supervise an on-going filling station project located at Onne in Onne Local Council of the state.
As he hugged his sons and kissed his pregnant wife, Beatrice, goodbye, there was nothing whatsoever to suggest the enormity of the tragedy that would befall the young family before the day was over.
Constable Okeke was allegedly shot dead by a soldier, a few hours later, following an argument over a roadblock.
Sources told The Guardian the road had been barricaded by RCC, a construction company doing major rehabilitation work on the road.
A group of soldiers drove onto the barricaded road and assumed that Constable Okeke had blocked it, ordered him to dismantle the barricade.
An argument ensued when Okeke told the soldiers he did not barricade the road and if it would be opened, then the workers of the construction company were in a better position to do so.
“The soldiers became angry and jumped down from their Hillux truck and started beating the Constable.
“As they were beating him, he was shouting, telling them he was a policeman and that they should please not kill him.
“But it was of no use as one of the soldiers shot him at close range and they drove off.”
Okeke died while being rushed to hospital.
According to an eyewitness who pleaded anonymity: “The filling station where Constable Okeke was, was close to a road under construction by RCC.
“When the soldiers arrived and found the road blocked because of the on-going reconstruction by RCC, they ordered Constable Okeke to remove the barricade but he told them he did not set up the barricade.
“At that point, the soldiers came down and beat him severely.
“One of them then shot him and he died shortly after the soldiers callously drove away, abandoning the man in a pool of his own blood.”
That was on Tuesday, April 15, 2011 and more than 40 days after, the widow, Mrs. Beatrice Okeke, who is also a police officer, told The Guardian she could hardly believe that the authorities were keeping silent over the killing of her husband.
She said since the death of her husband, her children, eight and three years old respectively, have been ill and she did not have money to take them to the hospital or send them to school, “and nobody just cares.”
She said when the matter was reported to the Police Headquarters, Moscow Road, Port Harcourt, the Command assured her that the killer would be brought to book.
A panel, according to the widow, was set up to investigate the matter after the Army reported at the State CID, but lamented that since then, she has not heard anything either from the Police or the Army.
The widow alleged that the case file on the matter had been taken to Calabar without her knowledge, even as she begged the authorities not to allow the matter to be swept under carpet, considering her condition and her ailing children.
“I see this as a very disheartening situation in which a police officer, a good Nigerian citizen, who served his country is shot dead by soldiers and nobody cares.
“If the police officer had killed some other person in a similar manner, the law would have been invoked to take adequate care of the errant policeman.
“The silence over the death of my husband means that police officers have no protection under the law, and so soldiers can kill them like flies.
“Really, the Nigerian nation by this silence, is saying that soldiers can kill and go free.
“If so then, I think people should now summit themselves to the military and not the democratic dispensation we are talking about.”
Expressing his concern over the silence by authorities, a father of three, Mr. Magnus Nduli, said it would be very sad if the Federal Government failed to bring to book, those soldiers in the Hilux truck, who were behind the killing of Mr. Okeke.
He called on the authorities to listen to the cry of the pregnant widow, adding: “ This woman has two kids and she is expecting the third soon. The responsibility will be too much for her with the murder of her husband by soldiers.
“She needs assistance while the law must take its course.”
Army Second Amphibious Brigade spokesman, Major, Aminu Iliyas, who confirmed the incident to The Guardian said, the panel set up to investigate the matter was still working on the report, adding that it would not be reasonable to pre-empt the report of the panel.
He denied the allegation that authorities were silent over the matter, saying: “That a panel was set up means the security agents are serious and would leave no stone un-turned to get those who killed Mr. Okeke.”
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