Panting heavily as he made for a sitting position on the three-seater couch inside the tiny room, Godwin Udoh could barely utter aword. With a large gash under his jaw and a feeling of pains all over his body, it is indeed one of the most agonising periods in the life of the 45-year-old Akwa Ibom State native. Since September 16 when a trigger-happy police officer shot at his tricycle around the Ijegun area of Lagos, killing his wife and injuring him in the process, life has not been the same for Udoh and his four children. Gloom has suddenly taken over their once happy home.
Udoh had gone to pick his wife, Comfort, 35, that fateful evening after a church service after he closed from his commercial transportation business. A warm and normal evening, there was no reason to think that danger was lurking along the way. But on getting to Obalagbe bus stop along Ijegun road where policemen from the Isheri Osun Police Division had mounted a roadblock, everything changed. One shot from the fierce-looking officers that had taken over the entire road that evening left blood splashing everywhere. Udoh is still counting his loss.
“I have never offended or argued with a police officer before; I don’t know why they have brought darkness into my life,” the heartbroken man told our correspondent earlier in the week. “They killed my wife and best friend, destroying my life in the process. I don’t know what life would be like for me and the children.
“The death of my wife, the only woman I had ever loved my entire life is a big blow. Since my parents died, my wife remained my strength and source of inspiration. If she had sustained only injuries, I would have preferred that. But the bullet ended her life. She was a mother to me and the rest of the family. Life can never be the same without her,” he said.
Giving a vivid narrative of the moments leading to the tragic incident, Udoh told Saturday PUNCH that his failure to part with an amount demanded by the policemen at the check point caused one of the officers to pull the trigger against all expectations.
“One of the officers used his gun to hit my tricycle immediately I got to the checkpoint and asked me to park,” he said. “He later asked me to give them N2, 000 but I told him that I didn’t have that kind of money. His colleague who speaks the same language with me asked me to go.
“As I tried to enter my tricycle, I didn’t know that one of them was preparing to shoot. I heard a gunshot behind me and before I knew what had happened, my jaw had been torn open and blood was gushing out. I thought I was the only one affected but I heard my children shouting ‘mummy is dying.’ I rushed back to meet them but saw blood gushing out of her head.
“After seeing what had happened to my wife, I rushed back to the policemen to tell them that they had killed her and requested to know what I had done to deserve such. The one who fired the shot pointed the gun at me as if he was going to shoot me again. Soon, they jumped into their van and drove off.
“The bullet entered her head and came out at the other end. The officer shot her twice. My wife was carrying our last child and after the bullet hit her, my second daughter collected the baby from her. They were all inside the tricycle when everything happened,” he said.
According to Udoh, Comfort was still breathing after the bullet hit her in the head. He told Saturday PUNCH that vehicle owners around the scene of the incident he approached for help to rush his wife to the hospital turned him down for fear of not wanting to involve themselves with a matter that had to do with the police. The 45-year-old also revealed that had the police issued a report for him to show doctors at the hospital where Comfort was initially rushed to, she could have survived.
“All the vehicles I stopped that night to carry me and my wife to the hospital refused,” he said. “The drivers said they didn’t want to involve with anything that has to do with the police. It was a bus driver who took pity on us and helped us. We were rejected at two private hospitals. At Igando General Hospital, they requested for police report before attending to us. We were then taken to Idimu area command where the matter was reported. I asked that we be given a police report so that the hospital could attend to us but the officers at Idimu told us to go, assuring us that a police report was not necessary and that we would be treated. We left there without a police report and when we got to Igando General Hospital, they refused to attend to us because we failed to show them a police report. The driver then went back to Idimu police station to finally get the report. At that time, it was already too late. My wife had died already.
“She was still alive inside the tricycle even after the bullet hit her. If we got a vehicle on time to rush her to the hospital and if the police had given us a report on time, maybe my wife wouldn’t have died,” he said.
The police in Lagos announced recently that the officer, who fired the shot that killed Comfort and injured Udoh had been arrested, dismissed and is facing criminal charges. As a way of easing the pains the family was passing through, they also promised to sponsor the family’s four children through school, pick the medical expenses of the 45-year-old’s injuries and compensate the family for the loss. But several days after making those pledges, Udoh told our correspondent that he had yet to see anything.
“Of all the promises the police made, it is only the hospital bill that they had paid. Initially the money for my surgery did not come on time; later the Commissioner of Police in Lagos brought the money and paid the hospital for my surgery.
“They promised to take care of my children’s education as I can no longer work for now as a result of the incident which seriously affected my right hand. I have not been able to use it since the incident happened. The police also promised to help me get back on my feet fully. But I have not heard anything from them since they paid for my surgery.
“I can’t use my right hand yet. I cannot eat because of my jaw. I am not okay at all. I don’t know if I will ever get over the nightmare of my wife’s death,” he said.
Elizabeth, younger sibling of the badly injured tricycle operator who has been taking care of the children told Saturday PUNCH during a telephone conversation on Friday that the children cry every day, asking after their mother. According to her, the youngest child who is just a few months old and still sucking breast has grown restless since their mother passed away. She maintained that the incident is a pill too bitter to swallow for the entire household.
“The children ask me every day when their mother would come back, I tell them she had travelled to go and pray for them and that she would soon be back. They would accept my answer for a short while but would soon come back to ask me the same question again. I feel like crying in those moments.
“Their mother was a very hardworking woman who also took us the in-laws as her children too. She was the pillar behind her husband whom many of us looked up to. To lose a figure like that is a very big blow for the entire family,” she said.
Foremost rights advocate and president of Women Arise, Dr. Joe Odumakin, who has been helping the family pursue justice told Saturday PUNCH that the police must begin to take the conduct of its officers on duty more seriously as any mistake from them could prove too costly for the society. She insisted that the law must take its course on the matter.
“It is the responsibility of the police to let their officers know that no one is above the law. They are constitutionally tasked to secure lives and property but how do we explain a situation where the police turn their guns against the people whose lives they are supposed to secure? Justice must be served on this matter. The law must take its full course so that it can serve as deterrent to others,” she said.
Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, revealed earlier that the officer who fired the shot had been arrested and detained. He assured that justice would surely be served at the end of investigation into the matter.
“The police are doing all in our capacity to ensure that the deceased’s children are taken care of. The police corporal involved has been taken into custody. When we complete all necessary disciplinary action, he will be charged to court for murder.
“The team leader and the DPO of Isheri Osun division has also been issued queries for disobeying the IG with regards to policemen performing duties out of uniform, and without a properly-labelled police van,” he said.
Source: Punch Newspaper