Trouble started when the driver escaped from a police check-point at Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS) junction in the commercial city. The deceased was said to be a member of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
The killer police was said to be a non-native, a development that enraged the residents. The suspect, it was learnt, has been arrested.
Security agencies also prevented a spill-over of the crisis to nearby Asaba in Delta State, where non-natives in the town ran for fear of being attacked by the mob.
The entire city became tensed when drivers and the mob trooped out to protest the killing by the mobile policeman.
Speaking to journalists, Samuel Ekwueme, the conductor of the deceased driver, said that his boss, whom he called Edwin, refused to give the policemen the N20 bribe, which led to a chase.
Ekwueme said: “The policeman stopped my oga at the junction, demanding for N20 bribe and he beat the check-point. But as we were going down to Ose main market, he noticed that the policeman rode on a commercial motorcycle and followed us. When he (the deceased) noticed that the policeman was chasing us, he tried to follow the one-way through New Market Road, but the same policeman followed us and shot at the tyres of the vehicle and we were forced to stop. Then, he came to the door and shot Edwin at a close range in the neck”
It was also gathered that another passenger of the Coaster bus, marked AA 768 AHD, sustained gunshot wounds when the killer cop opened fire on the bus in the process of recovering the N20 which he refused to pay at the check point. The bus, said to be fully loaded with passengers, was said to have taken off from Nkpor Junction and heading to the Ose Main market. When the incident happened, the passengers scampered for safety.
One of the passengers, who gave her name as Ifeoma Obi, told Daily Sun that the deceased did not do anything to warrant his killing, adding “it was just sheer wickedness on the part of the policeman, who because of just N20, wasted this young man’s life”
Edwin’s widow gave birth about one week ago, it was learnt.
However, the situation assumed ethnic coloration as drivers and hoodlums went on the rampage.
A mob descended on the police team earlier sent by the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Muhtari Ibrahim, to appeal to the restless crowd, which led to the policemen retreating, to avoid further casualties. When the Acting Area Commander of Onitsha, Mr. Rowland Omoteje, accompanied by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) for Central Police Station, CPS, Mr. Abdul Yusuf, arrived the scene, the mob pelted them. It took extra efforts to rescue the DPO from being lynched.
Stating their version, the police said the incident occurred when a mobile police corporal attached to Police Mobile Force (PMF) 52, on stop and search duty at the DMGS, tried to stop the deceased and the conductor allegedly tried to disarm the policeman which led to the incident. At the Head Bridge , Onitsha , the Fegge police station’s DPO, Mr. Tafida Saleh, and his men were on hand to protect the non-natives in the area on learning about the identity of the killer cop. Meanwhile, reacting to the incident, Gov. Peter Obi said that Anambra remains calm and peaceful, in spite of the mayhem.
Speaking on phone to journalists, Obi said that it was normal for people or towns in any part of the world, including developed countries, however calm, to witness disturbances once in a while.
While commiserating with the deceased family, he said that the moment he got the information, he was in constant touch with the security agencies and that within two hours, normalcy was restored. He appealed to the people to go about their businesses as government would continue to protect their lives and property.
His Special Adviser on Security, Col. George Molokwu (rtd), said that only one life was lost. He debunked the rumour that more than one person was killed.
“Much as we do not want the loss of any life, we regret that one life was lost. We thank the security agencies for rising to the occasion by bringing the situation under control. We thank the people of Anambra State for their understanding and assure everybody that Anambra will remain calm and peacefully.” Molokwu said.
Also, the new Igbo leader, Chief Ralph Uwazurike, advised the MASSOB members not to attack any non-native but should dismantle all police check-points within the zone.
According to Uwazurike, who spoke through his deputy, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka and MASSOB Director of Information, Comrade Uchenna Madu, said the dismantling of all police check-points became imperative at a time when the security of the Ndigbo is no longer safe even in their land. In a related development, Police Commissioner Ibrahim said the killer cop had been arrested and would soon undergo orderly room trial and prosecution. He appealed to the mob to calm down as efforts to settle the matter had commenced.
Meanwhile, the Asaba ‘B’ Divisional Police Station of the Delta State Police Command became a refugee camp for non-natives, who fled neighbouring Anambra as a result of the mayhem.
There were over 200 of them at the station seeking refuge yesterday when Daily Sun visited. Tension had risen at the popular Abraka area, a district where most non-natives in Asaba reside and carry out economic activities, as they were being brought in batches.
There was a big sigh of relief when the police started patrolling the area to the River Niger Head bridge to prevent the crisis from spreading into Asaba as well as to douse the mounting tension around Abraka area.
The DPO in-charge of ‘B’ Division, Usman Yusuf, assured that the situation was under control.
He said the police would protect lives and property in the area and ensure that nobody was attacked, irrespective of their places of origin.