TRAGEDY IN EKPOMA, GUNMEN STRIKE! ONE DEAD…
The time was about 8:32am and activities were just picking up in Ika Street the busiest of its kind in Oboh community, 4 kilometers east of Ekpoma, Edo State. While shop owners and offices were throwing their doors open in preparation for the day’s business, both starry-eyed school children and stone-faced workers who apparently were pressed for time, scuttle pass one another to meet deadlines. The honking sounds of vehicles and Newspapers vendors’ horns (distant and near) coupled with the shuffling of feet of the people, created a well arranged symphony that a seasoned orchestra conductor would have nodded his approval to.
And as if it was truly a well prepared script playing out itself, everybody suddenly stiffened and looked in one direction in a remote controlled manner, vehicles also screeched to a stop!
For one split second, everywhere became deathly silent and then, as if collectively snapping out a trance, people started screaming and darting in different directions at the sound of another gunshot which was what jolted them initially but never comprehended. People scampered for safety in all directions but the only Internet café in the street! At the front of the Internet café, two hooded men stood over another man lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood, one of his legs still twitching in the throes of death. And then in a gangster fashion, the killers walked with unhurried steps to a waiting car (a metallic grey Toyota Corolla) with another hooded man at the driver’s seat, they got in and the car sped off, and then screeched to a halt again. It reversed back to its original position and the man at the back seat jumped out and dashed towards the corpse, the black pistol in his hand pointing to the sky. He did not even pay attention to the hood of the black leather jacket that was blown off his head; he just seemed to have an unfinished business. He squatted and grabbed the phone that the dead man still had clutched in his left hand and dashed back to the car.
An eyewitness to the incident, a young man who was also standing at the front of the Internet café said the killers who he thought were persons known to the deceased (even though they were wearing hood and dark glasses), beckoned to the deceased to what seemed like a friendly summon, but that the only thing he heard the late man vehemently telling the killers was, “Na wao, I say I no know where Ehis dey, Ehis no tell me where him go, me sef I dey find am, even his phone no dey go…”, shortly before they shot him dead.
When contacted by our reporting crew, the family of the deceased who have been thrown into mourning mood, were not immediately available for comments, but a close neighbour and friend of the family who preferred to remain anonymous said Joy (the deceased’s first name) was rather an unfortunate victim of circumstance. The man said, “I think a lot of things have been going on lately with Joy of which his aunty, and even everyone in the compound have been warning him to be very careful…”. He didn’t elaborate.
Just then, a clearly distraught and teary eyed middle-agéd woman who our reporter later* learned was the deceased’s aunty approached our reporter, spelling out the words in a very hoarse voice, “Him don see the thing wey he dey find! Joy no get mama again, na me be like mama to am now, becos I be his mama sister, but he no dey hear word for my mouth. See now, no be anoda person death he carry die so? See am, see am, see am o…!”. She broke into a tirade of uncontrolled weeping.
Our reporter who joined others to console her learned that Joy had a friend and former school mate (Ehis Ehikioya) who unwittingly got himself enmeshed in a political imbroglio when he sold a parcel of land owned by his late father a political stalwart in Ekpoma, Edo State at the time.
It was gathered that Ehis’s father who wield enormous political power in Ekpoma at the time, had died mysteriously after returning home from a political function some two years before. Ehis sold the parcel of land in order to raise funds to inject into the family business after his own wife also died in a road rage in Benin-City, the Edo State capital.
Ehis’s predicaments began when words started going round about his intention to sell the parcel of land. It was gathered that he was summoned by one Chief Eugene Ughegbe a co-party strongman and contender of Ehis’s late father who sternly warned him to desist from selling the said parcel of land, because (according to Chief Ughegbe), Ehis’s father fraudulently acquired it with monies from the party’s purse.
It was gathered that Ehis in defiance, went ahead and sold it to a member in the community. Our reporter learned that this infuriated Chief Ughegbe, who it was alleged, sent thugs to kill Ehis.
Joy on the other hand, was said to be an active player in the sale of the parcel of land and made no secret about it. It was learned that had he encouraged Ehis to go ahead sell the land since its original documents were with him.
Sobbing profusely, Joy’s aunty said she knew it would come to this because political rivalry in their community is usually deadly and she had warned the deceased to stir clear of it all, but he never listened. “E never finish? E don finish now, I beg make una leave me o, e don finish, e don finish…” she said, breaking into another bout of heart rending sobs again.
In the following weeks however, our reporters visited the local police station for updates when news started going round that one of the assailants was arrested.
The District Police Officer of Oboh police, Supol Kevin Salami confirmed the arrest, and said the suspect was making very useful statement to the police that had helped considerably with their investigation so far, most of which have indicted Chief Eugene Ughegbe, who has also been arrested.
In the DPO’s words, “It was rather unfortunate for Joy to be caught in the crossfire, as he was only trying to help a friend in dire need”. He further asserted, “Our investigation took us to a particular church in the community where Ehis was initially hiding, but he had to leave there because the pastor-incharge asked him to, due to enquries from strange looking visitors especially at odd times of the day, asking about him. We are also working with Kaduna,
the last place Ehis went into hiding, before absconding to a country in North Africa, probably Libya or Morocco, our investigation is still ongoing…” he said.
When contacted, the pastor said that the last time he and Ehis saw physically, was when he drove him to Ekpoma garage, where he boarded a Kaduna-bound vehicle to his late father’s friend place in Kaduna. Neither Chief Ughegbe nor any of his alleged goons was available for comments, and according to Supol Salami, “It is murder case, and they have all been moved to Benin-City and remanded in prison custody until investigations are complete”.