The people of Eke Community in the Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State have alleged the killing of a volunteer member of its neighbourhood vigilante watch and a housewife from the community by soldiers.
Narrating what transpired on Sunday, Emeka Anigbo, assistant chief security officer of the Eke Security Neighbourhood Vigilante Watch, still grieving over gunshot pain, said they were at 9th Mile Corner on Thursday night when they got a distress call.
Mr Anigbo said the caller informed them that armed bandits blocked the major road leading to the popular Catholic Church Prayer Centre (Ugwudinso) and Eke, from Ama Breweries.
He said, “On receiving the distress call, we swiftly drove out with a view to confronting the criminal elements, but due to heavy traffic gridlock occasioned by the blockage of the road, we could not get to the scene with their vehicle.”
He said they (vigilante group) decided to park their vehicle along the road and started moving towards the place, and that while approaching the scene, they met three armed soldiers who ordered them to stop.
“We obeyed the soldiers and identified ourselves as neighbourhood vigilante watch guards. The soldiers asked us to keep coming.
“On approaching, the soldiers started firing at us, killing one of us and a woman who was on a motorcycle with her husband going back to Eke community.
“Despite the fact that we were in our full security uniforms and had identified ourselves, the trigger-happy soldiers opened fire on us at a very close range, killing Oke and the woman.
“After shooting me severally, while I was on the ground, one of the soldiers still, notwithstanding seeing my identification card and my uniform, went ahead to shoot me again on the shoulder,” Mr Anigbo said.
Mr Anigbo said it was the timely arrival of police operatives from the 9th Mile Corner Division that saved his life, adding it was the police that stopped the soldier and confirmed that they were Eke Neighborhood Security Guards.
He alleged that the soldiers equally shot three other members of the local security outfit at close range, leaving them with various degrees of bullet injuries, including one whose penis was completely shattered.
“It is unfortunate that Mr Ebuka Oke, shot during the barbaric attack by the soldiers, lost his father exactly one month on the same day he was killed,” he said.
Efforts to speak with Chinedu Okolo, whose manhood was shattered, failed, as he could not utter a word due to severe pains.
The third victim, Obinna Offor, was passing excruciating pains under oxygen support at the intensive care unit of a hospital.
Some natives of Eke community, who spoke on condition of anonymity, condemned the unprofessional conduct of the soldiers, describing it as “barbaric and callous” while calling for an independent investigation.
When contacted, Lt.- Col. Jonah Unuakhalu, the spokesperson for the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, described as untrue the narrative of the community people and its vigilante’s arm.
Mr Unuakhalu said from the available information at the division’s disposal, the deceased woman was killed by a stray bullet from armed hoodlums who engaged the soldiers in a shoot-out.
He said that the troops received a distress call that some criminal elements were operating along the Eke road, and they immediately rushed to the scene; on sighting the soldiers the hoodlums opened fire on them.
He noted that the soldiers overpowered them, leading to the arrest of one of them and recovering of two pump action guns and some live bullets after some ran into a nearby bush.
The division’s spokesman said he had no information regarding the alleged second deceased (the male).
He added that it was during the exchange of fire between the troop and the hoodlums that a stray bullet hit the deceased housewife who was rushed to the hospital, “but unfortunately, later died”.
“So, there is no iota of truth in the information being peddled around that it was soldiers that killed the deceased (female). Our men only rushed to the scene to salvage the situation after receiving a distress call,” he insisted.
Nonetheless, he said the division would investigate the matter.
Eke community is the hometown of the Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu and immediate past Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, among others.