Trailed By Controversy
Two deaths which happened two weeks ago in Benin City, Edo State capital are generating controversies in the state. The deceased, Isaac Onaiwu, a bus driver and Joshua Sashua Edeghagba, a journalist were killed in what family members believed were mysterious circumstances.
Onaiwu, who died on May 17, was allegedly beaten to death by men of the Nigerian Army School of Strategy and Transport, NASST. His brother, Matthew told this magazine that his brother was reportedly beaten into a state of coma before he was taken to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, by some soldiers and policemen where he was certified dead by doctors.
It was gathered that the late bus driver operated a daily campus shuttle service between the University of Benin and the Ring Road, inthe city centre. His vehicle was said to have collided with a private car belonging to an Army lieutenant at the NASST on May 15 at about 7:00 p.m. Following the accident, soldiers who stormed the scene, reportedly beat and dragged the late Onaiwu, who told them he was sick, to their barracks where he was detained for a while. He was later taken to the UBTH. The matter was reported to the Ugbowo police station, Benin by his wife and other members of the family.
Dr Chris Chibuzou who conducted an autopsy on the deceased at UBTH, in his report said the late Onaiwu died of “intra-cerebral hemorrhage.” Dr. Chibuzou added that attempts to resuscitate the deceased in the high
dependency area of the emergency room of the hospital after he was brought in at 12 midnight on May 16 failed before he was certified dead at 2.13 p.m. the following day.
But in a dramatic reaction to allegation of his men’s involvement in the death of the driver, the commandant of the NASST, Brigadier General Emmanuel Nienge, denied that the driver was ever beaten up. Nienge who said the late Onaiwu was sick, claimed that he died as a result of the accident as there were “no bruises on his body” as alleged by family members. As a way “to clear whatever doubt,” concerning the circumstance of his death the commandant promised to order an “autopsy at my own cost (and) the result will be made public.”
The 48-year old Onaiwu was survived by a wife and three children. His body was deposited at the UBTH morgue, pending further investigation.
And for the later Edeghagba, a crime reporter with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN FM station in Benin City, his father, Pastor Osa Mike Edeghagba said he was assassinated. Pastor Edeghagba said the late journalist was accosted by some persons at Ikpoba Hill a stone throw from his office on two occasions last month about the veracity of some reports aired on the radio station. He told this magazine that though he saw a vision about the death of his son, efforts to get him to the church for prayers failed. “The killers of my son trailed him to a mechanic workshop and later saw his car parked by the side of a shop. The hoodlums later trailed him to that shop and forced those they met at that shop to lie with their faces on the ground while (they) used a telephone touch light to check the faces of those they met in the shop.” He said that after identifying his son one of the killers shot him on his forehead and fled. He noted that nobody was robbed or shot by the killers before they fled.
But the police said that the journalist was killed in a crossfire between gunmen and some policemen. Edo State commissioner of police, Olayinka Balogun, who confirmed the incident, said the journalist was caught in the crossfire. Balogun said a policeman who was also shot in the process, is now in an undisclosed hospital where he is responding to treatment from injuries he sustained.
Sources at the scene of the incident on Dawson Lane, off Lagos Street in Benin City also said the late journalist was killed during an exchange of gun battle between policemen and armed robbers during a robbery operation. The robbers were said to have shot severally in the air in an attempt to escape. Edeghagba, who had gone to the mechanic workshop to drop his car for repair and was returning on a motor bike, might have been caught by one of the bullets. He was said to have bought the car two weeks before his sudden death from the mechanic but the car developed major faults, prompting him to take it back to him for repair. He left behind his pregnant wife and three children. His body was also deposited at the morgue of an unidentified hospital pending further investigation.
The Edo State command of the State Security Service, SSS last week however, tasked journalists to be extra-vigilant and security conscious in the discharge of their duties as the countdown to the July 14 governorship polls in the state begins. SSS director in the state, Bello Bakore-Tukur, told newsmen at his office on Monday that there seems to be an element of insecurity in the state targeting the media and called for collaboration between journalists and the security agencies. “Everybody must participate in the security of this country. Nigerians lack security consciousness and without the cooperation of the public security agencies cannot do anything; they need information and without information they cannot work effectively.”