Abuja police officers open fire at checkpoint; kill female corper, sister alleges

Police on patrol
Nigeria Police on patrol

A Nigerian woman on her national youth service in Abuja has been allegedly killed by police officers, her sister told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday.

Nkechi Igwetu was heading out to a party Wednesday morning with her male friends when officers opened fire at the vehicle they were riding in, leaving her critically wounded, her sister said.

Although Chinenye Igwetu, the sister, was not a witness to the accident; she said she got the details of the incident from her sister’s male friends when she arrived at the police station. She also got more information from police officers, she said.

The incident occurred around Cedi Plaza in Central Area at about 3:00 a.m., Chinenye told PREMIUM TIMES. She said her sister was evacuated to General Hospital, Garki, but passed on soon after arriving at the hospital.

Chinenye said her late sister returned from her primary place of assignment at Outsource Global Ltd., a customer support outsourcing firm in Mabushi, around 11:00 p.m. Tuesday.

“She relaxed at home and later said her friends had come to pick her up for them to go and hang out,” she said.

The ill-fated merrymaking was to celebrate their successful completion of the one-year youth service, her sister said. Her batch was slated to pass out tomorrow, she added.

Chinenye said her sister’s remains had been deposited at General Hospital, Garki, mortuary. The two male friends who collected the late Nkechi and sat at the front of the convertible car were taken into custody by the police, Chinenye said.

Some of the deceased’s friends online have shared a picture of her, as well as claims that medical personnel at the General Hospital refused to attend to her until she bled to death.

One of such accounts said the hospital initially declined to treat her for the gunshot wounds until there is a directive from the police to do so, even though some police officers who evacuated her to the hospital were present.

PREMIUM TIMES could not reach the hospital for comments Wednesday night. More efforts will be made to reach the hospital on Thursday. It was also unclear whether hospitals are still demanding a police report before treating victims in gunshot emergency. The Force Headquarters had previously said all hospitals are free to treat victims of gunshot wounds without police report.

Four medical doctors who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES from Enugu, Lagos, Ibadan and Keffi on Wednesday night all said hospitals are allowed to treat gunshot emergencies, but they are often required to obtain police report afterwards.

The police did not issue a statement about the matter. When PREMIUM TIMES called the FCT Police Command Wednesday night for information about the incident, the spokesperson, Anjuguri Manzah, said the matter was under investigation.

“We are investigating the matter,” Mr Manzah repeatedly told PREMIUM TIMES, declining to volunteer any more details of the incident.

Chinenye said she learnt from police sources that her sister and her friends were shot after they allegedly failed to stop at checkpoint. She said this was possible, given the youthfulness of the two men occupying the front seat, but she was reluctant to accept the account on the grounds that the police are known to lie against victims or suspects.

She described her sister as a hardworking and upbeat woman, appealing to appropriate authorities to ensure that justice is done in the matter.

The police are no strangers to controversial pulling of trigger. Since the 2005 fatal shooting of six party-goers in Abuja, scores of other deaths have been linked to disproportionate use of firearms by officers.

With the death of Nkechi coming at a time of intense anger towards police officers, especially against members of the notorious special anti-robbery squad (SARS), the FCT Command could face a heavy backlash if detectives failed to properly and timely investigate the matter.

Already, Segun Awosanya, a major voice in the campaign to scrap SARS and refine the police system, condemned Nkechi’s death during a telephone conversation with PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday night.

Mr Awosanya said he had asked a team of lawyers to engage the police and ensure that a thorough probe was carried out.

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