A family in Akwa Ibom has accused a police officer in the state of causing the death of their 54-year-old relative.
The officer, Bassey Ikpe, was said to have violently dragged the victim, Deborah Nkpenie, thereby causing her head to hit the iron rail of a tricycle where she was seated. The woman died immediately, witnesses said.
The incident happened at the police headquarters, Uyo, on Thursday, around 12 p.m.
Mr Ikpe, a police inspector, denied the allegation. He said the woman died outside the police headquarters and that he did not assault her as alleged by the family.
Mrs Nkpenie had hired the tricycle, otherwise known as keke, to the police headquarters in response to the officer, Mr Ikpe’s invitation over a family squabble. The officer was said to have angrily insisted on taking her to court for arraignment immediately Mrs Nkpenie arrived.
The family, through their lawyer, Clifford Thomas, sent to PREMIUM TIMES via WhatsApp photos of the victim’s body taken while inside the keke, with her head resting on her daughter’s laps.
Mfonobong Peter, the younger sister to late Mrs Nkpenie, said the victim’s stepchildren wanted to dispossess her of her house after her husband died last year.
The stepchildren, Mrs Peter said, lodged a case with the police against Mrs Nkpenie.
She narrated what happened at the police station before her sister’s death.
“I was pleading with him (the officer) to free our younger brother, Godwin Udofia, who was handcuffed and detained inside the police building. Meanwhile, my elder sister was inside the keke, crying out that she was very weak and needed to see a doctor,” Mrs Peter said.
She said the officer accused her sister of pretending to be ill and also lashed out at the two of them. “I kept begging that he should allow me to take her to the hospital but he wouldn’t want to listen,” she added.
According to Mrs Peter, the officer yelled at her sister who was still inside the keke, “You won’t go anywhere today, you can die here if you want to die.
“The next thing, he held my sister’s head and hit it against the iron rail inside the keke. As he was doing this, he kept yelling at my sister “you this trickster of a woman”.
“I saw whitish substance come out of my sister’s nose.
“The last thing I heard my sister said was, ‘Oh, you have killed me’ and then she slumped inside the keke.”
She said the officer ordered them to take their sister’s corpse out of the station immediately he realised she was dead. “At that time, I was screaming for help,” she said.
They rushed to the police clinic, which is about two kilometres away from the police headquarters, hoping to get some help. It was there that the doctor told her that their sister was already dead for some 20 minutes before they arrived at the clinic, Mrs Peter said.
Mrs Nkpenie was suffering from hypertension before the incident at the police station, the family lawyer, Mr Thomas, told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Thomas said a forgery allegation was made against Mrs Nkpenie at the police station, apparently by her stepchildren. The lawyer, however, said he did not see the charge against her.
The victim’s family told PREMIUM TIMES they too have not seen the charge against their late sister.
“The investigating police officer mismanaged the entire thing, he kept threatening the woman, he kept insisting that the woman must come (to the station) and the woman kept telling him that she was sick, she cannot move her entire frame, when she comes she sits inside keke, she cannot even come out,” Mr Thomas said.
“On Wednesday, the IPO dragged her, insisted that he must take her to court.
“The IPO did these things ostensibly under the influence of bribe and wanted to rush them to court without even the OC legal, the OC anti-cult, and of course the OC state CID who is in charge of the entire state CID knowing.
“It was reported to the police deputy commissioner that the IPO as a male went into the woman’s room to dress her up to force her and bring her (to the station), she was stark naked.
“Different police procedures were actually violated by the IPO. The deputy commissioner of police told me that she reprimanded him and had advised him not to take the matter to court until they (the accused persons) have done interview with her,” Mr Thomas said.
The lawyer further said the deputy commissioner of police said she had told the IPO to allow Mrs Nkpenie’s younger brother who is a co-accused to stand in for her if the woman could not come to the police station because of ill-health.
“We are pressing for murder charge (against the officer), we are doing a petition,” the lawyer said.
The officer, Mr Ikpe, told PREMIUM TIMES his own side of the story.
“She was invited for interview on Wednesday and when they came she could not get down from the keke, so the deputy commissioner of police in charge of state CID advised that she should go and take her medication and come back the next day by 10 a.m.
“When they came by 10 a.m. she couldn’t even get down from keke, I climbed upstairs to invite the officer to come down to interview her. When they came down, they didn’t see her; they drove out again without informing us.
“They only called us to say the woman died along the way either to the hospital or wherever. When they came back with the corpse with much crying, the commissioner of police gave order that the person is dead, why are you bringing her for interview; it’s like they were trying to create (a) scene,” Mr Ikpe said.
The officer said it was not true he went into Mrs Nkpenie’s room when she was naked.
He, however, refused to tell PREMIUM TIMES what case the police had against Mrs Nkpenie.
Ukpono Umoren, the man who rode the keke on the day of incident, said the officer was not being truthful.
“The policeman wanted to drag the woman down from the keke, and she hit her head on the keke and started crying,” Mr Umoren told PREMIUM TIMES. “The policeman forced me to take the woman out of the station when she had already died.”
Victor Nkpenie, one of the persons who did the petition to the police against Mrs Nkpenie, told PREMIUM TIMES that the late woman and her brother, Mr Udofia, “stole” vital documents which belonged to their late father.
“The woman was never married to my father,” Mr Victor said. “My father co-habited her. And her brother was also in that house.”
Mr Victor, a lecturer in the University of Uyo, said the stolen documents are related to their late father’s pensions, landed properties, bank account, and education credentials.
He said he and his brothers were willing to accommodate the late woman in the sharing of their late father’s properties as a way of “settling” for taking care of their dad at old age.
When asked how he felt about Mrs Nkpenie’s death, Mr Victor said “I feel bad about it. Now, how will I be able to recover my father’s documents? I wanted her to stay alive and give me my father’s documents.”
Mr Victor said the police officer, Mr Ikpe, was not responsible for the death of Mrs Ekpenie. “I was at the station, I didn’t even see him (the officer) get close to the keke that the woman was sitting inside,” he said.
The police spokesperson in the state, Odiko MacDon, did not respond to calls and text message from PREMIUM TIMES.