A 62-year-old man, Innocent Gbaraka, has lamented the murder of his 29-year-old son, Gospel Gbaraka, by a police officer identified simply as James, an inspector.
Gospel, firstborn of his father, was an employee of Prudential Guard Limited, a private security company and was attached to Bulk Strategic Reserve Limited, a company located at the Abonnema Wharf Area of Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.
He was a graduate of Imo State Polytechnic, Owerri.
Mr James, who is with the Marine Base Police Station at the Wharf Area in the city, was also on guard at the same company as the deceased.
According to the father, no reason has been given either by witnesses or the police for the murder of his son by the cop.
“There was no information, nothing. It was just around 2 o’clock on Sunday afternoon when someone called me that I should come to the mortuary at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH). There and then I met my son, lying dead in his pool of blood. I was stone cold. No one could explain what went wrong between them,” amidst sobs, he told PREMIUM TIMES on the phone.
The Rivers State police command confirmed the development to our reporter on the phone.
Quest for justice
The distraught father said when he learnt that Mr James was detained at Mile One police station over the incident, his family approached the station to know what led to his son’s death.
He said; “So, when the investigating police officer (IPO), who said his name is Innocent, told us inspector James that killed my son was detained at Mile One police station we went there to know what really happened. But instead of explaining the situation to us, we were harassed and beaten up. The policemen threw my wife and daughter out of the place. They said we should go to marine police station.”
He said all he wanted is justice, saying he does not know “his fate on the earth at 62 again.”
“I don’t know what to say. In fact, if not this man by my side who is holding me, I wanted to tie rope around my neck and take away my life because I don’t know how to start again. I want to hang myself now. Gospel is my first child, he was trained at Imo State polytechnic, Owerri. I was thinking when I die this boy would bury me. But here I am, now I will have to bury my son. What is my fate again on earth? Where do I start now?” he said.
Police confirm incident
Speaking on the phone with our reporter, the police spokesperson in Rivers, Nnamdi Omoni, said he was aware of the development and that appropriate action was being taken.
“Yes, I can confirm that to you. Action is being taken,” Mr Omoni told PREMIUM TIMES.
Asked the details of the incident, the police spokesperson said he was yet to receive details, and that until then, he would not be able to speak further on the matter.
He said; “I heard and I spoke with the divisional police officer (DPO) who confirmed it to me. So we are awaiting the details.”
Companies keep mute
Efforts to get the reaction of both Prudential Guard Limited and Bulk Strategic Reserve Limited yielded no positive result.
An employee of Bulk Strategic Reserve Limited, who doubles as the spokesperson for the wharf branch of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Moses Benibo, said only the company’s human resources (HR) unit could speak on the matter.
Mr Benibo, however, could not send the contact details of an official of the unit to our reporter. But he did not deny the incident.
“Though I work with Bulk Strategic Reserve Limited, I cannot speak for the company. I am just the public relations officer for NUPENG here. So only HR could speak officially,” he told our reporter on the phone.
Meanwhile, a telephone number displayed on the contact page of the security company for Rivers State is said to belong to another guard with the company.
The official, who refused to disclose his name, said he was surprised to be called because “I am just a guard with the company in the headquarters in Lagos.”
He said he would contact the office to inform them of the development for appropriate action.
Youth group kicks
Meanwhile, The Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF) has threatened a mass action over the development, saying the death of Mr Gbaraka was one too many.
Speaking on the phone with our reporter, the group’s president-general, Yamaabana Legborsi, said until police brutality is finally ended in the country, the youth would continue its agitation for wholesome reform.
In a short statement signed by Mr Legborsi on Sunday, the group said it would hold a press briefing alongside the family members of the deceased on Monday morning.
The statement reads in part; “The Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF) worldwide, today, Sunday 22nd November, 2020, received a distressing and shocking news of the extra-judicial murder of one of its youths and shining lights, Mr. Gospel Gbaraka, at the hands of a gun-wielding member of the Nigerian Police Force, one Inspector James, serving at the Marine Base Police Station in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, now being detained at the Mile One Police Station.
“Late Gospel Gbaraka, prior to being untimely cut short through the barrel of a gun was a 29-year-old native of Gwara Community in Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State…There were no altercation, riot or crisis situation at the company involving groups of persons requiring the use of live bullets to disperse crowds, neither was there any existing problem between the deceased and Inspector James.”
The group said as a youth body, it is pained that the life of a committed responsible young Nigerian was taken in “a heartless manner, particularly now that Nigeria is at a crossroad and the world has been awoken to the demands of #EndSARS protesters whose focal point is to end the recurring decimal of police brutality and extrajudicial killings,” adding that “This is one of too many as other Ogoni sons/daughters have been killed by the Nigerian Police in like manner.”
The group said it would pursue justice on the matter and ensure that justice is served.
Last month, thousands of young Nigerians protested against police brutality across the country.
The campaign, which was tagged #EndSARS, and which spanned many days, had resulted in the controversial shooting of protesters in Lagos and other states by officials of the Nigerian Army.
The soldiers were drafted to scenes of the protests following a curfew declared by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The protests had informed the setting up of judicial panels of inquiry across the states to investigate cases of abuses by the police. And Nigerians have been narrating various ugly experiences in the hands of police officers at the sittings of the various panels in different states.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...