He graduated from primary six last July at East Academy Nursery and Primary school in Owerri. So that singular bullet extinguished the hope of the family whose only son wanted to be a catholic priest.
Since that tragic incident, the house of the Ibeanusis has become a beehive of activities as people from all walks of life have been trooping to the place at 18 Oguamanam Street, off Douglas Road, Owerri, to pay their last respects and to condole with the family. Getting Mrs. Ogechukwu Ibeanusi, his distraught mother, to speak on the death of her only son, was quite a Herculean task.
“My husband and I were in one of our shops at the shopping plaza in the demolition zone, trying to evacuate the goods in the shop because my husband deals in phone accessories,” she said while recalling the tragic incident.
“Because the state government has already started the demolition that morning, Somtochukwu and his elder sister, Mmesoma, were sent to pack the goods in one of our shops in the same area also being demolished.
"It’s while carrying out that instruction that the boy was killed in controversial circumstances. Controversial because opinions are divided as to whether his death was from a deliberate shot or circumstantial, from stray bullet, as being claimed in some quarters."
How it happened
The woman recounted details of how the tragedy began to unravel. “As we were still busy trying to pack out our goods, some of our neighbours rushed in and called my husband and whispered something to him and he left with them immediately, but I did not know what it was all about. I did not know that my only son has been killed.
"After a while, some people that I know in the neigbhourhood came and asked me to follow them to our house. I refused and told them that my husband just left and our goods were still at the plaza which is being demolished. But they persuaded me to follow them to the house.”
On reaching there she learnt that her only son has been shot, but that was half of the story. The naked truth was when, in company of relatives and sympathizers, she got to the Federal Medical Centre where he was rushed to after the shooting. “When I saw his lifeless body I knew that my world has collapsed,” she said.
“Somtochukwu was a covenant child,” she informed Saturday Sun. “The devil did not want him to be born but God was with him and he was eventually born. I called him Somtochukwu (Join me/Follow me to praise God) because he was declared dead after six months when he was born but God brought him to life. He was very talented but for his death he would have entered the seminary this month because he wanted to be a catholic priest but all that is now gone”.
She said that the family had handed over the matter to God. Although none of the relations agreed to speak on the matter, Ikechukwu Oha who was an eyewitness disclosed that Somtochukwu was allegedly shot by soldiers.
“We were standing close to the multi-line motor company close to Douglas by Mbaise road when suddenly soldiers in an army vehicle with a mounted gunnery started shooting indiscriminately by turning the mounted gun in all directions,” he recalled. “We started running; we were all running to escape as bullets were flying in all directions and Somtochukwu was among those who were running.
"I think he must have been hit by the bullet. From where I was, I saw one of the army personnel speaking to the man in the vehicle with the mounted gunnery when it dawned on them that someone had been shot. But after their conversation the soldier who had been manning that vehicle was asked to come out. As he came out, he entered an army jeep and he was driven out from the scene and another soldier was asked to take over the vehicle with the mounted gunnery.”
Initially, it was not clear who was shot, he added. They were to discover that after things had calmed down. Ugochukwu Mere who also witnessed the incident confirmed that Somtochukwu was killed by stray bullet from the soldiers’ gunfire.
According to him, “there was indiscriminate shooting on that day particularly by the soldiers and as people were running helter-skelter, it was in that confusion that he was hit by stray bullet. About eight other persons were equally hit by stray bullets on that sad day but only the boy died.”
Meanwhile, traders at the new market at Egbeada where the state government has relocated the demolished Eke-Ukwu Owerri have complained of lack of sufficient stalls to accommodate them.
One of them, Madam Adanma Ejiogu, who sells foodstuffs said that though the governor had promised to give stalls free to traders for three months before they start paying, the stalls are not enough.
“The stalls are not enough and everybody is struggling to get a space to put their tables unlike at Eke Ukwu Owerri where all have shops,” she said. “And again we do not have customers as we used to have at Eke Ukwu Owerri, because most people don’t come here due to the distance.”
Mrs. Monica Amadi, who sells smoked fish managed to get a space but like Ejiogu she also lamented low business patronage. "Most buyers now prefer to go to Relief market since the demolition of Eke- Ukwu Owerri," she said.“This place is a bit far from the city centre,” she said. “Only those who patronise us here are mostly from this area.”
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