Barely weeks after youths across Nigeria took to the streets to protest against police brutality, an angry policeman on Wednesday allegedly opened fire on market women, shooting a 17-year-old periwinkle trader and three other women for allegedly causing traffic gridlock that delayed his escort van from passing through the popular Tombia market in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
The Tombia roundabout is home to an ever busy market and motor parks are famous for causing gridlocks that last for several hours.
According to an eyewitness, the policemen numbering six in number came down from their vans and started shooting at the traders and pedestrians to leave roadsides of the road to make way for the vehicle to pass freely, saying they were causing gridlock.
And that when the traders hesitated to leave the road, one of the policemen who appears angered by the situation fired gunshots on unsuspecting traders and commuters.
Joy Robert, who was with her foster mother when the incident occurred told Tribune Online that “I went to Tombia market to buy something with my foster mother. While we were walking down the Tombia bridge, I saw a policeman shouting at market women to clear the road for their vehicles to pass.
“Their van was packed along the Melford Okilo road by Tombia roundabout. Before we know what was to happen next, the policeman started pointing his gun at the women, ordering them to move out of the way. Because the women hesitated to move out of their way, he started shooting the ground.
“I thought I had been shot but I heard my mom screaming that she could not move her legs. It was at that point I realized that she had been shot on her leg. So some persons came to our rescue after the police van had left the scene, driving towards Amossoma but I was able to write the number of the van down.
“If they line the policemen up, I would recognise them. All I want is justice for my foster mother. As we speak, the hospital is already saying that if we don’t pay an advance fee, they would discharge my mother from the hospital.”
A pastor with one of the branches of Christ Embassy in Yenagoa, Mr Onoja Majadu, a coordinator in one of the Christ Embassy churches in Yenagoa, whose wife was a victim said “I was somewhere yesterday to congratulate a friend whose wife gave birth to a baby girl.
“So I called my wife to go to Tombia market to get food items to prepare food for the woman who was just delivered of a baby. Not quite some minutes later, I got a call that my wife was shot by police.
“At that point, my temperature increased immediately but I managed to ask where she was and was told that she had been rushed to a nearby hospital. In fact, when I saw my wife, I couldn’t believe my eyes. She was badly brutalized.
“As we speak, the bone between her ankle and knee is badly damaged. The hospital is asking me to provide N100,000 before they would commence major treatment on her leg.”
Mr Kingdom Baine, father of the 17-year-old victim, Alice Baine said “I was in my house yesterday when her elder sister who is also my daughter sent to Tombia market to sell periwinkle. So about 7 pm, we began to get worried that she had not arrived home from market so in the course of searching for her that we were told that she was shot on two legs by police.
“I then wondered what she must have done wrong. Only for me to discover that she was going about her business when she was shot for no justifiable reason. The worse thing about it is that she is a secondary school student and with these injuries, I wonder if my daughter can still go back to school. So I want justice for my daughter so my mind would rest.”
Mrs Ebinipre Majadu, one of the victims, said “about 6 pm, I was in the market to get some food items. So when I got to where those women sell fish, I was buying lobster when I heard gunshots. I didn’t feel anything initially but when I tried to run, I realised that I couldn’t move one of my legs. It was at that point my daughter raised alarm and bystanders came to my rescue and rushed me to the hospital.”
The doctor attending to the victims explained that Dr Valentine Obiora explained that “so far we have cleaned the wounds for an x-ray this morning to know the extent of the bone involvement and possibly carry out surgery or if she would need external fixation.
“The patients are responding to treatment. The first victim bilaterally has an avulsion injury on one leg and a bruise on the other leg. For the second victim, hers was quite extensive but the x-ray would tell us the extent of bone involvement. So hopefully, with the x-ray and proper surgery, she could walk again.”
When contacted for comments, the Commissioner of Police, Bayelsa State Command, CP Mike Okoli said “We have the particulars of the vehicle as Terropol, NPF 8643C, White Hilux. Be informed that the vehicle and the policemen involved in this unprovoked attack on innocent women have been apprehended and now in my custody.
“I want to assure you that they are already facing severe disciplinary measures the outcome of which you’ll be informed. I thank you for your cooperation and concern especially those who made the particulars of the vehicle readily available.”
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