Posted by THE GUARDIAN on
A MID-DAY tragedy struck in Akure, the Ondo State capital yesterday as three persons were allegedly shot dead by a policeman.
An account said the killing arose from a squabble over the policeman's bid to extort money from a taxi driver. One of the victims was a pregnant woman.
The Akure tragedy occurred on the heels of a similar one in Rivers State. A pregnant woman and a taxi driver were allegedly shot dead by two extortionist policemen last week in Port Harcourt. The Rivers State Police Command has begun an investigation into the matter.
A witness told The Guardian in Akure yesterday, that the police officer who emerged from a nearby beer parlour asked a taxi driver for a bribe. And when the driver refused, an argument ensued between them.
It was learnt that when the driver tried to escape from the scene, the policeman shot at him while two other persons were hit by stray bullets which resulted in their death.
Another account said that the driver stopped at the front of a commercial bank, which prompted the police officer to challenge him for flouting the no-parking order.
It was learnt that when he was being questioned, the police officer opened fire on him.
It was also gathered that when the policeman tried to escape from the mob, who had surrounded him, he started shooting sporadically to save himself. The stray bullets hit two other persons.
As at 3 p.m. yesterday, enraged members of the taxi drivers union and hoodlums popularly called 'Area Boys' capitalised on the incident to cause mayhem.
The taxi drivers also withdrew their vehicles from roads, made bonfire and barricaded all major roads linking the state capital.
When the image-maker of the police in the state, Mr. Taofiq Mustapha (DSP) was contacted by The Guardian, he said investigation was still going on to ascertain the cause of the incident
In a statement in Port Harcourt on Monday, Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Sylvester Araba, disclosed that the command had begun an investigation into a similar killing incident which occurred at the busy Rumuola Bus-stop penultimate Tuesday.
The commissioner disclosed that two police officers had been arrested. One of the suspected killers is an Assistant Superintendent of Police and the other, an Inspector, who allegedly fired the shot at the taxi driver which eventually struck the woman who was a passenger inside the taxi. The driver of the taxi has been confirmed dead.
Araba, who recently warned his men against extortion, said the State Criminal Investigation Department was interrogating the two policemen for a case of murder. He appealed to members of the public who are exasperated by the murder of the pregnant woman to remain calm as the police authorities were committed to ensuring that justice was done.
Witnesses told The Guardian that the Police Inspector had actually pointed his gun to the neck of the taxi driver in a bid to forcefully extort N20 from him even as from all indications, was not willing to part with any money. Apparently frustrated by this refusal, the Inspector pulled the trigger of his gun and another stray bullet struck the pregnant woman who was sitting in front of the cab beside the driver.
The Rivers State police boss statement is a departure from the police's earlier stance that the woman was knocked down by a cab driver who lost control of his vehicle at Rumuola. In an earlier statement the Police Public Relations Officers, Mrs. Ireju Barasua, had alleged that the pregnant woman was not killed by the police.
Warning against any cover-up by the police, a Human Rights group, Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRUL) called for a speedy and thorough investigation into the matter which should culminate in the prosecution of the allegedly arrested police officers.
In a statement, the executive director of the Rights body in Port Harcourt, Mr. Anyakwe Nsirimovu, unequivocally condemned the dastardly act, which he noted was coming on the heels of another incident at the Superbod Bus-stop where a police man was alleged to have also shot a taxi driver in the leg for failing to part with N20.