By Godwin Anene
When Warri based pepper seller, Patience Komone, was brutally murdered 27 July 2021 for body parts in agrarian Umeh community, Isoko South Local Government Area, off Ughelli – Patani East West Road, Delta state, the arrest of one of the prime suspects, a week later, gave the grieving family hope that the victim would get justice, not for long.
Nine months after, Eunice Komone, victim’s sibling, told encounter, “We are not sure anymore if my late sister will ever get justice. We are no longer informed of about the court trial proceedings.
Ese Komone, immediate younger brother to the victim, added, “How do we get justice? Can you imagine an Investigating Police Officer (IPO) asking how we expect Police to mobilise fund to move after a suspect at large, particularly one Lucky Daniel who was confessed by prime suspect, Onoriode Simon Akpoavirhi, to have paid him N100,000 to kill Patience for body parts he needed.”
The family frustrations were confirmed in audio records on some conversations with the IPO, simply identified as Dickson, from the Delta Command headquarters Asaba. In one encounter with Ese, the IPO had set the tone for the disposition to abandon the case if victim’s family fails to cooperate with their (Police) terms.
IPO: We are set to go to court and it’s because Eunice is not available that we have not been able to do so. Again me, I don’t have money to charter motor. We are coming from Asaba to Oleh court. Then from Court, we are carrying them to prison again tomorrow. So I needed cash urgently, urgently, to run all those things, to register charge and the rest of them.
Ese: Sir, how far, the rest suspects those detained have mentioned, have you people been able to get them?
IPO: I don’t talk how a case is progressing on phone. If you want to know about that, why haven’t you come to Asaba. From the day you reached here (Asaba) till today, have you come again? We are talking how we can get to court now. I expected you to say, how do we raise some money now to enable us go to court. You are asking if they have arrested so and so person.”
If IPO Dickson was restraint on baring his extortionist disposition in the interaction with Ese, he couldn’t stifle his emotions on the chat with Eunice.
Eunice: I’ve gone round oo. I couldn’t raise anything. The people I relied on sourcing some fund didn’t help. I couldn’t raise anything.
IPO: So how do we take the boys to Oleh now? So we (police) will fly from here to court. And same people (victim’s family) who cannot raise one Kobo now, one Kobo to carry these two boys who killed your sister to court, are asking us why we haven’t gone to Ohoro from Asaba, to arrest more suspect.
“Is it fair? Are you people not checking it. That we should look for money somewhere to charter motor to go to Oleh for court. I’ve never heard this type of thing before, telling me you are not able to get a place to raise money for us to charter motor. Ok no problem, thank you.”
From that moment, the IPO stopped informing the family on situation reports on the case, till earlier last month when the call came from Ozoro that the Chief Judge could free the suspects if the victim’s family fails to show up.
Prime suspect exonerates another in custody
The Commissioner of Police, Delta Command, CP Ari Mohammed Ali, while parading Onoriode Simon Akpoavirhi, last year at the Command Headquarters, Asaba, had said the prime suspect
(fondly Onos) killed Pat in connivance with one Akpoghene Shoemaker ‘m’ now at large.” The police later apprehended the said Shoemaker now also in custody with Onos.
Contrarily, in an audio recorded conversation with the victim relatives one of the days they were brought to appear in an Oleh court, Onos exonerated Shoemaker of involvement in the killing of Patience.
I tell dem taya dem no gree. I talk taya. We go Asaba sef we talk taya, till today dem no gree. Our IPO dey delay. Make we go, he dey delay, say make we wait, make we wait till today so.
The other day dem carry us com dis court, we tell am, he say make we wait. Dem com carry us go station for that side. I don tell dem taya till today. The man wey send us to kill that woman so, I know where he dey. Dem no wan make we go there.
This man, na Lucky. This woman (Patience), na me dey carry her since last year for this pepper business. E com get one day, she send me money make I dey buy the pepper wait her.
One day, dis Lucky com meet me say e get wetin he need from me. He say he need. On the dey I dey with Patience, when she go buy wetin to eat, dis man com meet me again. Lucky dey. Na me and Lucky dey kill her. Dis boy no dey. Na vigilante call him name. The vigilante know wetin hapun.
Ese said, “I won’t be surprised if Onos says the Umeh Vigilante Head knew about what transpired. For three days we where going for search in the community when our sister went missing, the vigilante greeted us with aggression.
“Even when residents were saying they last saw Patience on bike being driven by the prime suspect who regularly carries her whenever she goes Umeh to purchase pepper, the Vigilante Head warned us to leave and stop coming. He said our sister was not missing in Umeh and we were giving the community a bad name. He threatened to attack us before Onos was caught in the village.
Same Frustration At Zone 5
Frustrated and shut out on the case by the police greed at Asaba, the victim’s family easily succumbed to the police extortions again even when the case got to the Benin Zonal Command. A community Based Organisation, advocating Urhobo and Isoko Unity, led by a former Delta State Assembly member, had approached the family to assist is getting justice, albeit pro-bono.
Ese narrated, “Based on a petition we were not shown, but they said to have written, this group called through the former lawmaker, a lawyer, one day around October, to say myself and two other family members needed to travel to Benin to start pursuing our case from Zone 5.
“They said because of the uncooperative manner of those in charge at Asaba, they were petitioning Zone 5 to take the case over and arrest the suspect at large. At Benin, we were asked to give N150,000 for our case to handled. The family raised N50,000 and the peace organisation said to make up the balance. That was how the Benin move ended, again, on another note of disappointment.
“When will called to know what was happening again, they (police) said they were indisposed because those assigned to the case had been drafted to Anambra on election duty. That was the end of the story.”
Corroborating the family experience at the Zone 5, the lawyer and former lawmaker who had mediated between the family and the Zone 5 Police, stated that the family would, “Tell you what was expended the first day on the trip, from the cab hired to take them to Benin, money I paid the lawyer in their presence at ShopRite and the amount I transferred to the police who initially rejected the case before they eventually took their statements.
I’m highly disappointed -Gbemre
Social justice advocate, Zik Gbemre, Coordinator, Niger Delta Peace Coalition, who has been monitoring the case of the murder of Patience expressed disappointment at the turn of even, particularly with the manner the Delta Police Command has handled the matter.
“When we started noticing the desperation to extort among the investigating team, we rightly notified the CP. Initially, he was very responsive to the concerns we were raising, including our appeal that the detained suspects should not be arraigned immediately until the alleged sponsor was apprehended.
“He did transfer the case from Oleh to a new team at Asaba. Unfortunately, those assigned in Asaba were even more arrogant and abusive in their demand for gratifications.
“Nigeria is highly corrupt, we know, including the police. But it is hard to imagine the extent some people can drive corruption. An innocent woman selling pepper to train her only child whose father had earlier passed on, was brutally murdered.
“And an IPO says unless the grieving family pays for every moves he makes in course of bringing those responsible to book, they (family) don’t deserve justice for their murdered sister.
“So where has it become a law that when the innocent is murdered, the pained family must be the ones to fuel police vehicle to track and arrest suspects, charter vehicle to convey suspects for court trial, gratify the police with all manner of demands. And if they said they don’t have, case close, justice denied. So pathetic.”
Edafe Bright, Police Public Relations Officer, Delta Command, when asked for update on the case of Patience said, “That matter was charged to court. After charging, wetin concerns me again”