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Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Economic and human activities as well as vehicular movements were grounded in various parts of Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital, on Thursday, following series of violent clashes between the protesting commercial motorcycle operators and policemen.
The commercial motorcycle operators, popularly known as Okada riders, were protesting the alleged killing of their colleague by a policeman attached to the Anti-kidnap Squad Unit of the Ebonyi State Police Command.
The deceased, Mr. Ofim Ejike, who hailed from Amachi community in Abakaliki Local Government Area of the state was at about 8pm on Wednesday night shot and killed by the policeman for allegedly refusing to give him N50 bribe.
The incident happened at ANAN World Junction along Waterworks Road in the metropolis.
According to eyewitnesses, the deceased was accosted by police officers who mounted a road block at the junction and allegedly demanded for N50 before he would be allowed to pass their checkpoint but he allegedly gave them N20 instead.
But probably angered by that act, the trigger happy policeman allegedly opened fire on him, killing him instantly.
Another source who witnessed the incident said that the motorcyclist who believably was in his 20s carried a female passenger when he was flagged down by the policemen. He alleged that the police officers were notorious for fleecing motorists of their hard earned money at night at the junction.
“When they stopped him, they demanded for their usual N50 but he gave them N20 and wanted to drive off when one of them opened fire on him. The bullet shattered his head and he died instantly”, said the eyewitness who craved anonymity.
The sources further told Daily Sun that immediately the Okada man dropped dead, the team of police officers jumped into their standby security vehicle and fled the scene; leaving their victim in the pool of his blood.
But to register their sadness over the ugly incident, Okada riders and concerned individuals numbering more than 500 trouped into the major roads and streets in the metropolis for protests.
However, they clashed with policemen drafted to stop them. Our correspondent reported that policemen fired series of teargas canisters, flogged the motorcyclists, and allegedly arrested many of them in effort to stop them. But the more they were being attacked, the more they mobilized more protesters.
The diehard protesters also set bonfires in various parts of the state capital but where generally peaceful in their conduct. The roads majorly affected were Waterworks Road, Ogoja Road, Vanco Junction, ANAN World Junction, Udemezue Street, Awolowo Street, and so many adjoining streets in the metropolis as well as the CAS campus of area of the Ebonyi State University.
Following those clashes however, many business owners closed their shops even as human and vehicular movements were largely grounded. Indeed, the imbroglio which started as early as 6am until afternoon literally set Abakaliki, the state capital on fire, on Thuirsday.
Speaking with Daily Sun, some residents of the area, Mr Odinaka and Miss Akachukwu Paul, lamented that the clashes between the policemen and the motorcyclists has mounted unnecessary tension on the state capital.
When contacted in her office, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mrs Loveth Odah, confirmed the incident. She however said that the trigger happy policeman has been dismissed from police service and would be charged to court tomorrow (Friday).
“As I am talking to you now, this particular sergeant, Sergeant Onyebuchi, has been dismissed overnight. The command tried him departmentally and dismissed him. He will be charged for murder in the court, maybe, tomorrow”, she said.
She, however, alleged that the protesters attacked policemen and injured about two of them.
“They are beating up policemen even the ones controlling traffic were attacked. They stoned policemen who went to calm them down. Even the Deputy Commissioner of Police went to calm them down, they started stoning them and injured a Police Inspector”, she added.