Joe Effiong, Uyo

Seven young children, all under-ten. Two wives, one of which is pregnant. Aged parents. That is the collective responsibility that Mr Otobong Udo Jumbo just left behind to nobody in particular, following his untimely death.

The Akwa Ibom businessman recently died. And many are claiming that he died in the hands of four soldiers.

The reason adduced for such gruesome murder sounds rather comic. One of the deceased’s wives, Aniefiok, 26, a mother of three, is said to have been attracted to one of the soldiers guarding the Uta Ewa Beach at Ikot Abasi Local government area of Akwa Ibom State.

She told the correspondent that the soldier had been disturbing her for sex, an overture she bluntly rejected.

In her words, the soldier was bidding his time. Tuesday last week, she said, presented a good opportunity for him to exact his pound of flesh. Aniefiok said she had gone to the beach to ease herself since most people living in the areas use the beach as a toilet.

She said when she approached the area, the soldier that had been making love advances at her told her to turn back, that she should not ease herself at the beach.

“I told him that everyone in the area uses the beach as a toilet even before we were born. He threatened to beat me up if I wouldn’t leave.

“An officer senior to him had to intervene and asked me to go further to ease myself. But while I was in the process of easing myself, the soldier in question pointed his halogen torchlight at me. I screamed at him because I was naked.

“But instead of putting off the torchlight, he rather came over and beat me and pushed me down. All the four soldiers there came over to harass me. But I also talked back at them because they had no right to have done that to me. I am a married woman. I had no reason whatsoever to have succumbed to his love advances,” Mrs Jumbo said.

She said while she was till at the beach, she was surprised to see the soldier drag her husband to the area. She said she was surprised as she had not yet got home to explain what happened to him.

“My husband was not around when I went to ease myself at the beach. He had travelled to Aba to pay for cement which he sells there at the beach.  But the soldiers left me and went to drag out my husband who just returned from a journey and began to beat him with the butts of their guns. They claimed that I insulted them, and as such, they would deal with him.

They beat him, sprayed him with teargas and then pushed him into the sea. They did not allow any body to help him out. It is only when they knew that he had died that they allowed the youth who were there at the beach to bring him out from the water. By then, it was too late. He was foaming in his mouth and nostrils.

“We raised the alarm, and some naval officers came, and we narrated what happened to them. They picked the body to the Naval Clinic and it was confirmed dead. So we went to embalm the body since then.”

Another family member, a retired soldier who pleaded not be named since he didn’t take permission from the deceased’s father, said apart from the rejected love overture, the soldier killed the businessman because he refused to give them N5000.

“Each time he loaded his cement to sell at Opobo, the soldiers would extort N5000 from him. How much is he making that even if he wants to ferry 10 bags of cement to Opobo, they would collect N5000?

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“A fortnight ago, he had given them N4500 because that was the only money on him. They got annoyed and threatened to deal with him. They were only using the problems they had with the wife as an excuse to kill him.

“They usually extort money from people. Anything you buy at the beach, even N50 periwinkles, they will ask you to pay N500 naira. Their presence has made life very difficult for us,” the ex-serviceman said.

He said the incident had been reported to the army at Ibagwa, from where the military men were deployed to Ikot Abasi. He said the army authorities offered to give the family some money.

“We told them that we don’t want their money. Let them come and sign an agreement on how they will take care of the man’s two wives and seven children. At the moment, the other wife that has four children is already pregnant. So how much money will they give to take care of them? We also want justice done in this case. The army has a system of disciplining their erring personnel. Let them activate that so that everyone would know that justice has been done.”

They youth leader of Uta Ewa, Segun Omoboye, told Daily Sun that the youths in the area were planning a peaceful protest, not only because of the incident that led to the death of Otobong Jumbo, but also to draw the attention of the Nigerian Army to the harassment and indignities they are being subjected to by the military personnel at the beach.

“We will carry placards and the youth would march to the beach to say we don’t want the army again; let them leave. We wanted to do the demonstration on Saturday but the elder brother to the deceased said we should hold on because there are some people they were expecting. But we will hold the protest anytime from now,” he said.

He described Jumbo as a very nice person who never had problems with anybody ever since he knew him more than 22 years ago.

It was, however, gathered that the youths have been restrained from carrying out their planned protest until they secure security clearance to avoid any breakdown of law and other. People of the community, it was gathered, are still angry over the killing of Otobong who was described as a shining light among the inhabitants of Uta Ewa even though he is an indigene of Atan Ikpe clan within Ikot Abasi Local Government Area.  

The family said the case had been reported first at the Divisional Police Command in Ikot Abasi where the DPO referred them to the state police headquarters in Uyo.

The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Odiko MacDon, a deputy superintendent of police (DSP) said he was not fully briefed on the matter. He said, however, that the matter was being investigated.

The spokesman for the 2nd Brigade, Nigerian Army which superintends over the Ibagwa Army Barracks, Major Bashir Jajira confirmed the incident. But he put a lie to the account of the family.

“It is very unfortunate that the man in question died. What actually happened was that on that fateful night, it was at a very odd hour that some women went to defecate at night in the military protected area, so they were chased away to another place. But they went back and now brought that man probably to help them to defecate.

“He was also chased away, and in the process of escaping, there is water in that area. He dived into the water, maybe to swim across and he drowned. It was not that the man was harassed or shot. Probably he was drunk, based on my findings, because I wasn’t there on ground. That is what happened,” Jajira said.

He denied the claim that the deceased’s wife, Aniefiok was harassed. “This thing happened in the night. How can she be harassed? We are there to protect the facilities that are there. Soldiers are professionals. They are trained to go there and maintain security of the area. If there is any harassment, we have human rights desk in this brigade. People are free to come forward to complain about intimidation or harassment by our troops and our doors are open.”

He said that changing the set that was on duty the night Jumbo died was not to shield them from justice, describing it as normal routine.  “We have a time frame which we use to change our troops because overstaying in one location may expose them to things they are not supposed to be exposed to.”