A Nigerian woman, Mrs Ijeoma Unachukwu, the wife of a Germany-based Nigerian, Mr Oguchi Unachukwu, who was allegedly shot dead by Air Force personnel at the toll gate of Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri, Imo State, has spoken.
She tells CHIDIEBUBE OKEOMA how his death has left the family grief-stricken
What is your name?
My name is Mrs Ijeoma Unachukwu. I am married to Mr Oguchi Unachukwu who was shot dead by Air Force personnel on May 31, 2021, at the toll gate of Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri. We had two kids together. The boy is two years old, while our daughter is four months old. We have been married for three years now. I am 32 years old.
Can you recall how your husband died?
Actually, we were on our way to the airport on that fateful day on the 31st of May; we went to see my husband off to the airport because he had a flight from Owerri to Lagos before he would travel to Germany on that same day. He had already spent two months with us here in Nigeria. So, he was returning (to Germany) before the incident happened. As we were going to the airport, we got to the first military checkpoint and they (soldiers) told us to stop. We did. He came down and went there to identify himself, telling them he was going to the airport and that he had a flight to catch. They told him to give them something (money), which he did and we continued our journey.
We got to the Army checkpoint and they told him to stop again, he did and identified himself. We got to another checkpoint where we met about 15 military men with guns. They told all of us to come down and we did. They saw the luggage and asked us to go. Just as we were reaching the airport toll gate, we met another set of Air Force personnel that told us to stop and my husband stopped. Immediately he stopped, they opened fire on him. That was how they shot my husband in the head.
Did he argue with them or confront them?
There was no disagreement or confrontation. In fact, I am still in shock because I did not expect it. They brought their Hilux van and took him to their hospital on Aba Road in Owerri, when they knew that nothing was really happening there. As of that time, he was still breathing. But they told us to take him to Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, and that was where he gave up the ghost.
Did you follow them to FMC?
Yes. They (Air Force personnel) dumped us there and left. I asked for their contact and they said they had given it to the hospital. They left us there and after some hours, my husband died. When I enquired from the hospital whether they really dropped their contact, I was told that they didn’t drop any contact. They just fooled me. It was a clear case of murder. They intentionally killed my husband. There was no provocation, no need to fire. We didn’t pose any threat. He was with his family and we never looked like bandits. I still maintain that the Air Force personnel deliberately killed my husband. I need justice.
How did the FMC doctors respond to the emergency?
You know how our country is. After I explained everything and they saw my kids, they still wanted us to go through all the processes. I know that if they had tried harder, my husband would not have died. My husband was rushing back to Germany because he was supposed to resume work on July 1. He came back for the church dedication of our daughter. I don’t even know where to start. This is a big tragedy.
Can you identify the particular officer that shot him?
I can’t identify the particular officer that fired the trigger, but I know I can identify one person among them. There were about five or six of them there.
Apart from you and the kids, who else was at the scene?
My husband’s cousin, Nnamdi, was with us. He was supposed to drive us back home after we must have seen him (my husband) off to the airport.
Would you say it was an accidental discharge?
No. It was deliberate. It was a clear murder. They deliberately and intentionally killed him. They murdered my husband in cold blood. Our marriage lasted just three years.
Did your husband say any word to you before he died?
He did not utter any word to me. I was just begging him, calling him baby and telling him to hold on. They killed him, making a young woman like me a widow, and my two-year-old-son and four-month-old daughter fatherless.
What kind of man was your husband?
He was a good man, a God-fearing man. He was so jovial that he played with everybody, including children.
Has he been buried?
No. His remains are at the FMC, Owerri morgue, where he was pronounced dead.
Has anyone from the Air Force reached out to you since he was killed?
Not really, the people that came here to sympathise with us were the doctors from their base who gave him first aid when we went there.
As his wife, what do you want?
I want justice. I want the people that killed my husband to be brought to book, because this is a man that was peaceful. He was jovial and everything to me. I do not know how to cope without him with just two little kids. I want the people that killed my husband to pay for it. I want them to face judgment because if you let them go, they will continue to kill other people and make young women like me widows at a young age. Justice is all I want. The world should help me get justice. My husband didn’t deserve to die.
Have you commenced any legal action?
Yes. Our lawyer is on it. Like I said, I want justice. We have contacted the commissioner of police; he said we should go to the Air Force command and report. Our lawyer is working on it and I believe by now, they must have got our petition. It is just for us to meet with them one-on-one. This is like a dream to me. I pray I wake up from this as soon as possible.
What is your name?
My name is Mrs Helen Unachukwu. Oguchi Unachukwu, who was shot dead at the toll gate of Sam Mbakwe International Cargo airport, Owerri, on May 31, by Air Force personnel, was my son. I am from Umudim in Ikeduru, Imo State, but married in Mbieri in the Mbaitoli Local Government Area of Imo state. I am over 70 years old.
How many children do you have?
I have nine children. Oguchi is my fifth child and my second son. With his gruesome killing by people who ought to protect him, I am now left with eight surviving children. My husband, their father, is late.
How do you feel about your son’s killing?
I am devastated. I cry morning, afternoon and night. I am not happy at all whenever I look at my son’s wife and children. My prayer is that God will fight my battle. Within the next one year, whoever killed my son will be killed too. My son didn’t deserve to die. The Air Force man who killed my beloved son will not escape justice. My son was rushing to catch a flight to Lagos, from there he was to head to Germany on the same day to resume work on June 1. He (perpetrator) will not escape the wrath of God. I feel terribly bad that I will bury a promising son who ought to bury me. This is a taboo. It is one death too many. I feel terribly bad.
What kind of a person was your son?
My son was a peacemaker. He was a playful person. He played with both young and old a lot. He is dead and I pray God to console me and give me the heart to bear this heavy loss. He loved children a lot. He was always playing with children, buying things for them and always giving them money.
Can you remember the last conversation you had with him?
He came here (to my house) last week to carry the things he needed to go back to Germany with. We discussed as usual and shared fine memories; little did I know that it was going to be our last meeting. I feel terribly bad, honestly. We were close. We had a good relationship. He would request what to eat and it was prepared for him before he came. He visited me regularly and loved me as his mother.
Who broke the news of his death to you?
My children (did). They all came back here and started crying. I couldn’t comprehend it. At first, I thought they were referring to another person until it dawned on me that they were referring to Oguchi. I felt my world had crumbled. It was unimaginable. I couldn’t believe it. My grief was compounded when I learnt he was killed by an Air Force man. This is terribly bad. What kind of country is this? This is unbelievable.
What do you want the authorities to do about the killing?
Since, there is a massive killing spree in Imo state and my son happened to be one of the victims, the government should do anything reasonable to console us, but the killer should not go unpunished. That man who shot my son dead and rendered my little grandchildren fatherless should not be allowed to walk free. He should be prosecuted. This is bad. My heart is bleeding.
Did your son make any promise to you?
Yes. He promised to take me to Germany for the second operation on one of my legs. He had taken me to Germany where I was first operated on but it was not perfectly done. So, he promised to take me to Germany again for the second operation on one of my knees. He was to do that after he got to Germany. But unfortunately, those people who have no value for human lives terminated his life. My God – the God of the widows – will fight for me and He will give my family peace and torment the killers of my son.
Source: The PUNCH