The grief-stricken family of the late Mrs. Patience Komone, a Warri, Delta State-based pepper seller, butchered by ritual killers at agrarian Umeh community in the state, July 27, last year, has cried out that some corrupt police officers bent on extorting money from poor family members, were allegedly obstructing justice for the deceased and shielding the kingpin, who is still at large.

When police arrested one of the prime suspects a week after the incident, the family supposed that her killers would not escape justice, but eight months after, the victim’s sibling, Eunice Komone, told NDV: “We are not sure anymore if my late sister will ever get justice. We are no longer informed about the court trial proceedings.”

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The family’s frustrations arose from different recorded audio conversations with the investigating police officer, IPO, at the Delta Command headquarters, Asaba, who cunningly employed assorted tricks to make the family part with money to charter vehicle and convey the suspects to court, register the charge in court, arrest the prime suspect and same monetary demand made by police officers at the office of Assistant Inspector-General of Police, AIG, Zone 5, Benin City, Edo State.

Lack of funds

In one encounter, the IPO had told the elder brother of the deceased, Ese Komone: “We are set to go to court and it is because Eunice is not available that we have not been able to do so. I (IPO) do not have money to charter a vehicle, we are coming from Asaba to Oleh court. Then from court, we are carrying them to prison again tomorrow.”

“So I needed cash urgently to run all those things, to register charge and the rest of them. From the day you reached here (Asaba) till today, have you come again? We are talking about how we can get to court now. I expected you to ask how we are going to raise some money now to enable us go to court. You are asking if they have arrested so and so person,” he said.

In a more revealing conversation with Eunice when she expressed difficulty in raising cash, the IPO had retorted: “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 to carry these two boys who killed your sister to court, are asking us why we have not gone to Ohoro from Asaba to arrest more suspects.

“Is it fair? Are you people not checking it? That we should look for money somewhere to charter a vehicle to go to Oleh court. I have never heard this type of thing before, telling me you are not able to get a place to raise money for us to charter a vehicle. Okay, no problem, thank you.” From that moment, the IPO stopped giving the family situation reports on the case,” he added.

Suspect exonerates another suspect

Commissioner of Police, Delta Command, Ari Muhammed Ali, while parading Onoriode Simon Akpoavirhi, last year at Asaba, had said the prime suspect (fondly called Onos) killed Pat in connivance with one Akpoghene Shoemaker ‘m’, now at large. However, police later apprehended the said shoemaker, now also in custody with Onos.

But, in an audio conversation with the victim’s relative one of the days they were brought to appear in an Oleh court, Onos absolved Shoemaker of participation in the killing of Patience, saying:”Our IPO dey delay. 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. Na me and Lucky kill her. Dis boy (Shoemaker) no dey. Na vigilante call him name.”

Ese, victim’s elder brother said: “I will not be surprised if Onos says the Umeh Vigilante Head knows what transpired. Even when residents were saying they last saw Patience on bike being driven by the prime suspect, who regularly carries her whenever she goes to Umeh, the vigilante head warned us to leave and stop coming during our search for her. He said our sister was not missing in Umeh and we were giving the community bad name.

He threatened to attack us before Onos was caught in the village.”

At Zone 5, Police asked for N150, 000 to commence action

Shut out on the case by the police at Asaba, victim’s family accepted when a community-based organisation, advocating Urhobo and Isoko unity, led by a former Delta State Assembly member, volunteered to transfer the case to the Benin Zonal Command in a bid to get 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 them to handle our case. The family raised N50,000 and the peace organisation was to make up the balance. That was how the Benin move ended, again, on another note of disappointment. When we called to know what was happening again, they (police) said they were not disposed because those assigned to the case had been drafted to Anambra on election duty. That was the end of the story.”

Ex-lawmaker/mediator riled

Corroborating the family experience at Zone 5, the lawyer and former lawmaker, who had mediated between the family and police, stated: “The family will 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.”

Gbemre slams police

Social justice advocate and Coordinator, Niger-Delta Peace Coalition, Zik Gbemre, who has been monitoring the case of the murder of Patience, on a note of disappointment, said: “When we started noticing the desperation to extort the family, we rightly notified the Commissioner of Police. Initially, he was very responsive to the concerns we raised, 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 gratification. 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,” he intoned.

We’ve charged case to court – PPRO

When contacted for update on the matter, Police Public Relations Officer, Delta Command, Edafe Bright, simply told NDV: “That matter was charged to court.”

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