MRS Jane Toku Mike is the mother of Lloyd, one of the four students of University of Port-Harcourt (UNIPORT) who were clubbed to death before a cheering crowd at Omuokiri-Aluu community last week Friday for alleged theft of computers. Jane, who could not hold back tears as she shared her last moments with the son in this interview, says she had turned to God for consolation. According to her, Lloyd, who was a year-two civil engineering student, was her first son. And it took them eleven years after they had him for other children to start coming. Excerpts:
At what time did you get to the scene of the murder?
The crowd was still there when my husband and I got there. We introduced ourselves to the Joint Task Force men on ground. We heard they fired shots when they came to stop the people but it was too late because the children were gone. They then allowed my husband to go and see the corpses where they dumped them. When he got there, he immediately placed his hands on his head, crying. I too, from the distance I was, knew my son was there.
Immediately, I knelt down and started thanking God for all that happened. I did that because the Bible says that in all situations we should give thanks to God, we should give God glory. I sensed that everywhere was quiet while I was doing this. Probably it dawned on the killers and the cheering crowd that the children had parents and were innocent.
I later went to see the children. One of them was still breathing, I recognised him as my son's friend and I started shouting his name, Tekena, Tekena. Immediately I started screaming for ambulance. My husband, his uncle and those that followed us to the place rushed to the hospital for ambulance but when we got to the hospital he had given up the ghost.
How many children do you have?
I have three children. He was my first child. And it took us eleven years to start having other children after we had him. He was my first son, a two hundred level civil engineering student of the university ( she paused a while, shook her heard, then gazed at the ceiling and continued talking). There were times people saw us walking together and they asked if he was my boy friend because he was tall.
When you heard of the incident, what did you do immediately to save the situation?
When it happened we called a police officer (name withheld). He then gave us numbers in the control room to call which we did. Later we called him again he now said he was going to call them back.
I also called my brother who was closer to the place because we live far from the university, to rush to the place. He did and he said he met them using the plank to hit the children. He tried to stop them but they pushed him aside. He had to go into the cheering crowd asking for anybody that he could talk to that could help ask the people to stop what they were doing.
He said a man he spoke to told him not to bother that the chief of the community was aware of what was happening. He said he still made frantic effort but to no avail. Later he had to rush out of the scene to go get help from outside. But when he came back the boys had already died.
Any last moment with your son?
Before my son went to school, he gave me a book he bought from the church. He said I should read it, that it was on how faith works. He said he had read it and I should do same, that when he returned, we would discuss it.
I have been reading the book since he passed on. The book gives me strength. It is the last thing that exchanged hands between us before the brutal murder.
'WE WANT JUSTICE'
Lloyd's father, who bears almost the same name with his son, appealed to government and humanitarian bodies to stand by the families of the slain children to demand justice on the issue.
"I want justice to prevail because the children were innocent. The community had no right to do what they did. I am appealing to government and human right bodies to stand firmly behind families of the children to fight for justice,"he said.
"If nothing is done, this type of thing would continue in Aluu community. We were reliably told that five of them slept together. And when they woke up, they went to demand debt, it was at this point the community rounded them up and stripped them naked and hacked them to death. I and two others that came with me carried their lifeless bodies into the ambulance.
VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE
" Meantime, the parents of the slain four have expressed lack of confidence in the ability of the Rivers State Police Command to investigate the matter. They urged the Inspector General of Police to take over investigation of the issue.
The parents, who spoke trough their counsel, Peter dukwe, said they heard from what they termed credible sources that three police patrol vehicles drove into the ommunity at separate times hen the boys were being paraded by youths in the area but did not rescue them.
Wondering why the police failed in its duty to save lives, the lawyer described the slain four as innocent of robbery.
At press time, about eighteen persons have been arrested by the police in connection with the killing. UNIPORT has also been shut down while most of the residents of Omuokiri-Aluu where the boys were killed had fled into safety, ampaging students under the aegis of National Association of Nigeria Students, NANS, had stormed the village five days after their colleagues were killed to wreak havoc. Houses and vehicles were burnt.
One of the property owners, Elder Sunday Ahanomu, said the irate students were unfair to him. According to him, they burnt his house and car. He said where the killing took place was very far from where he lives but they extended their revenge to his area.
Lamenting what befell him, he said he retired from UNIPORT and wondered where he would raise money to replace the destroyed properties.
At the weekend, security operatives including the army took over the community. When Sunday Vanguard went round the main campus of the university, some of the students were still hanging around their hostels. They said they had no place to go because the East West road which connects them to their states had been taken over by flood. "How do we leave this school when flood has taken over the East West road we go through to Lagos, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Ondo", one of them said.
It was gathered that a lecturer who reportedly identified with the students during the demonstration had been removed as a head of department in the university. The lecturer declined comment when contacted.