Vanguard (Lagos)

20 January 2013

Nigeria: 10 Years After, Woman Still in Search of the Murderer of Her Only Child

Yenagoa — Tears rolled down her cheeks as she gazed at the photograph in front of her. She struggled to clean the tears with her wrapper. Ceaseless tears have been the lot of Madam Timipah Okoba's for the past 10 years when her only child, Tonye Berepubo, was cut down in his prime by gunshots fired during a fracas involving members of an Ijaw youth group which was then factionalised.

The tragic killing occurred about noon, on January 14, 2003 at the Agip Estate in Port Harcourt when some gun wielding youths launched attack on members of the group from another zone. The late Tonye's mother was all alone, immersed in her thoughts, in her yet to be completed apartment situated in the lowland Kpansia suburb of Yenagoa which was violated by recent floods when Sunday Vanguard called.

"Who will bury me when I die? Tonye, who would have buried me, is no more. Where do I start from?" She sobbed, gazing at the photo of her late son.

Two other women believed to be family friends,who were present, were moved to tears. For this disconsolate woman, who hails from Gbarantoru in Ekpetiama Kingdom in old Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State, it has been 10 years of agonizing pain. Sadly, her cry for justice over the killing of her only child has not been answered.

If grief could bring the dead back, her late son would have returned to life.

The deceased, then aged 27, was a student of business administration of Rivers State University of Science and Technology. He must have dreamt of graduating and securing a good job to take care of his mother but that dream was shattered by the shots fired by the messengers of death. Amidst sobs, the bereaved mother wondered why, in spite of the fact that her son was gruesomely killed in broad day light, the police were unable to fish out his killers.

She lamented that even the Ijaw group, which crisis led to the death of her son, had turned its back on her in her hour of need as none of its leaders deemed it necessary to find out how she had fared.

She recalled how in her attempt to get justice she had written petitions to the Inspector General of Police on the need to compel the Rivers Police Command to cause investigation into the fracas which claimed the life of her son with a view to fishing out his killers.All efforts came to nought.

"I have written petitions to the Inspector General of Police and they told me the matter was under investigation. For two years, his body was in the mortuary but nothing came out of the said investigation. At a point, there were threats on my lawyers, so I felt instead of one boy, more bigger people will die; let me forget it and bury him. That was how the matter ended since I didn't have the resources and connection to pursue the matter," she said.

"It is more painful that nobody was arrested over an incident that happened in broad daylight. Perhaps if I were an influential person, the police would have unmasked the killers of my son and justice would have been done." According to her, she would have been less troubled if only her late son had left behind a child that would bear his name.

"I would have been consoled if Tonye had left behind a child. Though a girl was pregnant for him, she aborted the pregnancy when the unfortunate incident occurred. I sold all I had to hurriedly put up a structure just to ensure that she will have somewhere to stay and I also told her I will do everything for the unborn baby so as to preserve my son's legacy but she chose to follow the advice of her people," Madam Okoba lamented.

"I have resigned to fate knowing vengeance is of God."

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