I feel unsecured in my fatherland, 20-year-old footballer tells NHRC SARS panel

A 20-year-old footballer on Monday told the independent investigating panel of violations of rights by the defunct SARS and other police units that he feels unsecured in his fatherland since returning home from Ukraine a few days ago.

The petitioner, Prince Chigaemezu Saviour Ojinnaka stated this while testifying before the panel, set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in a petition he filed before it, alleging torture, cruel, inhuman and degradation treatment.

Ojinnaka joined the officer in charge of Operation Search and Flush, Owerri; Officer Dan Iroakazi of State CID, Imo State; Commissioner of Police, Imo State and the Inspector-General of Police as respondents in the petition, marked 2020/IPP-SARS/ABJ/160.

Ojinnaka informed the panel that he was shot by operatives of Operation Search and Flush at Umuaka in Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State on April 14, 2020.

According to him, “on April 14, 2020, I was going to the hospital to go and see my grandfather. As I was going, I saw police operation of Operation Search and Flush and one of them stopped me.

“I did not stop when he stopped me because there was road construction going on there and there was a heavy construction machine there. So I crossed to the other side of the road to park my bike.

“As I crossed to the other side to park, a policeman shot me on my leg and I fell into the gutter. He came over and I asked him why he shot me. He said I am a criminal. Their commander also asked him a similar question.”

The petitioner said the police operatives left the scene in the operational vehicle, which he informed had Operation Search and Flush written on it with number 18, leaving him in a pool of his blood.

He informed that a Good Samaritan later took him to a hospital where the doctor told them that they could not admit him as the could not extract bullet from his leg.

He said he was taken to another hospital where he continued to bleed, adding that at about 11 pm, he was returned to the first hospital where they battled to stop his bleeding and stabilised him.

Ojinnaka, who claimed he was a footballer with Patros FC, Umuaka, said on the following day, the youth from his community protested what happened and wanted to burn down the police station in the community but for his father’s prompt intervention.

According to him, a policeman later advised his father to take him to a traditional doctor who specialised in treating gun wounds, adding that he was taken there but the bullet could not be removed.

“I was taken to FMC (Owerri) where the doctors said my leg had been infected as it was smelling then. They performed three surgeries on me there to remove the bullet lodge in my leg,” he said.

He informed that he was told at the hospital that he would be amputated, saying that, “I was not happy with this. I am a footballer and I love football. I want to pursue my career as a football abroad.”

The petitioner informed that his dad later took him to Ukraine, his mother’s country for further treatment, adding that so far two surgeries had been performed on the leg.

He said he was told in Ukraine that he would be taken to Germany where they could work better on his leg, which he said he was not feeling anything on for now.

Ojinnaka informed that he returned to Nigeria a few days ago as his dad told him he (petitioner) had to appear before the panel.

“Few days ago, I flew in from Ukraine because my dad said I have to appear before this panel. Since my return, I have felt unsecured in my fatherland. Each time I see a policeman, I remember my experience,” he told the panel.

He then pleaded with the panel to help him get justice in his travails so far, adding that he was in great pains and could not walk properly.

Under cross-examination by police counsel, James Idachaba, Ojinnaka told the panel that though he could not identify the culprit who shot him, the operatives of Operation Search and Flush were putting on police uniforms that fateful day.

Meanwhile, a member of the panel, Garba Tetengi SAN, who presided over proceedings in the absence of the chairman, Justice Suleiman Galadima (retd), adjourned further hearing till April 27.

He directed counsel for the respondents to ensure the appearance of Officer Dan Iroakazi, named by the petitioner as the investigating police officer of the case, to appear before the panel that date.

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