By Iliya Kure
A Nigerian family is calling on the country’s army to release the corpse of their deceased son from the army’s custody for a befitting burial.
Their late son, Solomon Ukpe, was allegedly shot dead 10 months ago by a soldier, Ocheme Abel, attached to Command Secondary School, at the popular Command junction, in Kaduna, northern Nigeria.
Addressing Journalist Wednesday in Kaduna, father of the deceased, Mr. Andy Ita Ukpe, is also demanding N700 million as compensation from the Nigerian Army to cater for the needs of the deceased wife and two children left behind by their late son.
“My late son was shot dead by one soldier identified as Ocheme Abel who was among soldiers recruited by the Nigerian Army in 2016.”
Narrating further, Mr Ukpe said, “The young man [29-year-old then], a carpenter and father of two, went to pack sand in front of Command Secondary school for block making when the soldier attached to the school challenged him.
“He tried to explain himself and the soldier pretended to have agreed with him and gave him money to go and buy cigarette. But as he turned around to go and get the cigarette, Ocheme shot him from back killing him instantly. This is the same soldier that has been terrorising the women who were farming in the area.
“Now, Policemen went to the scene picked his corpse and deposited it at Gwamna Awan hospital. But to our surprise, the Army went and collected the body of my son from the mortuary without notifying me.
“They did that under a false personality because when they came and took the body, the paper that enabled them to take the body away read civilian identity. But when I called the contact line that was on the paper, the respondent said he was a goat seller at Tudun wada.
“So, I called 1 Division and no response for two days. But on the third day, one Captain eventually picked the call and confirmed they have taken the body from Gwamna Awan hospital but declined to tell me where it has been taken to for one week.
“It was at that stage that I contacted Human Rights Commission and they asked me to visit 44 Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, which I did, even though I was not comfortable with the mutilated body I saw. I saw him and 21 others not properly kept.
“The reason for transferring the body from the mortuary, the Police took it to the 44 hospitals was to retract the bullet from his body so they would know whether it was from their soldier. This is surprising even when the soldier in question had admitted committing the crime. Since June last year, we are still where we were in a country that is guided by constitution.
“It was the Human Rights people that later went to 1 Div and said GOC wanted to see me. But each time I went there, is either GOC is on one assignment or the other. We have not been able to see to discuss.
“We have even written to the Chief of Army Staff, but no response in any way. They are saying order has to come from above and that is where we are as regards that.
“We are demanding for N700 million compensation because Solomon left responsibility behind. He left two children, one girl and one boy. One is age 7 while the second is age 9. Like I said, these children must have qualitative education up to the university”, he narrated.
He, however, said, if after exploring all the available avenue to resolve the matter amicably, the family would be left with no option than to seek legal redress.
When contacted, Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, 1 Division Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Colonel Muhammad Dole said, “The matter is already with our legal department and I cannot make any comment on the matter.”
Bu in June last year, the Headquarters 1 Division Nigerian Army in a statement, then by Colonel Kingsley Umoh, Army Public Relations, Deputy Director, said, “The attention of headquarters 1 Division Nigerian Army has been drawn to tension arising from an incidence that occurred at about 10:00am today, 9th June, 2017.
“A soldier of the Division Internal Security Force deployed at Command Secondary School, Kaduna opened fire on some youths suspected to have encroached into the school premises. One of the youths was hit and died at the spot.”