Three months after a tragic incident left 12-year-old Mary Udoh and her three siblings (aged nine, seven and 12 months) motherless, and almost made them orphans, life has been a downward spiral of torment for the children.
Saturday PUNCH tracked down the children three months after their mother, Comfort and father, Sunday, were shot by a police corporal, Musefiu Aremu of the Isheri Oshun Police Division, Ijegun, Lagos, and learnt that a lot has changed for the worse in the lives of the children.
Speaking with difficulties through a yet-to-heal jaw wound he sustained during the tragic incident, Sunday told our correspondent that after witnessing the traumatic incident, Mary, who is his oldest child, has been having seizures, which doctors have diagnosed as induced by the traumatic incident she witnessed.
Recollecting the events of that tragic day, Sunday, a tricycle (Keke) rider, said he was on his way back from church with his wife and four children in his tricycle when he was stopped by Aremu, who demanded N2,000 as bribe.
Sunday said he explained to the policeman he did not have money to pay him.
During an ensuing argument, Aremu cocked his rifle and shot directly at Sunday, who had insisted he did nothing wrong. The bullet passed through his arm and tore his jaw to shreds. But that wasn’t the worst.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that as the bullet exited his jaw, it hit Comfort on one side of the head and exited on the other side, killing her immediately.
All these happened in the presence of the couple’s four children.
“As I fell from my tricycle, I did not really know what had happened until my children started screaming and shouting that their mother was dying.
“I rushed to my wife even though I was bleeding heavily from my arm and jaw. I held her head and realised there was nothing anybody could do for her at that point.
“I ran towards the policeman who shot us and he had joined his friends. They said if I came closer they would shoot me again. They jumped into their van and sped off.”
The events of that day seemed to have become too traumatic for Mary, whom Sunday said has been finding it difficult to express herself apart from the seizures, which the shock triggered.
Doctors said she would require specialised care and therapy so that the problem does not become permanent, an issue that has thrown the father into additional turmoil.
“I have incurred a lot of debts and I don’t know how to go about the treatment for my daughter at the moment. Her convulsion is a serious concern for me right now. I am helpless and still receiving treatment. I still cannot use my right arm, which was hit by the bullet.
“I have not been able to eat anything because my jaw has not completely healed. I struggle to swallow food.”
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the corpse of Sunday’s wife still lies in the Mainland Hospital mortuary in Yaba, Lagos three months after the incident.
He told our correspondent that even though the police had told him to come for it anytime he is ready; he is not yet strong enough to start the burial arrangement.
‘My wife’s family thought I was dead’
When our correspondent spoke with him, Sunday said he had just travelled to Akwa Ibom to see his wife’s family.
“They were shocked when they saw me. They said the news they got was that I died the day after my wife died. They really felt so sorry for me,” he said.
Taking care of himself and his four children has been a daily battle for Sunday, who said he had to resort to employing a maid to take care of the children in his absence with the meagre money he and his children survive on.
He also explained that there are no other family members who could take his children in because they have their own burdens as well.
“My little baby cries more than usual now in the middle of the night. Sometimes, I don’t know what to do. Anytime he senses that the mother is not around, the cry starts again. He was still breast feeding when my wife was killed. All I can do is feed her with pap only anytime I suspect he is hungry,” he said.
“I don’t want my children and me to be a burden to anybody, that was why I had to take them from my elder sister who took them in temporarily. I don’t have a choice than to rely on the maid who comes around to take care of them when I am not at home.
“Apart from my oldest child who is no longer like she was before now, the other children have not shown any other obvious signs of how the trauma has affected them apart from the fact that they miss their mother.”
The Yuletide season has been particularly difficult for Sunday and his children. He explained that this is the first time the children had a taste of the difficult life they have been thrust into.
Sunday said, “For instance, my wife would normally take them to the hairdresser’s to make beautiful hair for them during Christmas. She would buy them beautiful clothes. She was the kind of woman, who would gladly do these things if I did not have enough money. For the 13 years we were married, my wife never had any problem with sharing my burden.
“My children were expecting all these things during this festive period. But how can I do these things with all the difficulties I am passing through? It is a festive period for some people, for me, it is a period of mourning.”
Police scholarship for deceased’s children
Two weeks ago, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, signed a letter offering Sunday’s children scholarship as part of the Nigeria Police’s Scholarship Scheme.
But Sunday said there are other promises the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, and the IGP had made to him verbally, which he would like to see in writing.
He said Owoseni called him to his office to sympathise on his loss and the police IG also called him on the phone over the incident.
“They promised some monetary compensation, befitting burial for my wife and accommodation for us. I would like these to be put in writing so that if there is a change in authority, I would have something to present. The balance of the cost of my treatment, which I had to borrow money for has not been paid for,” he said.
It would be recalled that on September 16, 2015, Sunday had reported to the Area Commander of Idimu, Lagos soaked in his own blood after the incident, which took place around 9.30pm.
The area commander detained the DPO of the Isheri Oshun Division along with the men on patrol when the trigger-happy police corporal (Aremu) killed Comfort.
Aremu, who has since been summarily discharged from the police force, is currently being tried before an Ebute-Metta Chief Magistrate’s Court in Lagos.
A’ Ibom, company to the rescue
Meanwhile, the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Udom family while a construction Firm, Nigerpet Structures also donated the sum of N2m as part of its corporate social responsibility.
Presenting the state government’s package in Uyo, the governor, who was represented by the Special Assistant on Legal Services, Mr. Andem Andem, said that the life of every Akwa Ibom person wherever they may be means more to his administration and that he would always ensure their well-being.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the Managing Director of Nigerpet, Mr. Terry Follet, made the presentation at the headquarters of the company, saying the money was to aid the survival of the bereaved family after the loss of Comfort.
Sunday, who was full of thanks to the company and the Akwa Ibom State Government, also appreciated the Human Rights Activist, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumaki, who took up his case.
It was learnt that Sunday would appear before committee of the House of Representatives later in January in connection with an inquiry into the incident that claimed the life of his wife.
According to Sunday, Okei-Odumakin had approached both the Lagos State House of Assembly and the House of Representatives, demanding justice on his case.