A first-born son, Solomon Chinedu, was everything to his family. Now, thanks to the police, he’s no more.
ESTHER Obi’s son, Solomon Chinedu Obi, was shot and killed during the #EndSARS protests last year on the 21st of October.
Solomon was the first of four children. His mother, Esther, who hails from Ezeagu in Enugu State, describes him as a blessing that arrived in her life on the 1st of October, 1998.
“Six years after Solomon was born, his father died, and our lives changed,” Esther says.
Life was tough for a single mother. Esther struggled to make ends meet to sustain the family. She and her children live in a small room made of patched roofing sheets with a leaky roof. Anytime it rains, the place gets flooded. And when the sun shines, they have to leave the room. It’s even worse when the weather is cold. They found themselves regularly visiting the hospital because they were always getting ill.
Despite these difficulties, she says, “I managed to raise funds for Solomon to train as a mechanic. The sacrifice paid off. In just four years of training, he quickly took to the craft, to the point that he could repair trailer vehicles, tankers and tipper trucks.”
Solomon was a caring and responsible young man. He was the family’s sole provider in his father’s absence and was only 22 years old when the police killed him.
“Before he died,” Esther says, “he had started to make plans to move us out of this terrible place.” That very Wednesday of his death, they were at home together when he received a call. The call was from one of the companies whose heavy-duty vehicles he usually fixed. They wanted his services once again.
Solomon told his family that he planned to use the payment for the ob to secure a new apartment for our family.
The next thing his family heard was that police had shot him as a thug in the #EndSARS protest. It was confusing because they all knew he had left home to do a job, and not to protest.
Solomon’s friends at work told Esther he was shot in the chest by an officer called Emma. These same friends took Solomon to the Ntasi Obi Ndi Nonafufu Catholic Hospital in Trans-Ekulu, Enugu, after which they rushed to officer Emma’s house for answers. The officer wasn’t there.
On arrival at the hospital, the doctor told Esther Solomon had fought hard to live. “I do not think there are words to describe how I felt when the doctor led us into the morgue to see my son’s lifeless body,” Esther says.
“If life after my husband’s death was tough,” she continues, “then life after Solomon has been on another level. His death has devastated our family. Even feeding has become a struggle because he was the one who put food on our table.”
Esther is left with the difficult task of being the sole provider for her children. One of her daughters is due to write the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), but because there is no money, they’re unsure if it will happen. When they get sick due to the issues with their leaky roof, they can no longer visit the hospital.
“I go around the city collecting people’s clothes to wash to make some money. I earn between 2,000 to 3,000 naira daily doing that. I used to sell food, but there were issues with where I was selling. Other sellers relocated, but because I could not afford to move, I had to quit selling altogether,” Esther says.
After Chinedu’s death, Hon. Chima Obieze – the member representing Ezeagu at the Enugu State House of Assembly – and some state government officials visited Esther at home, promising to help. They promised to give Solomon a befitting burial. But on the day Solomon was buried, there were no politicians around.
“We don’t have anybody to speak for us – only God. The government gave Officer Emma a gun to protect people, not to kill them. He should be arrested and made to face the law. He took Solomon away and left us to suffer. Almost every day, when we wake up to Solomon’s absence at home, we cry. It is not fair. It hurts. It really hurts,” Esther says.
She continues saying, “My Solomon had dreams. People around him would call him “Edu Malay“, and he would say, “don’t worry, if I ever get to Malaysia, it will only take me three months to become better than all mechanics working there.”
“Oh, my son! I don’t know why God allowed him to die like this. Why did he not spare him for me? For us?” Esther cries.
In November 2020, the family was at the Judicial Panel of Inquiry, where Officer Emma’s wife appeared. She said her husband killed someone and subsequently ran away. The panel asked her to provide her husband’s number. She did. And that was it.
Although the Judicial Panel recommended that the police pay compensation to Esther’s family, the force is yet to carry out this recommendation. There is a video of Solomon’s murder, filmed with his friends, which is currently in the judicial panel’s custody. “Yet, Esther says, “anytime we call members of the Judicial Panel, they tell us to remain patient.”
“But for how long are we supposed to wait?” she asks.
This story is part of a multimedia project by Tiger Eye Foundation and media partners across Nigeria, documenting police brutality in Nigeria and advocating for police reform.