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#MySARSstory: Shot on an Innocent Run

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GODSPOWER Woko tried to run away when he ran into a commotion caused by SARS, but a bullet caught up to him.


Godspower Woko was sleeping in his family house at Omoku, in the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area of Rivers State, when his phone rang. He answered. It was his uncle, Amaechi Olowu,  requesting to see him.

The 30-year-old Godspower got up from his bed, took his bath and put on his clothes. His wife, Gift Ajuwo-Woko said goodbye as he left the house. It was the morning of February 9, 2017.

Godspower was with his uncle having a discussion when operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian Police Force, started to shoot sporadically while chasing people in the community.

Everyone, including Godspower and his uncle, began to run. But Godspower wasn’t as lucky as everyone else – while he was running for his dear life, a bullet struck him in his buttocks. His uncle stopped in his tracks and returned to help his nephew. Other people gathered around Godspower, who lay on the ground with his life all but drained from his body.

Godspower’s wife, Gift, had heard the gunshot from home and had rushed to the scene, carrying along the couple’s one-year-old baby. When she got there, however, she could not have access to see what had happened, because a crowd had gathered around her husband.

“All of a sudden, SARS people carried him and put him a Hilux,” Gift remembers. “That was when we knew he was the one. At that moment, we did not know what to do.”

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That same day, the family visited the SARS office in Omoku, but they were not allowed to see Godspower. The family asked what he had done to warrant the shooting, but there was no response from the SARS operatives. They left and returned the next day only to be told that Godspower had been transferred to Port Harcourt, which is 88 km from Omoku.

Gift could not go to Port Harcourt, so she asked Godspower’s sister, Precious Woko, who was then based in Port Harcourt, to follow up on the issue for her.

“I went to all the offices of SARS and the anti-kidnapping unit at Rumuokoro,” Precious remembers. “I went everywhere for two weeks searching for my brother, and they kept telling me he was on treatment without telling me where he was. I went to all the government hospitals in Port Harcourt and did not see him.”

The police continued to remain tight-lipped on Godspower’s location or state, plunging the family into worry. Due to the frustration, the family got a lawyer, who threatened to sue the Nigerian Police Force. The family visited the headquarters of the force in Port Harcourt, which then contacted the State Criminal Investigative Department (CID), to take up the matter.

Precious kept following up on the matter until Godspower’s murderer, who the police identified as Inspector Innocent, was finally arrested. Inspector Innocent confessed to having shot Godspower. He claimed he and his colleagues had taken Godspower to the hospital, where he eventually died. The said hospital later confirmed Godspower died due to a bullet wound.

Precious visited the University of Port Harcourt (UPTH), where she saw the corpse of her brother. The deceased was buried in his hometown in Omoku on October 15, 2017.

Inspector Innocent was arrested and later released. Godspower’s family could not follow up with the case until they submitted a petition to the #EndSARS Judicial Panel of Inquiry created on October 22, 2020, by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike. Precious’s lawyer submitted a petition, and the case was heard. The panel, which has closed up shop, submitted their report to the Rivers state government. The family now awaits action from the government.

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“Ever since [Godspower’s death], my parents, especially my mum, have not been in their right state of mind,” Precious, 26, says. “My mother has been affected psychologically. She has not come back to her real self.”

Godspower was the first of seven siblings. He could not attend university due to financial constraints, so he learnt automobile engineering and worked as an automobile engineer for Setraco, an engineering construction company in Delta state. At one point, he left to work for Craneburg in Lagos but later returned to Setraco. He was shot less than two weeks after his return to Delta State.

A father of two, Godspower was the breadwinner of his family – both nuclear and extended. “As a first child, he had a lot of responsibility and everybody looked up to him,” Precious explains. “He was the kind of person who often went out of his way to help people.”

Gift, Godspower’s 27-year-old widow, has returned to her parent’s home with her two children since she lost her husband. She is without a job and struggles to feed her two children – who are eight and five years respectively.

“Life has not been easy,” she weeps. “I am trying hard to survive, to feed the children, to put them through school.”

 

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