Young and big-hearted, Chibuisi Okameme, the hope of his family and the star of his workplace, was killed by police for being a good samaritan
ON April 5, 2020, during the COVID induced lockdown, one of the workers under Ndubuisi Nwabeke’s charge at the filling station, Greenmac Energy, at Ogbor Hill in Aba, Abia State where he is manager, was murdered.
The name of the victim? Chibuisi Okameme.
It was a Sunday. Because fuel station attendants were categorized as essential workers, Greemac was open.
The working atmosphere was calm and steady, business as usual, until a sudden cry was heard on the premises. The cry was loud, and it got everyone’s attention. ¨You will kill me oh,¨ someone seemed to be pleading. ¨I am sick!¨
It turned out to be one of Greemac’s customers, who was apparently addressing some officers from the Ohuru Isimiri Police Station.
“I heard the shout from my office, so I came out,” Nwabeke remembers. “But seeing Chibuisi already advancing towards the scene to have a look at the issue, I decided to stay back and observe from a distance.”
Apparently, a group of policemen – five of them – were assaulting the customer; a man who regularly patronized Greemac.
As it turned out, the officers wanted to take the man to their station, because he had flouted lockdown rules by having been seen outside his car a few minutes earlier.
The man was now inside his car, and though he seemed sick, the officers continued to mercilessly beat him, all while attempting to drag him out of the car.
The man kept pleading for mercy, explaining himself. He said he had only gone out of his car to buy drugs and fruits, which he was now holding, because he wasn’t well. He said he had not deliberately disobeyed lockdown law.
“I saw Chibuisi plead with the policemen to spare the poor man. Chibuisi vouched for our customer, and did so gently,” Nwabeke says.
As Chibuisi was interceding, an officer, who Nwabeke later learned was called Inspector Stanley Azu, the leader of the officers, leapt out of the police bus parked close by. He was armed. Chibuisi was alarmed.
Inspector Azu aimed his gun at a frightened Chibuisi, and pulled the trigger. There was blood all over the ground where Chibuisi fell, almost lifelessly.
The officers attempted to flee from the scene. But with the help of some army personnel staying in the Greemac station, that didn’t happen. The army men ordered the police officers to rush Chibuisi to the hospital.
“I did not follow them to the hospital immediately, but I later joined them. The Divisional Police Officer of the Ohuru Isimiri Police Station also came to the hospital,” Nwabeke says.
Doctors at the hospital tried to save Chibuisi. They gave him oxygen, did everything they could to keep him alive. But he died. “It was so surreal; a few hours earlier, Chibuisi had been hale and hearty, running around Greemac, serving customers on a sunny Sunday. None of us could believe what had happened,” says Nwabeke.
Chibuisi was his family’s breadwinner. He was only 24, yet was the one taking care of his mother. He once told Nwabeke that there was a portion of land in his village on which he planned to build a house for his mother. “Before he died, he used to send money to his mother regularly. In fact, a day before he died, he asked me to give him his salary so he could buy a bag of rice and send it home. Till today, the mother still mourns him. I can only imagine the depth of her loss,” Nwabeke says.
Chibuisi’s case has been heard by the Judicial Panel set up by the Abia State government to deal with cases of police brutality and extrajudicial killings. The panel submitted their recommendations to the state government, and Chibuisi’s family awaits the state government to pay compensation to them. The police say that Inspector Azu has been dismissed, but Nwabeke says it is not enough. “The inspector should face the full wrath of the law,” he says.
It’s been close to a year, and Chibuisi is still yet to be buried due to the fact that his case is ongoing. But as they plan for his burial, Nwabeke keeps wondering if he can ever forget how kind Chibuisi was. “In fact, his kindness was so contagious that I learnt to be friendly to people just because of him,” Nwabeke says.
“He was a rare human being; good and grounded. He had a great attitude – a lot of diligence, hard work, and excellent customer relations. His absence is deeply felt here at Greemac, because he did everything – from offloading petroleum products, to selling in the pumps, through to always knowing what to do in the engine room.”
Chibuisi worked majorly on Sundays, when most people had their off-days, but, as Nwabeke says, “he would cover so much ground that you would think a lot of people were at work.” “On Monday, he would give an account of every kobo earned to Gaius Ifeanyi, our cashier,” he adds.
It was clear Chibuisi was loved and appreciated by all – customers and co-workers alike – because he was the type to go out of his way to help people.
Unfortunately, he died doing just that. He died while being himself.
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.