In the wake of recent police killings across the country, a photographer, Praise-Legend Onwuachu, said he had to resort to grabbing and holding on to the gun of a policeman, who was about to shoot him while conducting a search on him and his friends on Monday, December 26.
Onwuachu, who explained that he was on his way back from covering an event on Boxing Day, had driven from Owerri, Imo State to Onitsha, Anambra State without incident, until he got to Nkpor Junction and encountered a team of policemen.
He said a member of the team asked him if he had a tinted glass permit, which he said he had and was trying to retrieve the document as he sat in his car when one of them became angry, asking, “So, you don’t want to come down?”
Onwuachu said, “I told him I wanted to get the document he asked for before alighting from my car. Already angry, (it seemed he was angry and drunk before stopping us), he asked all of us (five men) in the car to come down for a search.
“We complied and he started with the man in front, he searched the boys with me and harassed them, making derogatory statements as he searched them.”
According to the photographer, who shared his story on social media, one of his friends decided to leave after he had been searched. He said the young man went to the boot to pick his bag when the policeman told him to bring it for a search.
“He told the policeman to search it so he could go. At this point, things escalated. The policeman started calling him an animal and several other names.
“I decided to come in at that point. I told him in the most polite and gentle manner that there was no reason to get agitated and abusive, because we had obeyed his orders. My intervention seemed to worsen the situation as he said he had every right to call him an animal for as long as he wanted.”
He explained that the policeman became aggressive and pushed the man by the throat, at which point he made the decision to step between the policeman and his friend, telling the policeman to stop the assault.
“I must admit, my voice wasn’t gentle at this point, but whose voice would be in the face of such violence? He then shifted his attention to me and a lot happened within minutes. He first slapped me, then held me by my throat. I pushed his hands away from my throat and that infuriated him the more.
“Immediately I pushed his hands away, shouting that I dared touch him, he released the safety catch of his rifle, and pointed it at me to shoot.
“In self-defence, and not having the luxury of time, I hit the muzzle of the rifle away from me and went for his gun to stop him, as he seemed hell bent on shooting.
“As we fought for the gun, all his colleagues came and it was a competition of who was gonna ‘cork’ his gun fast enough. Thankfully, the crowd that had gathered got involved and physically held them from shooting. With more people involved and the threat of shooting gone, they continued their assault, hitting me and the other guy with their guns, kicking, punching and slapping us. They left me barely able to walk to my car, I still limp as I type this.”
He said he took the action, which many might interpret as stupid because he did not want to join the statistics of police victims.
Onwuachu identified some of the policemen involved in the incident as Umoh Aniekan, Okoi Okoi, Ekechi Jacob, Inspector Kanu.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that harassment in that junction by the men stationed there, said to be mobile policemen from the MOPOL 3 unit in Enugu, was nothing new.
Onwuachu told Saturday PUNCH that he had reported the case to the Police Complaints Response Unit but had received no reply or indication that the case would be investigated.
However, the incident highlights the problem of brutality which has resulted in the shooting to death of a number of Nigerians in the month of December alone.