Life was full of promise, hope and expectations for 37-year-old Mr. Eric Akinsumade, a Port Harcourt-based mechanic of Mercedes Benz cars until on January 31, 2003 when a bullet from the nozzle of the gun of a trigger-happy policeman, attached to the Atan police station in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State shattered his dreams and all.
Since that fateful day, life for Mr. Akinsumade has become one long night of nightmare, void, hopelessness, suffering, poverty, pain and anguish.
If his prophet, a sooth- sayer or visioner in his local church in Port Harcourt had warned him on that fateful day not to set out on a long journey to Lagos, that Centre of Excellence, because danger lay ahead, perhaps, the ever-smiling Eric would have ignored the warning. Better still, depending on his faith, he would have cancelled the Lagos trip and remained in Port Harcourt for the evil of that day to race past.
But as human, Eric did not know what fate had in stock for him as he set out on the journey with his customer. one Mr. Eric Amadi, a native of Ikwerreland in Rivers State who had asked him to travel along with him to Lagos to ascertain the state of the engine of a Mazda 323 car he intended to buy in far away Eko.
While in Lagos, the two Erics succeeded in buying the car, boarded it and started heading back to Port Harcourt. Mr. Eric Amadi’s driver drove the car. On the way, they saw a soldier standing by the roadside, waiting for a free ride. Since the soldier was heading to Port Harcourt, their destination, they pulled up the car and he dashed in. Another journey had started.
As soon as they got to llese junction in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, opposite an army barracks, hell was let loose. There was a police check point at the junction. And the policemen on duty flagged down the vehicle.
They obeyed. But the policemen were busy checking a bus in front of the Mazda car.
The soldier became impatient and appealed to the driver to clear on the other side of the road, so that they could be checked by the policemen at the other end, for them to continue their journey.
Unfortunately, another policeman, simply known as Akpan who was also behind the Mazda car thought that the occupants of the car wanted to bolt away in order to escape the police check, for which reason, he opened fire. That was when Eric’s nightmare actually started.
The bullet pierced through the back plate number of the car and hit Mr. Eric Akinsumade who was sitting at the back seat. The bullet hit him at the right side of the abdomen, close to the waist and instantly paralysed him.
Mr. Akinsumade who hails from Idanre community in Ondo State was quickly rushed to the Ijebu-Ode General Hospital by his colleagues where he was operated upon.
After six months in the hospital, he was discharged and further referred to the Akure General Hospital. The battle to save his life also took him to the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, IIe Ife.
Eric’s life-savings were spent and his family property back home had been sold off just for him to be normal again. But all to no avail. This is because the policeman’s bullet was alleged to have damaged one of his kidneys and some parts of his body which ultimately paralysed him on both legs. Today, he could hardly walk, he only wobbles with the aid of clutches.
The most pathetic aspect of this mechanic’s story who has three children (all girls) is that he got married in August 2002, and barely a few months after the marriage, his life became shattered. Since that horrible incident, his wife has barely managed to stick by him.
But feeding himself and the family, has somewhat become a Herculean task, as he could no longer do anything meaningful. So, what does he want to be done?
Speaking with The Weekend Tide in an interview in Port Harcourt, Mr. Eric Akinsumade said the only way out was for the police authorities to come to his assistance by paying him compensation.
He admitted that the police authorities in Ogun State had, when the incident happened, shown some level of concern, but regretted that they had abandoned him to his fate.
According to him, the then Ogun State Commissioner of police and the police authorities at the Atan police station where the policeman who shot him was attached, visited him at the hospital but did not do anything concrete to assist him.
He further explained that even the lawyers he had contacted to pursue the matter could not do anything to help his course since he had no money, adding that the human rights groups which also promised to help him in seeking justice did not fulfil their promise, a situation which had further complicated his ordeal.
“I want the police to help me. The Inspector General of Police should come to my rescue. I can no longer do anything. I now live from hand to mouth. I am asking the police to compensate me so that I can survive with my family. I cannot be begging to eat,” he lamented.
Eric further disclosed that the police in Ogun State were able to identify the policeman that shot him but regretted that identifying the culprit had not also changed his condition.
His words: “The matter was reported to the police by the guy that drove the car. They were able to identify the policeman that shot me. But nothing has happened.The policeman’s name is Akpan but because I was unconscious, I could not remember his surname. He was attached to the Atan police station at Ijebu-Ode. Even the Commissioner of Police and the police authorities under Atan police station were aware and they used to visit me at the hospital. They used to come before they abandoned me.”
He equally explained that the Mazda car was taken to the Atan police station and was later released to the owner.
When he was asked the effort Mr. Eric Amadi who took him to Lagos had made to cushion his hardship, he replied, “he gave me little assistance then, but my problems are yet to be over because I have been rendered useless.”
Mr. Eric Akinsumade who resides in Rumuigbo, Port Harcourt said he could be contacted through his mobile phone number: 08037077799.
He also appealed to public-spirited individuals, associations and groups to come to his aid through his United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) account number: 05510680009408 to enable him seek more medical solution to his condition.