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.
Rivers: Developing Tourism Potentials
Tourism the world over is known to be a great contributor to a nation’s gross domestic product and per capital income. It is a money spinner and one of the largest employer of labour anywhere on the globe. Countries like Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, Gambia, Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey and today’s Dubai generates a lot of revenue-foreign exchange from tourism for their government and peoples.
The tourism industry entails the business of traveling for pleasure, catering for people who do this and the encouragement of touring. These includes tour guides, transporters, hoteliers, the boosting of local industry, commerce and trade through sale of handcrafts, artifacts, souvenirs exposure of local cuisines and delicacies to foreign tourists etc. Also other aspect. of the culture and traditions of the people are showcased and brought to the limelight.
Suffice it to. say that the potentials for this industry is enormous for the country especially Rivers State with its many beautiful beaches, aquatic nature and splendor, different cultural festivals, traditional dances, masquerades, boat regatta displays, local music, monuments and sites.
Rivers State could become a centre for tourist destination in Nigeria and the world because of its unique and strategic location and its prominence in the oil and gas industry. The state boasts of an international airport a large seaport and is linked by major roads from different parts of the country, also a fine weather.
Apart from the aforementioned, the state boasts of some of the best hotels both five and three star hotels in this part of the country. Even though there is need for great improvement in this area especially considering the influx of many foreign nationals and people who come to the state to do business.
Today the world talks of eco-tourism whereby governments and people use tourism to boost trade and commerce e.g. Dubai where tourist travel to basically for shopping and to transact all kinds of business likewise London, New York, South Africa etc.
Also is the much talked about health-tourism, in this case many people travel to countries like India, Singapore, South Africa or Germany for medical treatment and convalescing backed and encouraged by’ those individual government.
In the same vein is sports-tourism, for instance countries build and develop sporting facilities to host world sporting meets, events like the popular wimbledon opens in London, the Olympics, All Africa Games, the World Cup e.g. the 2010 World cup hosted by South Africa attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world. And you had billions of people watching the event via satellites and television all over the globe. Imagine that revenue from adverts, endorsement gate taking, hotel lodging, feeding, money for local transporters etc. then ofcourse the goodwill and publicity to the entire nation. For the records South Africa made billions of dollars from hosting that event within just a month.
Interestingly there is the genre of edu-tourism and many countries are benefiting from it like Ghana, South Africa, Canada, UK, Malaysia etc.
They build educational institutions/schools of international standard and attract students from different countries of the world. Indirectly using education to showcase their peoples language, culture and tradition etc.
All of these forms of tourism which is in no way exhaustive, help attract people/tourists and generate foreign exchange for the individual countries and governments concerned. This will inturn translate to better conditions of living and improved standard of living for the people and government.
This present administration is doing much in trying to restore Port Harcourt to its old garden city status especially through its beautification efforts. The development of green areas, parks and gardens is adding aesthetic beauty to most parts of the city and this must be sustained to keep these parks and gardens functioning all year round.
Also the annual Rivers festival and carnival dubbed CANIRIV has done much in fostering unity among its people and attracting visitors/tourists from far and near. It should be expanded to include exhibitions/fairs of arts and crafts as well as cooking competition to further expose the rich cuisine and delicacies of the Rivers people. The private sector should be involved for sponsorship and to market it internationally and locally.
In addition places of interest and tourist attraction sites like the Port Harcourt Zoo should be improved like the surrounding and ambience then of course more. animals should be introduced with good relaxation spots. As a matter of urgency an amusement park of international standard with all the trappings of modern day tourists attraction and fun spots should be built for the city. This could be done through Public Private Partnership initiative with private corporate concerns.
Furthermore one or two beaches should be developed to enable pleasure and fun seekers beautiful sites to relax and unwind during festive periods and holiday times for instance the OPI beach and some others like such.
There’s also, the need to build more modem shopping malls and markets for residents and people visiting the state in order to help enhance commerce and trade as well as boost the local economy, thereby facilitating exchange of goods and services under decent and conducive environment.
Finally, making Port Harcourt city and indeed Rivers State a destination of choice for tourists could be possible if security is better improved by government and law enforcement agencies. As this will guarantee free movement and help restore night life. Transportation too is very critical to realising this goal since easy movement from one point to another without unnecessary bottlenecks enhances and promotes tourism by opening up tourist attraction areas in the hinterland. Also the national sports festival to be hosted by the state is a good forum to showcase the rich culture, tradition and hospitality of the Rivers People .
Sycamore Foundation And The Plight Of Young Pupils
Young pupils of Community Primary School Rumuoparali near Choba in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State would hardly forget Friday June 18th in their lives.
A non-governmental organisation labeled Sycamore Foundation had on that day distributed some books, pencils and erasers to them. The pupils numbering about 150 sang and danced with their new writings.
However, immediately children in the community got wind of the news, the school premises got filled with children struggling to their share of the writing materials.
Most of them had been out of school that day. Some of them barefooted and clad in worn clothings had abandoned their parents in the farms. Those who were harking articles dropped them on the ground. The entire school premises was thrown into an atmosphere of jubilation.
President of the foundation, Lady Pat Ogbuafor who had led a team of the charity based orgnaisation was almost moved to tears over the excitement. The teachers were also shocked over the pupils response.
Lady Ogbuafor who spoke after the donation ceremony was conducted said, “my heart goes after those children who are in the streets or in the farm and I really feel had about it.”
This was not the first time her group had visited schools distributing writing materials. They had done the same at St. Paul’s Primary School, Diobu and Community School at Obiariku in Delta State.
According to Ogbuafor, “there are so many children in our communities that needs our help so it’s pathetic when you see them suffering in the midst of plenty.”
The headmaster of the school, Mr Brown Christopher said he was overwhelmed with the gesture and the response the children had equally demonstrated,” a lot of these children find it difficult to buy books,” he observed.
Community Primary School Rumuoparali was established since 1977 and the school’s population had been fluctuating with the sprouting of private schools.
Though currently the pupils are leaving in a worn and decrepit building, Mr. Christopher while chatting with reporters pointed few metres across the school’s football field where a new model primary school was under construction courtesy of the Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi.
In the next few months, the pupils would enjoy the cozy classrooms, they would face the cold and the heat of the weather any longer. Their seats would no longer be carried from home; they would seat on well furniture desks.
Commending Sycamore Foundation for their gesture, Mr. Christopher called on other NGOs to emulate the group,” a lot of children need help,” he said, “and the only way they can be assisted is for people to embark in this kind of activities.
The school head called on the pupils to make good use of the books. He advised them to be of good behaviour as well, so that they can contribute positively to the society.
Some of the pupils spoke of their joy over t heir new writing materials. Chioma Wosu, a basic six pupil said “am happy because I would use the exercise books to write my Maths and English notes.”
Ifeoma Abbe in basic five stated that she doesn’t have note book for her English lessons hence the new exercise books would be used for that. She commended the foundation for the donation adding that, “when I get home I will show it to my parents.”
Another pupil from basic four, Fiona Chukwunyere promised to put the exercise books into good use. She advised her fellow pupils to avoid using the writing materials for play.
When she was asked why the foundation chose to embark on such project Lady Ogbuafor said her group was moved by the plight of indigent children.
“The truth of the matter is that a lot of us went through a similar condition, but today we have gotten family and our children are in good schools. I really fed bad when I see children going through these ordeals to get good education.”
On her source of funding, she disclosed that the whole project was based on personal tasks,” “our member raise funds from their salaries and that’s why we need more assistance from government and public spirited individuals.”
She called on rich parents to reach out to the poor ones, “when they do that they would go home and “sleep well.”
The Sycamore Foundation observed that though the church was also trying to engage in charity work but a lot of them are not doing well. She argued that the church has a lot to do in their regard.
For the church to make impact in the society, Lady Ogbuafor suggested that the rural areas should be given attention. “I’m worried because most of the new churches and charity organizations are urban based. They should spread to the rural arrears, I think that is where they need us.”
Aside distributing books and other writing materials, she revealed that her NGO plans to build libraries to enhance learning in schools, “we believe that these down trodden children when educated will also help other children which will bring about triple effects of positive charge in our society.”
Following success recorded so far by the group Lady Ogbuafor expressed appreciation to the State Commissioner for Information and Communications Mrs Ibim Seminitari, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Mina Benibo, including Deputy Director Ministry of Justice Mrs. Caroline Wali.
The Sycamore Foundation leader also lauded members of the group who contribute their meager salaries to drive activities of the foundation, adding, “even our husbands have shown us wonderful support without which we wouldn’t have had the time to do what we are doing.”
Death At Dawn How Egobueze Was Killed In PH
Rivers State has witnessed an orgy of killings in recent times. Pathetically, it has been the killing of personages and high profile politicians. These assassinations have put paid to the peace the state has been enjoying in recent times and put political office holders in great fear.
The perpetrators of these dastardly acts have continued undetected and this has in a way inspired confidence in the ability to track down their victims. The police have been unable to unravel the mysteries surrounding these deaths.
The killing of the hitherto chairman of Rivers State Civil Service Commission, Chief Anthony Egobueze in the early hours of yesterday has proved that no political office holder in the state is safe anymore. The death of Chief Egobueze has thrown the state once again into mourning, and infused a lot of fear in the minds of serving politicians especially as nobody has a hint of why they are assassinated.
Another thing that has been mind boggling is the fact that the perpetrators have continued to walk the streets as free citizens. The losses suffered in the state in terms of human resources can only be imagined as the victims were great statesmen.
Chief Egobueze’s residence was said to have been invaded by four gunmen at about 2.am on Friday, The fallen statesman who resided at Mgbuoshimini in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area was said to be resting in his bedroom with his wife, when the assassins broke into the room.
According to an eyewitness, Chief Egobueze was brought to his livingroom where he was shot by his killers in spite of the financial offer he made to them. The eyewitness said his killers had locked both his wife and his security man before he was felled by the assassins bullets.
The Weekend Tide learnt that the remains of the statesman had been deposited at Kpaima Mortuary, while his wife who had become inconscious was receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital in Port Harcourt.
Speaking to The Weekend Tide, bereaved Mr. Authony Egobueze (Jnr) described the incident as a big shock to the family and urged the police to find the killers of his father.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Mrs Rita Inoma Abbey confirmed the story but assured that investigations had commenced on the killing of the Chairman, Rivers State Civil Service Commission, Chief Authony Egobueze.
However, condemnations have continued to trail the brutal killing of Chief Egobueze. Hon. Elemchukwu Ogbowu, a former member, Rivers State House of Assembly described the incident as a great shock to the entire Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area.
Hon. Ewor N. Robinson of the state House of Assembly in his remarks, tagged the killing as a crime against humanity, while for Chief Godspower Ogbugo, the Acting Chairman, Rivers Sate Post Primary Schools Board, Late Chief Egobueze was a perfect gentleman, who lived simple and unassuming lifestyle.
Also speaking, the former Chairman of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA,. Chief Felix Nwabochi described the incident as malicious.
For Hon. Singer of the Rivers State House of Assembly, the incident was shocking and stressed that he lacked the appropriate words to describe the incident.
In his own reaction, the Director, Fincance and Adminsitration, Post Primary Schools Board, Pastor Rogers Okere expressed optimism that the killers would soon be brought to book. He said they would face the wrath of God.
“God saw them when they came in and nothing can be hidden under the sum. Within the shortest possible time, my conviction is that they will be brought to book in their hiding places,” he stated.
Other sympathizers also urged the police to bring to book those responsible for the dastardly act.
The question now on the lips of many people is whether this will also be another case of unresolved murder.
The police authority must prove that it has what it takes to protect lives and properties of citizens in the state by bringing to book perpetrators of the dastardly act.
Regrettably, the serial killings of political office holders have acquired a level of notoriety, yet none of such high profile assassinations has been resolved. The question is whether it is wrong to serve one’s state. The killing of the Chairman of Public Procurement Bureau, Hon. Charles Nsiegbe by the assassins bullets has remained unresolved. Late Hon. Nsiegbe, a former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly and until his death, the Chairman of the PPB, was assassinated on his way home by assassins who disguised as policemen.
Quite pathetically too, Ambassador Ignatius Ajuru, former Ambassador to Gabon was also felled by assassins bullets. Again former Chief Security Officer (CSO) at the University of Port Harcourt, Choba was also brutally murdered by unknown gunmen.
At a time, many people thought that the assassinations were targeted against Ikwerre politicians but the most recent killing of Chief Egobueze has put paid to that speculation.
One thing is certain, the killings are targeted at politicians who hold public offices without regard to their ethnicity. As the state moves closer to 2011 general elections, the number of politicians killed will be on the increase if nothing is done to discourage these dastardly acts. It must be stated without equivocation that the faceless persons behind the dastardly acts are the greatest cowards that ever lived and that they are not courageous enough to face the challenges that life itself presents.
Interestingly, our respondents agreed that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes are not fit to live in the present world. On the other hand, they feel that the police must rise to the occasion to unmask the perpetrators of these cruel assassinations or otherwise put decent law-abiding citizens in jeopardy. The un-resolved killings of high profile politicians and other office holders underscore the germaine need for increased surveillance in the state, lest we descent to pre-order days when life was based on the survival of the fittest.
It is important that the perpetrators be brought to book else the society may relapse into the gungle era. While we implore the police to take the issues of security serious, it will be important for any person that has useful information to report same to the police in order that peace may be preserved in the society.
John Enyie & John Bibor
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