Soldiers tortured my son to death, says police officer

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A female police officer in Delta State, Nigeria’s South-south, has accused some Nigerian soldiers of torturing her 24-year-old son to death.

According to a report by the Punch newspaper, the officer, Mercy Ehima, an assistant superintendent of police, said her son, Christian Ehima, jumped off a vehicle that was driven by suspected kidnappers, ran into the bush, and later came out to seek help from soldiers at a military checkpoint in Benin, Edo State, but was assaulted by the soldiers.

She said the son later died in the hospital of “internal injuries” after narrating what happened to him.

The incident occurred on December 10.

“He told me he never knew he boarded a kidnappers’ vehicle. He said they were close to the railway checkpoint where the soldiers were when the driver of the vehicle reversed.

“My son said he jumped down from the vehicle in the process and ran into the bush. He said he sent me a text message in the bush but it didn’t come. He said as he was proceeding in the bush, he saw a big snake and jumped out of the bush. He said he ran to the army checkpoint, which was about four poles away. He said he thought the soldiers would come to his aid but as he was about to narrate his ordeal to them, they kicked him and he fell on the ground and they started to hit him,” Mrs Ehima, 53, said.

Mrs Ehima said when she first got in contact with the soldiers on phone, before she went over to take her son to the hospital, they (the soldiers) told her that her son “dragged their guns with them”.

“At that point, I begged them even though I knew that my son couldn’t do that. I begged them not to kill my son and not to do him any harm and they said okay, because I said I am a police officer, they won’t shoot him again as they planned to shoot him before.

“I begged them and they told me to start coming.”

Army’s reaction

The Nigerian Army has, however, denied torturing Mr Ehima to death.

The army, through a statement by its spokesperson, Onyema Nwachukwu, on Saturday in Abuja, gave its own account of the incident.

It said Mr Ehima had “wandered” into the checkpoint without his clothes on and was halted by soldiers on duty.

“He was interrogated but could not say anything meaningful on where he was coming from or heading. His behaviour was rather weird and indicative of one who was obviously under some sort of influence.

“The Guard Commander, who observed his abnormal behavior, immediately requested for his phone in an effort to contact any of his relations, friends or associates. Shortly afterwards, a call came through to his phone and the caller identified herself as his mother. The soldier invited her to pick up her son, who was still very agitated and unstable.

“Subsequently, the woman arrived (at) the scene and identified herself as his mother and a police officer. She was briefed about her son’s observed abnormal behaviour.

“In her conversation with the soldiers, she attributed her son’s weird behaviour to (the) influence of alcohol. The soldiers, however, maintained that whatever was responsible for Christian’s behaviour at that time, was way beyond alcoholism.

“On sighting his mother his behavior aggravated. Thereafter, some passerby were mobilized to help her take him to the hospital,” the army said in its statement.

The army said it has audio and video evidence of what happened.

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