Isaac Ikumese, Osamede Ehikioya and Jolly Likeness, who were wounded when a suspected member of a vigilance group opened fire on nine youths playing football on Enabulele Street, Benin City, Edo State, on April 23, 2022, talk to ADEYINKA ADEDIPE about the incident
I feel bad waking up to discover I’d become an amputee –Ikumese
Can you explain what happened on the day you were shot while playing football with your friends?
My name is Isaac Ikumese. My friends and I usually play football in a particular place but it was flooded because of the heavy rain of the previous day. So, we moved to Godwin Enabulele Street that day to play. We use that place whenever our area is flooded. On that particular day, we played for over two hours without anyone telling us to leave the place. All of a sudden, we heard a woman talking to a man, saying, ‘Honey they have come again. They are playing football here again’. Later, the man drove out of his house in anger and came back through the back of his house with a gun. I was facing him and as I turned around to run, I heard him cock the gun and he started shooting. I was hit by a bullet and I fell; then the man came to where I was lying down and he shot me in the leg again. After about 10 minutes, a girl came to me and asked two other boys to help take me to the nearest hospital.
What were your thoughts while waiting for help?
I didn’t know where I was. I was already in another place and I saw an old man who told me to go back. It was then I started hearing the voice of the lady calling on two boys for help. I don’t know the lady, but she was God-sent. She mobilised people to take me to a clinic. I was given two pints of blood donated by my dad and his friend. The wound was also stitched up to stop the bleeding.
Did the man warn you and your friends before he came out and shot at you?
I had not seen the man before that day and he never warned us not to play football there. But some of the players spoke to him, so we all thought all was well until he started shooting at us.
Did you destroy his property with the ball as he accused you of?
We did not destroy his property with our ball. It is not a place we play football all the time. As I said, we only go there when our side is flooded. So, when did we destroy his property with our ball? The area we picked for the game was not even in front of his house. The man’s house is fenced, so there was no way we could have encroached on his property.
Did you attempt to run when you saw the man with the gun?
I tried to run but that was when he shot me in the leg. He would have shot me in the stomach, chest, or head if I did not turn around to run.
What happened to the other players?
I thought my friends had left me behind when I got hit by the bullet. I didn’t know that they also got hit. It was later I found out that only four escaped without bullet wounds.
Your leg was amputated due to the injury. How does that make you feel?
This will not stop me from schooling. I really felt bad when I woke up after surgery and found out that I had become an amputee. I never imagined this would be the outcome. I will still take the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and study at a university.
Are you still interested in sports?
I will look at that option as soon as I come back to full fitness.
Our attacker wore vigilance group’s uniform, bulletproof vest – Ehikioya
Please, can you introduce yourself?
I am Osamede Ehikioya.
How many of you were playing on that day?
We were many. We always play on Saturday and we had many players waiting for their turn to take to the pitch. We should be over 20 on that day.
Did you receive any warning from the man who allegedly shot at you?
That wasn’t the first time we played football on that street. We had played there a couple of times. If the man had told us to stop playing there, we would have stopped and moved to another place.
So, what happened while you were there?
The wife called and informed him that we were playing there. So, when he came, some older players went to him and after a discussion with the man, it was agreed that we should continue. The man drove off but came back after 15 minutes.
Did he stop you from playing when he came back?
No, he parked his car elsewhere and came through the back of his house and that was when I heard gunshots. I started running but I felt dizzy so I touched the back of my head and I found out that I was bleeding. I removed my shirt and used it to tie my head to stop the bleeding. One of the two older players, who talked to the man, said we should go to the Ogida Police Station to report the matter. We were then given what would enable us to get treatment at a hospital. My mother later took me to the Central Hospital, Benin City, from where I was taken to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital.
Is the man a member of a vigilance group?
I was told that he is.
Did you confirm it?
I saw him in a vigilance group’s uniform with a bulletproof vest.
What are the doctors saying about removing the pellets lodged in your head?
I don’t really understand what they are saying. But I heard them talking about performing surgery to bring out the bullets. Another doctor said there was no need for surgery. However, if I have to undergo surgery, it will not happen immediately as I have to wait for a while.
How do you feel now?
My condition is stable but I think I will need that surgery, because it looks like my vision was affected. I can no longer see the way I used to. My mother has been the one running around to ensure that I get the best treatment. She is also making sure she raises enough money to get the things I need on a daily basis. It has been very difficult.
Suspect shot us after his wife informed him of our presence – Likeness
Can you describe what happened on the fateful day?
We were playing football when we suddenly heard gunshots and we all started running away from the scene. The man, who shot at us, actually drove his car through the place where we were playing and we took our goal post away from the street so that he could pass. He did not have a gun at that time. So, we were surprised when he came back and shot at us. Pellets entered my body in 27 places. Others were also not lucky as they left the scene with gunshot wounds.
Did he warn you before shooting at you?
He didn’t warn us. If he had called us to say we should stop playing, we would have left the place, because it was just a temporary place for us. That was not our regular spot. We actually went there because the normal venue was flooded.
How did the man know you were playing there?
I was told that it was the wife who called him on the phone to report that we were playing football at that spot. I was one of those playing at the time that the man shot at us. We were not even playing in front of his house. I can’t say what came over the man.
Some of your friends said he is a member of a vigilance group. Do you agree with them?
I saw him in their uniform. I got hit by the bullet while trying to see where the gunshots were coming from. I saw his uniform clearly. He also had a bulletproof vest on.
Is it true that you are cultists as the man allegedly told the police?
How can he say that? We only came there to play football and that was what we were doing when he went berserk and shot at us. I am beginning to think that the man has a mental problem because even if he is a member of the vigilance group or Edo State Security Network, he must have known that no one came with arms. We even had elderly people watching us play.
What do you think should be done in this case?
I want justice so that it can serve as a deterrent to other security persons in the state who are always eager to use excessive force on members of the public over light issues. Most of them are not well-trained in handling guns. In my area, I hardly sleep at night because of gunshots from such people. They should be trained on how to handle a weapon and issues. They should also leave their weapons behind when they are not on duty.
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