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The police and the State Security Service (SSS) have bickered over the shooting of a middle-aged man at Alor in Idemili South local government area of Anambra State.

The victim, Onyeocha Umuokwu, a domestic staffer working for Emeka Eze, a former director-general of the Bureau for Public Procurement, was allegedly hit by a stray bullet fired at a cow running away from the house, ”in an attempt to stop it from escaping”.

Different accounts

Since the shooting on Christmas eve, there have been, at least, three accounts of the incident from sources and security agencies.

A source close to the family, who pleaded not to be named, claimed the shooter was a police officer on duty.

“Onyeocha Umuokwu was shot by a police officer at Engineer Eze’s house on 25th December 2019, in Alor.

“A cow cut the rope they tied it with and started running. A police officer on duty aimed to shoot the cow, but mistakenly shot and killed Onyeocha Umuokwu, so painful,” the source said.

But police spokesperson, Haruna Mohammed, refuted the claim alleging that the act was committed by an SSS operative.

Describing the report as misleading, Mr Mohammed said ”it was orchestrated by mischief makers targeted at portraying the police in bad light.”

He claimed that the shooter was ”an unidentified SSS officer”. Mr Haruna issued the statement on Boxing Day.

“The report (was) probably orchestrated by mischief makers who want to portray the police in bad light is totally misleading.

“In order to clear ambiguity and to set the record straight, on December 25 at the residence of one Engr Emeka Eze of Umuokwu village Alor, a DSS personnel whose identity is yet unknown attached to a VIP allegedly fired gunshot at a cow in a bid to stop it from escaping but the bullet missed target and allegedly hit one Nnaemaka Nnabuenyi (a domestic staff of the said Engineer) popularly known as Onyeocha and the victim died on the spot. The incident was not reported to the police.

“Following the incident, police detectives led by DPO Nnobi Division visited the scene but neither the Engineer nor the victim’s relatives are (were) willing to provide any useful information that will aid police investigation.

“However, the corpse was taken to the mortuary for autopsy and case is under investigation to ascertain circumstances surrounding the incident,” Mr Mohammed stated.

Police recant

Curiously, about 24 hours later, Mr Mohammed backtracked on his earlier statement.

In a second statement on the incident Friday, the spokesperson said the police ”is yet to unravel the actual shooter.”

“The Anambra State Police Command wishes to make further clarification on the shooting incident at Alor Community in Idemili South LGA of Anambra State on the December 25.

“Contrary to the earlier report that DSS personnel was allegedly involved in the shooting based on the first information reported, the Command is yet to establish the true identity of the suspect hence cannot conclude on the actual perpetrator until after investigation is concluded.

SSS Officials (Photo Credit: Guardian Nigeria) SSS Officials (Photo Credit: Guardian Nigeria)

“In view of the foregoing, the Command urges the public to disregard the previous report till after a thorough investigation, please,” he said.

Blame game continues

Following the dust raised by the incident, the SSS issued a counter-statement denying the involvement of its officer in the shooting.

The agency claimed that a member of the local vigilante group in the area was responsible for the shooting.

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Peter Afunanya, the SSS spokesperson, in an apparent dig at the police, said ”its officers are professional and as such won’t use their weapons on innocent cow or civilians.”

“The attention of the Department of State Services (DSS) has been drawn to a false story making the round that its staff, on 25th December, 2019, at Alor Community, Anambra State “while targeting a cow that was running away”, shot a native instead.

“The Nation newspaper, among others, has carried this erroneous story. It is not true that a DSS personnel was responsible for this act.

“The police has further issued a statement informing the public that it was yet to conclude its investigation to determine the actual killer of the person in question.

“However, enquiries have indicated that a member of a vigilante group in the area carried out the shooting.

“The public is, therefore, urged to discountenance the story that the DSS personnel shot anyone in the community. Arms handling in the Service is guided by strict control procedures and measures such that none of its staff could have used his/her assigned gun to shoot an innocent native or escaping cow.”

Mr Afunanya noted that the service ”is professional and will remain so in the discharge of its duties”.

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