* She died doing peace and saving the poor
* Only son, 4-yr-old Great playing away oblivious of any tragedy
* Husband, SARS operative, showing brave mind, away to inform his in-laws
* Sister says the woman had premonitions, always not going to work
* The bullet cut her below the eye – Eye witnesses
* Why keke riders chased and caught some of the task force men
By Codratus Godosn (with reporting by Jane Okorie)
Her name is Lovender Elekwachi and she was shot dead by another police sergeant while she was doing the exact thing she was known for.
Sergeant Lovender Elekwachi, woman sergeant in the police and mother of a four-year-old boy called Great, did not like the funny feeling she was having that day. She was on afternoon duty and was a regular figure at the Eneka Roundabout near Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on the road from Owerri through Igwuruta.
She told her sister, Beauty, that she was the only female on duty that afternoon and that she must endeavour to go. She left her Rumowa section of Eneka at about 3pm and kissed her only child goodbye.
The traders and others at the junction knew her too well; a jovial, honest and kind woman, She always intervened in disputes and always saved traffic offenders from trouble. But this day, as she approached the junction, she met commotion from afar.
Racing to the scene, Lovender as she was popularly called, saw task force men destroying wares of traders, One particular shoe traders was ready to die rather than surrender his wares to the task force men.
There is a law against street trading in the state; a law observed often is breach. Task force men complain that traders are too stubborn and insist on coming back after every raid. The traders cry often that the task force men have found their wares as free shopping plazas. There is distrust and hatred.
Lavender threw herself into the fray and begged the task force men not to destroy the wares but to allow the trader take them home because it could be his capital, his life. The women was said to have been hitting the trader by the arm to give up so she could beg for him. This was when eye witnesses said a gun went off. And lavender fell down, dead. The bullet cut her below the eyes.
Everybody scampered but some brave tricycle riders (keke) gathered courage and gave chase to the fleeing task force men and caught the police sergeant and two other members. One of the keke riders told BusinessDay that lavender was a very nice woman and that was why he and others cared to risk their lives for her. “If it’s any other police person, I will not waste my fuel and run after them”.
The corpse was removed at about 5pm and the town was in turmoil. Etche people around the area gathered in anger and sorrow. The evening of that Thursday, April 23, 2020, became one of high tension following the tragic news that a female police sergeant had just been shot dead at Eneka Roundabout where she used to control traffic by a police sergeant attached to one of the task forces in Rivers State.
This heightened the tension between the task forces and the residents, a relationship underlined by suspicion and bloodshed. Some residents and traders have been killed, but some task force members have also met disaster and death. It now looks like full scale war.
The state was apprehensive of how the police command would handle such a sensitive tragedy. The people had grown suspicious after the killing of Chima Ikwunado, a mechanic from Ikokwu area, by E-Crack team set up by the immediate past commissioner of police, Mustapha Dandaura, who hails from same town with President Muhammadu Buhari. The people felt the death of the mechanic was being covered up.
Now, the new commissioner of police, Joseph G. Mukan, who has urged the people to trust him, moved fast. A statement by the indefatigable but often embattled police image maker, Nnamdi Omoni, announced the death.
The statement said: “The W/Sgt Lovender Elekwachi who until her untimely death was serving at Eneka Division and was posted to the Eneka roundabout on traffic duties. The late Woman Sergeant was shot while controlling traffic by Sergeant Bitrus Osaiah attached to the Operations Department of the Command.
“Meanwhile, the Sergeant who is said to be attached to the Rivers State Task Force on Decongestion, has been arrested, disarmed and undergoing Orderly Room Trial. Two other members of the Task Force have also been arrested and are being questioned. The Hilux vehicle belonging to the Task Force has been impounded and the corpse of the Woman Sergeant deposited in the mortuary.
“The Commissioner of Police has ordered investigation into the matter with a view to unraveling the circumstances that led to her death and has appealed for calm, pending the outcome of the investigation, promising that the interest of justice must be served in the circumstance.”
The timely statement seemed to douse tension as the public felt action was being taken, this time around.
When BusinessDay visited the compound where the police couple lived, there was crowd of sympathizers, even as the only son, Great, played away, totally oblivious of what has befallen him. The husband, a SARS operative, was said to have gone to Etche to brief the in-laws. It was not possible getting his reaction.
The only son however seemed in love with a gun-looking stick and seemed to parade with it. His play seemed to have police and military gaits to it. Neigbours spent time recalling the kindness and goodness of the deceased who never wanted to see people suffer or make trouble.
Lovender died stopping misery and trouble on humans.