By VINCENT UJUMADU
AWKA—NEWSPAPER vendors in Onitsha almost took to the streets yesterday to protest the alleged killing of one of their members, Mr. Chukwudi Onukaji by a trigger-happy Naval Rating at Nnoyi Junction in Isiala Ngwa South Council Area of Abia State.
The late Onukaji was said to be based in the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra State where he plied his trade
Vanguard gathered that the 23-year-old vendor, fifth in a family of nine, from Amiyi village in Umuelele community in Isialangwa South Local Government Area of Abia State met his untimely death when he accompanied his relatives to the burial of one of their brothers.
He was until his death, a member of the Onitsha Newspaper Directors Distributors Association ONDDA.
Onukaji had gone home in company of some members of the Anambra State Vigilance Service for the burial of one of the security men who died in auto crash.
Narrating the incident, an eyewitness, Mr. Emeka Nwankpa, a newspaper vendor in Onitsha who was among the people that went for the burial, said the annoying thing was that the Navy refused to release the body of the deceased for burial despite pleas from people.
Nwanpka said: “The incident happened when we took the corpse of a security man, Mr Emmanuel Achunne who was serving at GRA, Onitsha, who died in auto crash, home for burial in Nnoyi in Isialangwa South Local Government Area.
We were in a convoy of about ten vehicles, including the ambulance conveying the corpse of the deceased and the Hilux vans belonging to the vigilance group in front and another one at the back. When we got to Umuikaa junction near Oweerinta, we met a terrible traffic jam, so we diverted to follow a local route and it was when we had got there that we found out that the traffic jam was caused by Naval officers at Umuikaa junction.
“When we got inside the deceased compound which is near the junction, one of the Hilux van was missing. The first Hilux van carrying the vigilante group and the ambulance were parked and we heard a gun shot in the air. It was at that moment that we were told that naval men were holding the remaining Hilux van carrying the other members of the vigilante. We explained to them that we are not armed robbers and that we came for burial.
“At this juncture, the Naval officers had disarmed the security men and ordered them to lie face down and when they approached the senior naval officer, he jumped out of his vehicle and ordered everybody to lie down and in the process, opened fire on the security men and it was in the process that the vendor was shot. When the naval officers noticed what they have done, they retreated and stayed in their van while the boy was still writhing in pains and bleeding profusely from the gunshot wound.
“We then agreed that we should take him to the hospital but to first of all make entry in the police station. That was when the naval officers took the boy into their van and on our way to the police station, they diverted and took the boy away to their naval base at Owerrinta where he died after losing so much blood”