By Dennis Naku
Mrs Ebitari Peterside, the widow of 42-year-old Mr Alafuro Peterside, an engineer from Opobo, Rivers State, who was allegedly shot dead in the presence of his children in the Stadium Road area of Port Harcourt by a policeman attached to the Police Mobile Force, 43 Squadron, in Gombe State, shares her grief with DENNIS NAKU
How long have you been married and how many children do you have?
My name is Mrs Peterside Ebitari. I work as an administrator at the Federal University, Otueke in Bayelsa State. I have been married for 12 years and I have three children.
Can you explain how your husband died?
We were on a long vacation, so we came home. We returned home about two weeks before this incident happened. On that day, which was August 3, between 5pm and 6pm, my husband called and told me that since he returned from work he had not taken the kids out and that we should get ready because he would like to take us out. So, I got them (my children) dressed up. When he came, he said he wanted to take us to his aunt’s place. His aunt, Jesse Ogolo, has an eatery called Bennie’s Restaurant and Lounge on Stadium Road (now called Ken Saro-Wiwa-Wiwa Road). So, he said he wanted to see her and patronise her as well. So, we got there at about 6pm. Before we went into the restaurant, he said he wanted to show me something in a boutique in front of the eatery. At that time, a man was standing just outside and he told me that the man was one of her aunt’s security aides – a police officer attached to the lounge and that he was in charge of security. So, it was safe for the kids to be there. We got into the boutique, looked at what he had seen, and all that, and went into the lounge. When we got there, we ordered what we wanted and then went into the VIP session. It was just us and the kids, so, we ate together, had drinks and even took some pictures. When it was getting late at about 9pm and my daughter was sleeping, I told my husband that we had to go because the kids were getting tired. When we came out of the VIP session and went to the open space, she (his aunt) was there sitting down and eating. He told her that he wanted to talk to her but I told him that I would wait for him in the car because the kids were already tired. So, I left him there with her and went into the car to wait for him. They spent quite some time discussing and shortly after I entered the car with the kids, I suddenly heard that there was an armed robbery, so there was little chaos.
What was the distance between where your husband and his aunt were and the place the car was parked?
They were talking inside and we were parked outside in front of a DSTV office which shares a fence with the lounge. So, when we came, the security man told us to park in front of the DSTV office, maybe to create space or something. However, as I heard people shouting about that armed robbers, I just told the kids to quickly duck, and then when l looked outside the window, I saw a red car parked in front of the lounge. And then some people jumped into the car and drove off. So as that happened, I think people ran into the lounge to raise the alarm over what happened.
Where was your husband at that time?
A few minutes later, when the chaos died down, my husband came out of the lounge and came into the car. I told him he took too much time and he apologised. So, he started the car, reversed, and turned, but in front of us was a police officer with his gun pointing in my husband’s direction. So, he just shot him, and it (the bullet) went straight to his chest, and he (my husband) screamed. I also screamed. My husband opened the door and after that, the police officer went passed us and still fired more shots. I can’t remember how many. But at that time, I didn’t really care. I just ran inside quickly to alert my husband’s aunt that he had been shot. When I came out with her, I saw him lying down in front of the boutique close to her car. She immediately called her driver and one of her security aides in uniform to quickly take him to a private hospital. As we got there, I called my brother-in-law. We were there for some time and at the end of the day, a doctor said my husband didn’t make it. I said it wasn’t true, though I saw my husband not moving. It is so bad that up till now, I am still in denial (that he is dead). I still cannot believe it’s true because this is someone I was with. How could he just die like that? It doesn’t make sense.
Did he have a disagreement with anyone that day?
None that I know of.
Do you think your husband was murdered?
If somebody shoots another and that person dies, it’s murder.
The police, in their reaction to that incident, said it was a case of stray bullets during the robbery that took place that day. Is that what you think it was?
My husband was in the car. I was in the car. My three kids were in the car. The policeman stood in front of us. The robbers were gone; it’s not like the robbers were there. The policeman stood in front of us and shot, so I don’t know how a stray bullet works, but I know maybe it’s something you shoot in the air or somewhere and then it touches someone. However, you don’t come directly in front of a man, shoot him in front of his family, and then say it’s a stray bullet. To me, it doesn’t make sense. I don’t know what they are driving at. I don’t know the whole conspiracy behind this whole thing, but what I know is that there were no robbers when he shot my husband. Was there a robbery? Supposedly, Yes. Did the robbers shoot or kill anybody when they came? No! Did I see them with any gun? No. Were there police officers? When the robbers were there, I didn’t see any police officer trying to touch them or anything. But it was when they (robbers) were gone that the police officer came. So, unless he has an explanation, I have not heard anything from him.
What would you like to find out from him?
I would like to know why he did what he did. If it was a mistake, I don’t know what possessed him at that time but it wasn’t a stray bullet and the irony of the whole thing is it could have been anybody. It could have been me, it could have been any of my kids. If they said it was a stray bullet it’s careless because you know that life is not something you can buy. How can somebody all of a sudden be no more? So, what does it show? It shows that nobody is safe in this country, as far as I am concerned. Now, I have to leave with it as a reality that my husband was shot in front of me and my three kids and we have to leave like this for the rest of our lives.
Did your husband say anything to you shortly after he was shot or before he died?
He didn’t say anything. My children asked me about their father and I told them he was in heaven and that he was in a better place. What else can I say? When they saw what happened, they thought he was in the hospital.
How old are your children?
They are 11, nine and four years old, respectively. I have two boys and a girl.
What was your husband’s occupation?
He was working with an oil and gas company. It was like a contract job and offshore.
Has his employer visited you?
Yes, they have visited me.
Was the outing that day the first time he ever took you and your children out to relax?
Normally, when he is around, we go out, even if it was once in a while since we didn’t live with him here (in Rivers State).
How have you been coping with the children?
I think God, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and then with the belief that somehow my husband has gone to work and will come back, have been keeping us.
What role has your deceased husband’s aunt played in the investigation and how has she been relating with you since he died?
She was there and saw everything that happened. She followed us to the military hospital mortuary where his body was deposited. After that, my husband’s aunt came to the house eight days after his passing. Since then I have not heard from her again and the police said all attempts to reach her to get her statement had been futile. I don’t really have any relationship with her.
You said earlier that your late husband was cut in his prime when things were beginning to fall into place. What did you mean?
He got the job and things started working out and getting well, and he was able to take care of his family properly and all that. He was happy. There is so much hope, this (his death) happened. (Weeps)
When did he get the job?
He got the job in December 2022. Before that time, he used to work at the local government council.
What else did the police tell you as part of the investigation?
The police officer in charge of the case spoke to my late husband’s elder brother. He told me that the police said they didn’t have the money to fund the autopsy, and that the complainant, that is the family, would have to pay for the autopsy to be done at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital. The officer also said the forensic analysis of the gun would be done in Lagos and that we would pay for the cost of transportation for the two policemen that would be sent to Lagos to get the report and all that. They have not been able to retrieve the CCTV footage in front of the lounge. They said they would need to get a court order to access the CCTV footage in front of the DSTV office sharing a fence with the lounge, and for that, we needed to pay about N35,000.
I don’t know why the police are not asking for the CCTV footage in front of the lounge because I was not at the meeting but my in-law attended. What he told me they asked for was the one at the DSTV office. The investigation is draining and very tiring. For now, it looks like they seized his body.
What kind of person was your husband?
He was very kind and selfless. All he wanted was for his family to be fine. He was very hardworking and determined. He loved God and prayed a lot; he used to wake up in the middle of the night to pray for his children and bless them one after the other. He always told them that they would be greater than him. He had a special love for my daughter. For the children, their father was everything to them. Because of the nature of his work, they spent more time with me, but they spoke with him every other day before they slept at night. His death has made my life meaningless. There is nothing in this life. Yes, I know my children are looking up to me and I am strong for them, but that is just what it shows me. All the struggles, the quarrels, the fight, complaints, everything, are not worth it. Now, I know I just have to worship God, that’s it. Anything can happen anytime. I am going to move on but I just wish he enjoyed his life much more and reaped the benefits of his efforts.
Are his parents alive?
Yes, they are alive. They are still in shock. They are really devastated. I just wish the investigation could be faster, maybe we would have closure and then move on. All I want is justice. I want the police officer to speak up and explain why he did what he did. I appeal to the Rivers State Government and Nigeria in general to come to my aid and help me get justice. Let this not be one of those cases that will be swept under the carpet. I don’t want it hidden.