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Mystery surrounds killing of ex-AIT reporter

It was indeed a day of love turned sour for Lydia and Efenji (jnr) as the pride of their life who took them for a…

It was indeed a day of love turned sour for Lydia and Efenji (jnr) as the pride of their life who took them for a family treat in a bid to express his love and care for them, was gruesomely murdered. “How do I breathe without air?’ was the favorite song my husband loved to sing to me. I am now asking him the same question, ‘How do I breathe without air?’  He was my air and was brutally taken away from me, when all he wanted was to celebrate the love he had for us.” These were the tear-choked words of Efenji’s 22-year-old wife Lydia whom he married on  December  26, 2008.

Full of painful emotions, she said of her late husband: “Efenji was a father, a friend and a brother to me. He was not an ordinary husband, he was extraordinary. I married my friend. He was my world and everything to me. I don’t know how to describe him because words alone cannot describe my husband.”

Narrating the events of that fateful day, she said, “That very day he gave me a card in which he addressed me as his treasure and his life after which he took us out to celebrate the day along with his brother and a friend.

“We had been dancing for a while before I decided to have a seat. There were some guys dancing close to our table. As they were about to take their leave, one of them made a statement which I didn’t hear but Efenji did. As he stood up to challenge them I tried to pull him back saying ‘baby no, baby no’. These were my last words to him. The next thing I saw was that they held and started using bottles on him. So I took our baby and ran outside the park where I waited expecting them to come out until some minutes to 1.00am when his brother, Emmanuel came to take us home. That was all I saw until Monday morning when I was slammed with the news of his death.”

Efenji Efenji is described as a caring person who had no bad record of any sort to his name by his elder brother Emmanuel Efenji who also gave an eye witness account of the incidence.

“We were very close and live next door to one another. He didn’t joke with family affairs and extended help as far and wide as he could even when it caused him discomfort. Although he had an imposing aura about him, he was a gentle loving person.

“He was dancing with his wife while I was dancing with her sister. I later got tired and took my seat. In a little while they joined me. The next thing I heard were sounds of bottles being broken.

“So I immediately stood up and saw that he was being attacked by a group of guys who approached the scene from behind. Before I got to him, I saw that he had taken to his heels and was running away very fast as if he had perceived danger.

“Initially, one person ran after him but in no time about five or so other persons were also after him. So I had to follow them as they went in a direction behind the garden which was dark. As I got there I heard them asking, ‘where is the person, where is the person?’ But they did not see him. So I began engaging them in petty talk hoping that would give him enough time to escape as they still hadn’t found him.

“Then, they moved in another direction and I followed them. On reaching there, I saw that he was kneeling down with his hands up in a position that suggest he was praying and pleading with them at the same time. But looking at him, I saw that he was badly injured and had blood pouring down his face. So I touched his head and felt a cut.

“All of a sudden another mob rushed in breaking bottles and asking ‘where is the person?’ Another person was saying, ‘allow me I want to stab somebody.’ I knew he had been injured and was bleeding. When I noticed they wanted to stab me, I went on my knees and started telling them, “This man is innocent. It is a case of mistaken identity.” Then somebody said, ‘E don run pass here’; and the others followed in the direction he pointed.

“When I turned I didn’t see him behind me. He is someone with very sharp instincts, so I felt he had escaped even though I didn’t actually see him move. There is a small gate leading to something like an apartment inside the garden.

“As they entered into it, I followed them and started engaging them in small talk again believing it would give Efenji time to escape.

“While we were there, one of the staff of the garden (as he portrayed himself) went into a room and brought out a very big machete. He started screaming and asking ‘who are these people disturbing this place? Everybody go out!’ Others went out but I refused telling him it was my blood brother who had passed through there as they said he had, and that he was badly injured. But he kept advancing towards me with such speed that I took to my heels. I was saved by the gate because I banged it shut in his face.

“The police arrived and I saw them made about two arrests. So I sneaked back in and went round to the back. It was then I noticed a ladder and blood on the wall. I also noticed the v-shaped wedge of the barbed wire on the top of the fence had been forcefully moved and had some broken bits of the wall attached to it. Seeing that, I imagined the distraction had given him time to escape using the ladder. So I went outside the garden and got a bike to take his wife and child home before going back into the garden.

“After sometime, I called his wife to inquire if he had arrived home but she said no. This got me worried and I started searching for him in the garden until about 3.00am. I then went to the manager and asked that he gives me security men to go in to search for him. When I took them back where I saw the ladder, I noticed that it had been removed and the barbed wire put back in place.

“The security men took a look at it using a torch and said the compound on the other side had a gate and a broken part of the fence which also served as exit which they believed he had used. I tried to call him but his number didn’t go through.

“So I went back to the manager explaining who he was, telling him that we had been there with our families for the valentine celebration. The lady who was seated beside the manager then said that, ‘the boy was badly injured.’ So when I told her that we had even administered medication to the baby because he was teething, the lady laid on the bare floor as if in a very sorrowful mood like she was deeply touched by the incidence. When the manager asked her why she was behaving like that, she didn’t respond.

“At that point I had to leave. I got back home at about 3.45am and asked his wife if he had come and she said no. I decided to check up with his friends the following morning in case he had gone to one of them to take him to hospital.

“On my way there in the morning, I got a call from my sister saying that somebody had called to ask her if she had been in touch with Efenji and his family. So I explained to her what the situation was and asked her to call him and ask what he knew. She called back and said he verified from his friends in AIT that Efenji was in Karu police station due to a problem they had the night before. So I took a bike down there only to meet his corpse.

“All these things happened so fast in not more than ten minutes. In retrospect, it didn’t seem like he climbed the ladder and went over the fence. It seemed more like the blood on the wall had been rubbed on it because looking at his corpse, his hands were like he had been pulled or dragged by them onto the street after he had been killed. I also noticed he had a second and deeper cut on his head this time.

“The alleged staff with the machete unlike those who helped us search for him was not in uniform. But as at the time this crisis was taking place, I didn’t see any of them in the area.”

Men of the Karu police said the corpse was found across the fence close to the market.

When asked if the manager of the garden had given any statement on the incidence the police said, “Initially, he wasn’t questioned or taken into custody until the Area Commander stepped into the case and ordered that he be brought in. He was then brought in along with some of his staff.”

Efenji before his death was known to be a humble and easy going person.  Neighbours wondered why anyone would have any score to settle with him.

Visiting his former office in AIT at Kpaduma Hill, Asokoro, Weekly Trust could notice the tense and mournful look everyone had on their faces as most of them said he did not deserve the kind of death he got.

 Mr. Adebayo Aboderin under whom Efenji worked for most of the period he was with the AIT, said Efenji was known as a young promising journalist so much so that if he were alive he would have grown to be one of the most formidable journalists this country would have had.

“He joined us in early 2004 and stayed with us till December. He was one of the best hands we had that was growing on the job. The news of his death was an absolute shock for me. He was a promising young man and was not one anyone of us was thinking would have died this way, especially for him to be killed in the presence of his wife.”  

He said Efenji’s death raises a serious question regarding the use of parks in Abuja. “In as much as I am a lover of flowers and garden environments, I don’t patronise Abuja gardens because they do not serve the purpose for which they were established. Many of them have turned out to be places for hoodlums, sellers of hard drugs in their various forms,” he said further. “In other places, even Libya, gardens are strictly relaxation spots that even the very elderly patronise but this doesn’t seem to be the case in Abuja. The FCT administration has to look into the way and manner they are being used and who they are being allocated to. If they cannot be well managed they should be handed to more competent hands to run them.”

Mustapha Mohammed who co-aired Political Platform with the deceased at AIT said, “Efenji distinguished himself in his character and work ethics as a focused and respectful person regardless who he related with. On Political Platform I remember him as one who had a lot of love and passion for the cause and struggle of the Niger Delta being from there himself. He had no fear of the truth and he told it with intense passion.”

Though investigations are still ongoing, some people who spoke to Weekly Trust said they felt the whole thing was preplanned as the story coming from different quarters are not coherent.

They noted that instead of the security measures which gardens and parks should put in place, on the said day no search or any other form of security measures were carried out as individuals came in or went out of the park.

“Parks and gardens are meant for relaxation and are to be security conscious but the question left unanswered in this case is why did the management of this park in question fail to put any effort  in trying to see that the fight did not degenerate to any loss of life? With this brutal murder carried out in a park, one is only left to ask how safe the recreational centres and parks we have around are?” asked a man who is a regular visitor to the park but who wishes to be anonymous.

Speaking on the murder of Efenji, the Police Public Relations Officer attached to the force headquarters, SP Moshood Jimoh said the police have arrested some suspects in connection with the matter and that the suspects are giving useful information but said what they have not been able to establish yet was if it was a premeditated killing or just a mob attack.

He said they have been able to establish that Efenji died as a result of the injuries he sustained from the attack due to massive blood loss from the multiple stabs and cuts he sustained on his body and head.

When asked about the measures the police have taken regarding the security in parks and recreational areas, Jimoh said, “We have deployed police on patrol in most of these areas and even have mounted police men on horses. The number of security personnel doubles at night to make sure there is sanity in these places; in essence the patrol is 24 hours.”

The PPRO pleaded with the public to avail them with any useful information they could have regarding the murder of Efenji as it will go a long way in ensuring justice is done on the matter.

 The big question which has been hovering around since this incidence is: Are parks now murder and slaughter spots and are they now havens for murderers, abductors, drug addicts and rapists?

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