On this fateful night when boys and girls of his age were savouring the moonlight and the beauty of the outdoors, Divine Aigbogun, a 16-yearold Senior Secondary School Two (SSS 2) student of Saint Francis College on Oreke Street, Ubiaja, chose instead to keep a date with his books in the single room he shares with his siblings.
But his world was shattered on May 19 by a singular incident that occurred in the compound and today, he lies critically ill, between life and death, on his hospital bed at Wisdom Medical Centre on Mono Road, off Central Road, Ubiaja, Esan South Local Government Area of Edo State.
Perhaps his name, Divine, fortuitously came to play as the fact that he is still breathing today is due to divine intervention.
And for this, he is most grateful to God that he is alive to narrate the ordeal of how he was almost allegedly sent to an untimely grave by one military officer, Private Eugene Nwali, of the 195 Battalion of the Nigerian Army Agenegbode, Edo State.
Nwali was said to be on duty in Maiduguri, Borno State, but was given permission to go to Kaduna only for him to find his way to Ubiaja where his sisters reside and went berserk.
The big question now on everyone lips is whether Divine will survive it and if he does, will he ever be the same again, judging from the hellish injuries that were inflicted on him by the soldier who suddenly went berserk, severely injured the young boy with deep machete cuts and leaving him for dead in the bush?
Residents of the compound are still confused as none of them can really fathom why a young and professionally trained soldier will find his way to the compound, unprovoked and then unleash mayhem on unarmed and defenceless civilians, resulting in the life of Divine now hanging in the balance.
In an interview with this reporter on his hospital bed Divine, with his hand and other parts of his body bandaged, writhing in pain and agony, he managed to respond to some questions.
I’m surprised I’m still alive –Victim
I was in my room working on my assignment when I heard people shouting and when the shouting was becoming unbearable and persistent, I rushed out of the room and saw everyone in the compound running.
Then I saw a man with a weapon running after them and beating some of them with a whip.
Later, he went inside one of the rooms and brought out knives, daggers and many other dangerous weapons and continued hitting and beating the people with them. I started to run myself and he came after me. At a point my legs failed me and I fell down.
He caught up with me, rushed me to the nearby bush and started flogging and hitting my hands with the weapons. After sometime, he asked what was in my hand and I told him that it was my handset, he took it from me and put it in his pocket.
Though in serious pain and agony, I managed to free myself from his grip and took to my heels again but he ran after me and I fell inside the bush. He was looking all over for me and when he couldn’t locate me, he left and then I started shouting for help.
One of the boys saw me and carried me out of the bush. At this point I lost consciousness and this was between 9pm and 10pm on Saturday, May 19. The next day when I regained consciousness I saw myself on this hospital bed and I’m really surprised that I’m still alive. I don’t know him before. I have not met him before. If he comes here today now, I won’t even recognise him.
They said he was staying with one of his sisters whom he came to visit in the compound. I’m new in that house; I just came about two days before the incident.
The only thing I know is that the name of the owner of the house is Mr. Ogboli. I’m praying to God to help me so that I can recover from this situation and I want the government to arrest and jail him.
Doctor’s entire hand was inside my son’s body picking out broken bottles – Divine’s dad
It was about 9pm in the evening that I received a phone call from my daughter that one soldier came from nowhere and beat up everybody, every tenant in the compound.
Then I asked of the whereabouts of the landlord when all this was happening and she said that the landlord had not come back from work. I sought to know what the state of things was and she said that all the tenants had run away.
I then advised that they should equally run away. But about one or two hours later, they called me again to say that the soldier beat and inflicted life-threatening injuries on my son and that he had been rushed to the hospital.
Not minding the risk on the way, I had to rush down from Ewohimi to Ubiaja. I met the landlord and told him that I learnt that my son was beaten up and seriously injured by a soldier and that he is in the hospital.
He confirmed it and not only described the hospital to me but accompanied me there. When I got to the hospital, I met the child in the theatre. If the doctor had known that I was the father I am sure that he wouldn’t have allowed me to come into the theatre.
When I entered, what I saw was a mess; the whole right hand of the doctor entered into the boy’s body picking pieces of bottles that were buried inside. I jumped up and fell down and then the doctor drove me away.
But I insisted that this child be moved from the hospital. The doctor assured me that although it was a serious and dicey case, he would be able to take care of it. Truly, he was able to manage the situation till the next day.
The next day he told me that my son was short of blood, so about two pints of blood or more were given to the boy. That was when I began to see signs of life in him. Then I went to the police station to confirm and they said the soldier had been arrested.
They asked me to give my statement. I gave my statement and wrote that I’m not resident at Ubiaja. I went to interview other tenants and they confirmed to me that prior to this incident the soldier was boasting and saying to everyone that cared to listen that he was hungry for blood and was making some dreadful and unprintable comments in his room which made one of the ladies in the compound to ask aloud: ‘Are we safe in this house tonight?’ When the soldier heard that he opened his door and started to whip everyone in sight with his belt.
Later he went inside to reinforce and brought out more dangerous weapons which he used on the people. Unfortunately, my son who did not know what was happening, according to information I got he was sleeping before the incident, ran out only to see that somebody was running after him.
The soldier caught up with him and inflicted severe damage on him. I later heard that the police here in Ubiaja handed him over to the police in Benin City, the army people came and took him away.
But they confirmed to me that they were asked to carry out investigation. But one important thing I want to say is that when the soldier was trying to say that he did not take my son’s phone, one army officer said that he took my son’s phone from him and gave it to the investigation officer (IPO) in charge of the case. However, the phone was eventually recovered from the IPO.
This is the situation; that is what I’m suffering now. Although I have spent a fortune in the hospital, at the police station and other places and even consulting a lawyer, I’m happy and grateful to God that my son is responding to treatment.
He was licking the blood in his hands – Tenant, Austin Gift
That day in the evening when two young men came, they were shouting, so my elder sister in the house came out and asked if there was any problem and if we were safe.
We were all laughing, thinking it was because she said it in a playful way, so one of the men then came out and said ‘come on will you shut your mouth’ and started flogging her.
My sister then replied, ‘what is it? Do we have any quarrel before now that you are using this belt, this very big belt, to flog me?’ Everyone was shouting, saying, ‘what is wrong with you, why are you flogging a married woman, what is your problem?’
Anybody that tried to intervene and stop him from flogging my aunty, he would start flogging that person. He just continued flogging everyone that came his way.
Then we asked him why he was doing that; we did not know he is a soldier. So, two boys then came to where my aunty was and he drove everyone away, saying he came for a mission.
They were two, the other one was initially trying to hold him back but later they both ganged up and started to fight everyone in sight. They even went from house to house fighting people, saying that if there is any man that can confront them, then such a man should come outside.
We were confused, then everybody started running when they heard that he is a soldier. But later that night some boys came to the compound, I don’t know the boys because it was night. I did not even see their faces, they said they had come to rescue the crying women. They asked why the man should beat up women and that if he was that powerful let him confront men not women.
They challenged him to come outside and confront men not women. He even beat up an elderly woman who is about 70 years old; the woman fell on the ground and fainted. So, the soldier was inside and refused to come out, the boys were now shouting that he should come out.
Eventually, he came out again and started pursuing the boys, only one young boy ran to a different direction and that is Divine, the boy in the hospital now.
He went after the boy, pursued him to the bush, stabbed him several times and then went away with his phone. He came back to where the women were hiding inside the landlord’s room.
He came to the window, shouting that we should all come out, that he came for glory while licking the blood dripping from his hands.
Then we did not even know that it was the blood of the innocent boy, and he had a lot of weapons with him. The sisters that the soldier came to visit are our tenants, they are just little kids.
The eldest one is just 14 years old. We took them like our own, because we love them all. It was obvious that day that the sisters even May 19, a boy was rusheden ganged up with their elder brother to fight people, they were insulting elderly people, I was surprised that day. Shortly after, police
Doctor Braimoh Kasimu
On May 19, a boy was rushedemen came and took the soldier away. That was what happened that day. Doctor Braimoh Kasimu On May 19, a boy was rushed to my hospital with serious injuries on the right arm and with cuts all over his body. He was immediately rushed into the theatre, we had to swing into action to carry out surgical operation on him.
Although his injuries were severe, he is responding to treatment, he is doing well. Initially he was unable to handle a biro, or handle any object with his right hand, now he can handle a biro.
When the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of the police station in Ubiaja where the case was reported was approached by our reporter, he referred him to Benin City but attempts to contact the Police Public Relations Officer in Ubiaja were unsuccessful as he could not be reached.
When Saturday Telegraph visited the headquarters of the Edo Police Command in Benin City, they confirmed the case and referred the reporter to 4th Brigade Headquarters in Benin City, where the case is being handled by the military authorities.
Our findings revealed that the army officer who is currently been detained in Benin by the army authorities had a pass to go to Kaduna State from Maiduguri but he somehow found his way to Ubiaja where he committed the crime.
The family of Divine has gone ahead to employ the services of a lawyer, Mr. Okoh Sheriff, who is giving them advice. The matter however, is yet to be charged to civil court pending the action by the military authorities.
Military authorities’ angle
At the 4th Brigade Headquarters in Benin City, the army officer, who spoke to our reporter under the condition of anonymity, confirmed the incident and said that the soldier, Private Nwali, is in the Nigerian Army serving in Maiduguri in the North-East. According to him, the suspect is in their custody while investigation continues on the matter.
He said: “As soon as investigation is completed, necessary action will be taken. We are also on the trail of three other suspects fingered in the case. “The army authorities visit the victim daily in the hospital and we made several moves to transfer him to Irrua General Hospital for proper medical attention.
We want to assure the family and the public that justice will be done in the case and we don’t want advised any action that will jeopardise the ongoing investigation.”