Three residents of the Arepo community who were allegedly killed by military officers guarding the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation pipelines in the Arepo area of Ogun State, are suspected pipeline vandals.
However, investigation by PUNCH Metro on Thursday showed that the men were not stealing fuel when they were killed.
Our correspondent had reported that the corpses of Abiodun Mohammed, Chicago and Lukman, aka Body, were found in the Voera Estate, Arepo on Wednesday after they were allegedly arrested on Sunday.
Abiodun’s widow, Motunrayo, had claimed that about seven naval officers entered into a beer parlour where her husband was relaxing and arrested him on Sunday.
She had said the corpse of her husband and two of his friends, were later found around a wooden bridge in Voera Estate.
However, the acting Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, had distanced the military from the deaths, adding that none of its men was involved in the killing.
He said for more than one month, the Operation Awase team had not operated in the community.
But when PUNCH Metro visited the beer parlour where the men were allegedly abducted, residents insisted that the naval officers took them.
A resident, who did not identify himself, said Chicago was the first to be whisked away by the officers, adding that the naval officers returned later the same night to take Abiodun and Lukman.
He said, “The naval officers were here with us on Sunday evening and we bought them alcoholic drinks. They took Chicago after they saw a fresh injury in his leg that looked like a bullet wound.
“They later returned and picked Abbey (Abiodun) and Body and took them away as well. They still returned the same night to drink with us and we never suspected they had killed the three men.”
Many traders in the Arepo Market, which is a stone throw away from the beer parlour, said the injury in Chicago’s leg was not a bullet wound, saying he was mistakenly stabbed with a knife on Saturday.
One of them, a woman, who did not identify herself, said a meat seller had thrown a knife at a dog, but the knife hit the electrician.
She said, “Chicago was sitting close to this place on Saturday when a dog picked a chunk of meat from a meat seller. The dog was fleeing when the seller, Samson, picked a knife and threw it at the dog.
“Unfortunately, the knife hit Chicago in the leg where he was seated, and he started bleeding. He was taken to a private hospital where he was treated and the leg was bandaged. We were all angry with Samson and some people even beat him up.
“On Sunday, Chicago left the hospital and came to the beer parlour to unwind. That was when the officers saw the wound in his leg and thought he was hit by their bullet during a gun battle in Arepo. They consequently took him away.”
Another resident, Sola Gbadebo, said before Chicago was killed, he was forced to release Lukman’s phone number.
Gbadebo said Lukman was sleeping in his room when he received a call to come to the beer parlour to see his friend, Chicago, who had actually been killed.
He said, “When Body (Lukman) got to the beer parlour, he did not see Chicago. Instead, it was Abbey, who had gone there to relax after celebrating Easter with his family.
“The naval officers arrested Lukman after identifying him. But when they saw Abbey (Abiodun) with him, they asked if they were friends and when he said yes, they decided to take the two of them.
“They took them away to the same area where they had killed Chicago and shot them dead as well.”
Abiodun’s father, Mr. Najeem Mohammed, said the corpses of the three men were taken away around 6pm on Wednesday by policemen from the Ibafo division.
He said the corpses had been deposited in a mortuary, pending when autopsy would be conducted on them.
He said, “From what we got from those at the beer parlour and the meat traders, it is obvious that our son was killed in error. What we want is justice.”
A community leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the community was divided on the issue, adding that the traditional ruler had refrained from making any comment.
He said, “But even if these men are vandals or criminals, that did not give the military men the reason to kill them just like that. It is very wrong and should be condemned by everybody.”
PUNCH Metro learnt that top military officers visited Arepo with a view to resolving the crisis and calming frayed nerves.
A resident said there was heavy security presence in the area, adding that sanity had returned.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Ogun State Command, DSP Muyiwa Adejobi, said investigations were ongoing.
“And we shall get to the root of the matter,” he added, in a text message reaction.
The acting Director, Defence Information, Abubakar, was not reachable and he had yet to respond to a text message on the development.