The trauma of witnessing the death of a loved one is better imagined than experienced. The memory of such experience is bound to linger in the mind forever. That’s exactly Mrs. Blessing Wichi Nwaofu’s experience. She’s wife of the late All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) Chairman in Rivers State, Mr Julius Nwaofu who was murdered in her presence along Port Harcourt Airport Road lately by unknown gunmen. The incident has left her in a state of shock as at press time.
The 51-year-old woman said the politician had called her on phone at exactly 6:30pm that fateful day asking her to come to the airport to pick him. On getting there she saw her husband with some soldiers and an elderly man . Her husband told the elderly man to join them in his car.
Said she “My husband told the man we gave a ride, to put his bag in the booth of the car but he refused, saying he didn’t want to inconvenience them, whenever he wanted to alight from the car”, she explained.
The bereaved woman said she then drove off and was heading home and because of her appointment with a member of her church, she suggested to her husband that the elderly man be dropped-off along the way, but the deceased refused, insisting they should drive the elderly man to Ada-George area, his destination. She complied and added that “…some policemen stopped us at a checkpoint at Aluu. As we were moving, there was a truck carrying a pay-loader and it was difficult overtaking it. Later, I had the opportunity of overtaking the truck and I did ,” she recalled.
Unknown to them, tragedy was lurking ahead as her husband’s assailants had positioned themselves at a notorious spot near Gitto flyover, linking the Port Harcourt Airport. She said that following the mode of their operation, they were acting-out a script written by their sponsors and their mission was to kill her husband.
Mrs Nwaofu recalled that as they approached the flyover, she had the opportunity to overtake the truck but saw some people holding torches and flashing the light in their direction adding “The next thing I heard were gunshots, they were up to eight men. They were shooting from all directions”. She said that the first shot was targeted at the driver’s seat as the gunmen thought her husband was driving. According to her, it was when the assassins discovered that the driver was not their target that they went berserk and started spraying bullets allover the vehicle.
The shooting lasted for several minutes and eventually the gunmen opened the vehicle doors to confirm if the late party chief was dead. One of them who spoke Ikwerre dialect told his peers “Yes, let’s go, he is dead.”, the bewildered widow told Sunday Sun . The woman had escaped certain death miraculously. Sunday Sun gathered that the woman’s life was spared because of some security tips she received in a seminar some years ago.
At that seminar, they were taught how to try to hold their breath when they find themselves in a similar situation. That was just what she did that made the assassins think she was also dead. Mrs Nwaofu said it was strange to note that throughout the period the shooting lasted, the elderly man kept shouting “I am not one of them! I am not one of them! (referring to the Nwaofus).
She said when the shooting ceased with the mission accomplished, the man reportedly took his bag and disappeared from the scene and nobody can give account of his whereabouts till date. After the assassins left the scene, Mrs Nwaofu said she shook her husband of over 30 years , but it was futile . He was stone dead.
She went further “I cried for help and nobody was available to render assistance. I started shaking him and his handset fell from his hand and that was when I saw my handset on the floor of the vehicle” .
Sunday Sun learnt that the recent attack was not the first on Mr. Nwaofu’s life as four years ago, three armed men were said to have forced their way into his house, as his wife was returning home. It was learnt that the armed men tried to strangle him but with the assistance of their neighbor, a retired soldier, they were able to overpower them. The men were arrested and later arraigned in court.
The widow appealed to the police to beam their searchlight on her husband’s business partners, adding that no stone should be left unturned in finding his killers. Nwaofu’s second son, Chimaovu a barrister , is however angry with security agents. According to him, his father’s killing was preventable if the police were “proactive, following an incident that happened at the same spot two hours before my father was killed”.
Elaborating, he said two hours before his father was murdered, “a man who was driving in his Honda Civic was accosted at the same spot, by the same gang. When they discovered that he was not their target, they let him go and that before they left him, they told him he was not the one they were looking for, that they were searching for someone they were paid to kill” adding the matter was allegedly reported at Uzoba Division, but the man was referred to Isiokpo Police Division since that was where the incident took place.”
Sunday Sun gathered that the rising crime wave in Rivers State in recent time, is now a source of concern to the citizens. Despite huge amounts of money spent on security by the government, the criminals, who literally appeared to be on vacation are fully back. Kidnapping which reduced in the state, has gradually returned and kidnappers no longer have respect even for members of the clergy.
This was the case in the kidnapping of the priest in charge of St Mary’s Catholic Church, Rev Father Samuel Nwika on Tuesday, April 23 this year. Not long ago also, a one-year old toddler, Delight among others, were kidnapped at Rumuokoro area of Port Harcourt, but the state’s Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ben Ugwuegbulam assured that the police was on top of the situation