By Theresa Opara
Items found on the injured boy at the scene of the incident
A young boy is currently in hospital in Port Harcourt, battling for his life after he was knocked down by a recklessly driven bus. According to eye witnesses, the bus driver was locked in a struggle with members of a Task Force which has been disbanded by the Rivers State Government. In the ensuing violent struggle, the bus knocked down the teenage JSS 3 boy, who was returning home from school, where he had gone to sit for the French examination of the Junior West Africa School Certificate Examination. The incident which occurred September 26, 2020 on the NTA/Apara Link Road in Ozuoba reportedly occurred as the innocent boy was simply walking by, when the Sienna Bus loaded with passengers was accosted by the Illegal Task force Team on illegal operations to harass and extort taxi, bus and Keke Tricycle drivers on that busy road, ran into him. The impact lifted him off the road and he hit the ground hard. He suffered severe head injuries including a broken lower jaw and the loss of much of his upper teeth.
The illegal team whose reckless actions nearly cost the young boy his life, is suspected to belong to the Task force on Illegal Street Trading and Motor Parks which the Rivers governor Nyesom Wike had set up at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to enforce the strict lock down regime in the state.
The Task force, a brutal group of sundry violent persons though disbanded by the government, still carry out their illegal activities, driving round Port Harcourt violently stopping drivers and collecting their monies. Those who resist them are usually brutalized in addition to being stripped of all monies on them.
An eyewitness also corroborated the incident saying, ‘This afternoon a student, a JSS 3 boy who was returning from a French exam was knocked down by a Sienna bus whose steering was seized by the hooligans. The vehicle totally left the main road and lifted the poor boy from the pedestrian walkway. One of them was caught and handed over to the police in Ozuoba’.
Another eyewitness close to the family informed National Point that, ‘The boy was rushed unconscious to hospital. He lost most of his upper teeth. His jaw and part of his face was mutilated. I couldn’t hold my tears to see a boy that l saw less than an hour earlier in this state.
“His situation was bad. I thank God for his life. He made it out of the theater but will need a set of artificial upper teeth. He is lying down in excruciating pain in hospital now. He did nothing wrong. He was on the walkway. He absolutely didn’t deserve this yet, these untamed task force boys disfigured him in his prime”.
The Task force when it was in operation was dreaded by residents of Port Harcourt for its brutality and complete lack of empathy. The members were known to smash the wares of
hapless traders and also for carting away goods they desired for their own consumption. They beat people including women up, without any reason.
It would be recalled that in April, 2020, a policewoman and mother attached to the Task Force was shot dead by a member of the Task force simply for appealing to them not to destroy the wares of some women traders. They carried on such a reign of terror that they stood out for their particular brand of brutality in a state infamous for administrations which set up brutal task forces that terrorize citizens over simple traffic infractions including wrong parking and as an internal revenue boosting strategy.
Residents had cried for long months over the brutalities carried out by the task force to no end. Finally, on August 12, 2020, the state government announced the dissolution of the group and the suspension of its leader, Bright Amaewhule who was Gov Wike’s special adviser on Illegal Markets and Motor Parks in the state.
The parents of the boy currently battling to raise the sum of N700,000 for his treatment, are calling for justice.