The Nigerian Army has narrated what transpired between Christian Ehima, a 24-year-old undergraduate of Computer Science in the University of Benin; and soldiers at the Railway Checkpoint in Igbanke, Edo State.
The Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, in a statement on Saturday, said contrary to the allegations by Christian’s mother, Mercy Ehima, the soldiers at the checkpoint did not assault her son.
Nwachukwu also released video and audio evidence of the encounter between Christian, his mother and the soldiers.
Mercy, an Assistant Superintendent of Police with the Delta State Police Command, had said that her son was tortured to death by the soldiers at the checkpoint.
Mercy had said her son was travelling to a village called Ewesa in Edo before Benin on Friday, December 10, 2021, and had unknowingly boarded a kidnappers’ vehicle. She had claimed that her son ran to some soldiers at the checkpoint for help but the soldiers assaulted him, adding that the young adult died later of internal bleeding when rushed to the hospital.
But the Army spokesman in the statement on Saturday denied the allegations. Nwachukwu also sent our correspondent audio and video recordings of what transpired between the soldiers, the victim and his mother.
In the video, Christian was seen rolling on the red-coloured road, uttering incoherent words while his mother asked him what happened.
The Guard Commander at the checkpoint was also heard telling Mercy that her son was not beaten but he must have been under the influence of alcohol.
In an accompanying statement, the Army spokesman said, “The NA being a professional force has utmost respect for the sanctity of human life and zero tolerance for infringement on the rights of the citizenry.
“While the NA sympathises with the family of the late Christian over this unfortunate incident, it is instructive to put the records in proper perspective, contrary to the misgivings peddled on social media.
“Incontrovertible evidence indicates that Christian Ehima wandered into a military checkpoint at Wire – Ake in Edo State on the 10 December 2021, without his clothes on, and was halted by soldiers on duty. He was interrogated but could not say anything meaningful on where he was coming from or heading. His behaviour was rather weird and indicative of one who was obviously under some sort of influence.
“The Guard Commander, who observed his abnormal behaviour immediately requested his phone in an effort to contact any of his relations, friends or associates. Shortly afterwards, a call came through to his phone and the caller identified herself as his mother. The soldier invited her to pick up her son, who was still very agitated and unstable.
“Subsequently, the woman arrived the scene and identified herself as his mother and a police officer. She was briefed about her son’s observed abnormal behaviour. In her conversation with the soldiers, she attributed her son’s weird behaviour to the influence of alcohol. The soldiers, however, maintained that whatever was responsible for Christian’s behaviour at that time was way beyond alcoholism. On sighting his mother, his behaviour aggravated. Thereafter, some passersby were mobilised to help her take him to the hospital.
“It is also important to state that the incident was recorded both on video and audio, showing the behaviour of Christian Ehima and his mother commending the soldiers for their kind intervention. The evidence, including audio recordings of the police officer and her son, are attached.
“The general public are urged to disregard this misguided information, as it is clearly manipulative and evidently an attempt to bring disrepute to the NA.”