Mr Harrison Nwaneri, 52, whose 22-year-old daughter studying at the Imo State University of Owerri was shot dead by soldiers, speaks to CHIDIEBUBE OKEOMA about the tragic incident
What is your name and what do you do for living?
My name is Mr Harrison Nwaneri. I am the father of the 100Level student of the Imo State University, Divine Nwaneri, who was shot dead by soldiers in front of the Imo State Government House on April 24. I am from Obollo in the Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State. The deceased was my first child and only daughter. I am 52 years old and I am an evangelist based in Lagos. With the death of Divine, I now have only three boys left.
Who broke the news of your daughter’s death to you?
I am based in Lagos with my family, but Divine stayed in Owerri because she was in the university. As I was getting back from church in the night of that day, someone called me from Owerri with my daughter’s phone. I was surprised to hear a male’s voice instead of my daughter’s voice when I picked the call. The person told me that my daughter had an accident and she was rushed to the Federal Medical Centre in Owerri.
I asked him to give the phone to my daughter so I could speak with her but the person said my daughter could not speak because she was on oxygen. As it was impossible for me to rush down to Owerri from Lagos that night, I called one of my brothers, Mr Raymond Omezie, who lives in Owerri to help me find out what was wrong. The following morning, my brother rushed down to the hospital and then called to tell me to take heart, that my daughter was dead. At first, I couldn’t believe him; it was like a dream to me. This was a girl that was not sick and he was telling me that she was dead. The whole thing was confusing to me.
I broke down in tears. My wife asked me what the matter was but I could not tell her what happened. Instead, I told her that Divine was undergoing surgery and that she needed some drugs. She was our only daughter and was very close to her mother. With the way she related with my wife, I knew she would take the news badly if I broke it to her at that moment. When the news was eventually broken to her, my wife fell sick immediately and she has been sick since then.
I wanted to go to Owerri immediately the news was broken to me, but my brother persuaded me to pull myself together before coming. He was the one who paid the necessary fees and arranged for her corpse to be deposited in the morgue.
How did you now know it was military men that shot your daughter?
While in Lagos, I heard that it was a gunshot fired by some soldiers that killed my daughter. When I got to Owerri I met with an eyewitness – the girl that was in the same vehicle with my daughter that night when the soldiers shot my daughter. She told me that as they were driving towards the Imo State Government House, the soldiers fired gunshots at their vehicle. The bullets hit my daughter and the driver. My daughter was hit on the neck.
Her friend said after she was shot, she was shouting for help but the soldiers scared her (the friend away) and stopped her from making phone calls. Even when the friend asked one of the soldiers to help her carry my daughter, the soldier said, ‘Am I the one that brought you here?’
The Chief of Staff to the governor was not happy when he heard this. The Chief of Staff said if he had got to the FMC Owerri 20 minutes earlier than he did (and spoke to the doctors), maybe my daughter would not have died. It was the wickedness of the military men coupled with the negligence of the medical personnel at the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri that led to my daughter’s death.
I was told that my daughter was still talking as of the time she was brought to the hospital but the medical personnel abandoned her and concentrated on the driver, because the driver’s father was there. By the time they finished with the driver and turned to my daughter, she had died. Negligence! That is the kind of country we live in.
I want the medical personnel to be punished for professional negligence. It was my daughter today; we don’t know whose turn it will be tomorrow. I wonder if these medical personnel turn to demons immediately they become medical people. They remove the human nature in them and allow people they are supposed to save to die in their care.
Did the driver survive?
I was told that his father had taken him away when I got to the FMC.
Has the military reached out to you since then?
No. Only the Chief of staff to the governor and the Imo State Commissioner for Information contacted me and I have met with them in their offices. They condoled with me and my family and said the state government was sorry about my daughter’s death. They asked me to give them the financial cost of her burial arrangements.
I was initially angry with the Imo State Government for not doing anything to save my daughter’s life, after she was shot by soldiers guarding the Government House. But the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, told me that government made efforts that night to save my daughter’s life. I also met with the Chief of Staff to the governor, Nnamdi Anyaehie, who explained to me how he went to the FMC that night to see how my daughter’s life could be saved. My daughter’s friend, Esther, who was in the vehicle with her when the military shot her confirmed to me that the Chief of Staff to the governor was at FMC that night to ensure that my daughter was attended to.
Are you considering taking any legal action against the military?
Initially, I wanted to take up the military on the matter but I changed my mind after my meeting with Imo State Government officials. The Chief of Staff to the governor broke into tears when he met me. He appealed to me to take heart and told me how he drove to the FMC Owerri to ensure that my daughter was attended to.
When was the last time you spoke with your daughter?
I spoke with her two weeks before her death. We were very close. We communicated mostly through video calls. Most times when she called we would spend over two hours on the phone. We were very close. Whenever she called, she would speak with everyone in the family.
How old was she?
She would have clocked 23 years this June.
Did your daughter share her future dreams with you?
Yes, she had big dreams. Though she was still in her first year in the university, she told me that on completing her undergraduate programme, she would travel abroad for her master’s. She had already joined the entertainment industry and had starred in a number of movies, which are on DSTV channels. And that was why the news of her death went viral. (Saturday PUNCH)