Mr Eze Onyemaechi, the husband of Mrs Sophia
In this interview, Mr Eze Onyemaechi, the husband of Mrs Sophia, who recently had a miscarriage while being apprehended by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority officials, over seat belt infraction, speaks to GODFREY GEORGE about the incident and his cry for justice
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Jude Eze Onyemaechi. I am from Nsukka, in Enugu State. I am a businessman based in Dubai (in the United Arab Emirates). I visited Nigeria a month ago to see my family as I occasionally do, since I am not based in Nigeria. I am the husband of Mrs Sophia Onyemaechi. I am a father of four.
Can you recall what transpired on June 26?
On June 26, 2021, I was driving to Ikeja with my pregnant wife to pick up some travel documents and to see my pastor at Ogba, Ikeja, for prayers, before returning to Dubai. On our way, approaching Egbeda bus stop, my wife started complaining of waist pain. I told her to endure for a while since we were already in Egbeda, halfway to our destination; and that before going home, we would go to a hospital to check what the problem was. By the time we got to Akowonjo, by Sweet Sensation restaurant, the pain intensified so much that she told me to pull over as she had begun to bleed profusely. I quickly pulled over and she came down from the car. As she was going into the restaurant to clean herself up, I saw droplets of blood on the floor coming out from her body. Then, I knew it was a serious matter. She cleaned up herself and came back to the car looking tired and pale. She told me she had lost so much blood. I helped her in, reassuring her we’d go to the hospital once we were done at Ikeja. I proceeded to the traffic light and it turned red so I had to stop. This was just a stone’s throw from Sweet Sensation. While we were waiting, from the rear-view mirror, I saw two policemen and two Lagos State Traffic Management Authority officers staring at my car.
At first, I thought I had a flat tyre. They kept approaching me. One brought out his phone and began to make a video of my car; the other one carried a rod with spikes used to stop vehicles from escaping from LASTMA officials and placed it in front of my car. The policemen went to the sides of the car. That was when I had to wind down my glasses to ask them what the problem was. They told me there was a serious problem, stating that my wife was not putting on her seat belt. So, I told them what had happened and how discomforting it would be for her to belt up in the condition. They said they had no business with whether she was bleeding or not as they were not medical doctors.
What happened after that?
They told me to park very well. I did. The inspector on my wife’s side took advantage of the moment and jumped into my car and seized my car keys. So, I came down and began to call people who I felt would be of help. Anyone I called and gave them the phone to talk to, they insulted, saying they were not answerable to anybody but the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. My wife was shouting inside the car as the bleeding continued. I looked into the car and saw she had bled so profusely that it soiled the seat. I called the attention of the LASTMA and police officers to the situation, but they did not consider her. If they could see a woman crying and bleeding and were not moved, then, they are not humans. When all the efforts I made to convince them proved abortive and I stood beside my car confused, one of them jumped into my car and drove away with my wife.
What did you do then?
I ran after my car like a mad person. I was hoping I’d get a moving vehicle to go after them. As I ran, I thought they (LASTMA officials and policemen) might be kidnappers in uniform, who had just kidnapped my wife before my very eyes. Why would they abscond with my wife, whom I told them was bleeding? I ran after the car to Akowonjo roundabout and didn’t see the car again. I noticed he had driven round and was approaching the scene from the other side. So, I crossed to the other side of the road and stood in the middle of the road. I said to myself, “If he wants to kill me, let him kill me with my car!” When he got in front of me, he stopped and I entered the back seat of my car and he drove back to the traffic light. My wife kept crying as the bleeding had not stopped. We had spent almost two hours and my wife was still screaming, “I am dying! I am dying!” Everybody could see her pupils had almost disappeared from her eyeballs and she had become pale from losing so much blood. I asked them what their gain would be if my wife died there. They didn’t want to listen to me; these men are just wicked, I must say. Even in Dubai where I live, nobody has the right to treat me the way I was treated by fellow citizens in my own country.
What did you do next?
One of the LASTMA officials told the other man to take my wife away quickly, and he did. After a while, they forced me into their minibus and drove away as well. Along Ipaja expressway, there was heavy traffic. I had concluded within myself that my wife might die.
We were communicating on the phone and she kept screaming, telling me she was dying. The LASTMA official and the police inspector were in the car with her, hearing all the conversations and they were not moved at all. After a while, my wife told me they had got to Ikeja. As I approached, they started the negotiation.
Businessman's wife, Sophia on hospital bed
What do you mean by ‘negotiation’?
They said I was officially supposed to pay N35,000 to their office for violating the seat belt rule, and that this ‘official money’ goes straight to the Lagos State Governor, Sanwo-Olu.
Did they tell you that?
Yes, they did. They said the money would be paid directly to the governor and they had no hand in it. I begged them I could not afford N35, 000, that I’d pay N10, 000. I told them the money was in my car. That SUPOL told me the N10,000 I was offering them was going to be taken to the office of the governor, and I know the Lagos State Governor cannot give LASTMA officials instructions to kill my wife and get him N10,000. When we were approaching, a Sienna car hit the minibus slightly and the officers came down, arrested the man and impounded his car. When his car didn’t start, I had to come down to push the car with them. I have never been that humiliated all my life. Their car was not damaged at all, and it must have been a mistake. That is how they bully people in Lagos State. There was so much traffic following the breakdown of that car. I called the SUPOL and told him if anything happened to my wife, he’d be held responsible. He then called his other colleagues and told them that I was coming to pay their official fee of N10, 000.
I recall that when they arrested me, they asked me, “What do you do for a living?” and I told them I was a businessman based in Dubai. It was as if I told them that I was full of money. Their faces lit up and they began harassing me with follow-up questions. That was when they picked up my passport and my temporary driver’s licence.
I paid N10, 000 and I was given my car key. I asked them for my travel documents and they said I should go to their office on Monday, June 28, 2021, and they would tell me how much I’d pay to get my documents. I had two envelopes which I kept on the floor of the car. One contained N10, 000; the other contained N150, 000. When my wife and I were communicating, I told her to secure the envelopes as there were strangers in our car, but I know she couldn’t do that as she was too tired. She didn’t even know what happened to the money. As we speak now, my N150, 000 is yet to be found. I thought she had taken that N150, 000 and put it in her bag, which was why I didn’t complain that day that my money was missing.
Thereafter, I thought of the nearest place to take my wife to so she could clean herself up before being taken to the hospital. I drove her to Acme Road, Ikeja, where our church was situated, and the senior pastor’s wife gave her a wrapper to change as blood had soaked the dress she wore. There, the doctor shouted, saying I wanted to kill my wife. She wondered why I didn’t bring her on time as she had lost so much blood and needed an urgent blood transfusion. When I told her what happened, she was surprised.
She eventually lost the baby. I came from Dubai to see my wife and see how she was faring with our unborn child. Those callous LASTMA officials just destroyed the life of an unborn baby. I don’t know how much anybody will pay me as compensation, but nothing can ever compare to the life of a child. I need justice; if I don’t get justice, with all my pain, I will commit suicide. I kept asking them on that day, “Do you want her to die? She is bleeding; do you want her to die?” They said I was aggressive. If I am not aggressive at the point of losing my wife, where else would I be aggressive?
You reported the case to LASTMA office. What was the outcome of your meeting with them?
I was with some senior LASTMA officers on July 6, 2021. I went there with two of my lawyers. I thank God I didn’t go alone, because the Legal Director, LASTMA, who was working hard to get justice for me on my first visit, turned the other way and began questioning me with a very funny line of questioning.
For instance, he asked why I had to branch to the Sweet Sensation Restaurant instead of taking my wife to the hospital. The LASTMA Legal Director continued coming up with different kinds of logic, trying to make light of the whole issue. He asked me to drop the case of the missing N150, 000 so that we could face one direction and treat the issue of abuse of power.
One thing which surprised me was when he stressed that we committed a traffic offence and the LASTMA officers had the right to use their discretion to either let us go or keep us there. I was amazed he could say such a thing to us, backing up such a crime.
These people don’t care. All they are concerned about is the image of the agency and not for the right thing to be done, but my lawyers said they would write a letter to the General Manager, LASTMA, Engr. Olajide Oduyoye. I don’t know what the content of the letter would be for now till I meet with them again.
Source: The PUNCH