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IYC demands justice for slain Izu Joseph


 The late Izu Joseph (left) marching onto the field before a recent game for 3SC of Ibadan.

The late Izu Joseph (left) marching onto the field before a recent game for 3SC of Ibadan.

Family, Army differ on circumstances leading to 3SC star’s death
The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has again demanded justice for what it described as ‘the cold-blooded murder of an innocent Ijaw youth,’ Joseph Izu, who was a footballer with Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) of Ibadan, by soldiers in Okaki, near Yenagoa.This comes on the heels of conflicting accounts of the player’s death by his family and the Nigerian Army.

The young 3SC defender and another young man were killed by some soldiers at Okarki Town in Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State on Sunday.

A statement signed by Elvis Donkemezuo, factional President of the IYC Worldwide, condemned the growing trend of ‘senseless and wanton killing’ of Ijaw Youths by security operatives that are supposed to protect them.

He said, “For the sake of emphasis, the primary assignment and responsibility of our Military is to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria and not to maim and kill innocent, defenseless citizens like Joseph. We demand Justice for the family of Joseph Izu.”

He added that until his death, Joseph was a central defender for Shooting Stars Football Club (3SC) of Ibadan and a prominent beach soccer player, who made Nigeria proud in different international competitions and was never known to be a lawbreaker of any sort.

“We want to also put it on record that as of today (we cannot speak for tomorrow) there is no militant camp inside Okarki Community or in Okarki bush. There was also no case of kidnapping, disturbance of the peace or unlawful gathering of any kind at Okarki before or on the day and time Joseph was murdered by the Soldiers.

“So we wonder what may have warranted the killing of an innocent, armless and defenceless youth, who has done nothing but use his God given talent to serve his fatherland, save for a lust for blood and lack of respect for human life on the part of the soldiers.

“We call on the President, Muhammadu Buhari, the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, the Inspector General of Police, among others, to ensure that those behind this killing and that of other innocent Niger Delta youths do not go unpunished. The Joint Military Taskforce (JTF) Operation Delta Save should live up to its name by ensuring that those who have taken the lives of the Niger Delta Youths like Joseph, it was meant to save, are not felt to get away with impunity.

The failure on the part of the appropriate authorities to act and do so swiftly will lead to consequences that would have far-reaching effect on the interest of the Government.”

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army and the family of the late Izu have given different accounts of how the footballer died, reports of the deceased defender, Reuben Martin Izu, stated that his son was killed by security operatives despite that “he showed the soldier (who allegedly killed him) his ID (identity) card saying he wasn’t a criminal but a footballer.”

Reuben also claimed that the men, who killed his son, took away his mobile telephone as well as his wallet.The father of the former 3SC man then gave an account of how his son was killed and thrown into the river of the jetty in his hometown of Okaki.

“On Sunday, as I was about eating breakfast, they broke the news to me that my son had been shot by JTF (Joint Military Task Force) at home (in Okaki). I got the narrative of the story. You know the first time you cannot get the exact story. I was told he went to the jetty, a common place, in the village to take a swim. As he came out of the jetty after having a swim, he heard gunshots. Everyone in that area was running for safety, so he too decided to run to seek safety. As he was leaving the jetty, he came face to face with a soldier who shot him. He then showed the soldier his ID (identity) card saying he wasn’t a criminal but a footballer. The soldier then shot him a second time then he fell to the ground.

“They took his phone and made a video of him as he was struggling on the ground. He was pushed back into the water and he struggled in there and they (the soldiers) didn’t allow anybody to help him. Later he swam to the shore, so the soldiers left and some boys in the village then came to his rescue. At this time, he had lost a lot of blood. They took him to a nearby hospital to remove the bullets without success. He was then taken to another hospital but he died before getting there. Right now his remains is still in the mortuary.

“My concern is, what was his crime? If he was a criminal and was in Ibadan all this time and was never arrested, what was his offence? Why didn’t they carry his body away to make a case? They dumped this boy there. They took his purse and phone. I want to tell them (government and security authorities) to curb this extra-judicial killings because it is getting too much,” said Reuben Izu.

However, the army has given a totally different story on how the footballer was killed. The Nigerian army claimed that Joseph Izu was in a cultist den as at when he was killed.Brigadier General Hamisu Hassan stated that the troops of the JTF were tipped off about “the presence of suspected cultists in Okaki village.”

He further explained that where Izu was killed was an isolated area. The commander of 2 Brigade of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt added that investigation is currently going on concerning the incident.

“Information available to the troops indicated the presence of suspected cultists in Okaki village. The troops moved in to raid the suspected criminal hideout. Unfortunately one person lost his life at the hideout while the others fled. We later confirmed that the person who lost his life was a Nigerian footballer, identified as Mr. Izu Joseph. Investigation is now ongoing to determine what he was doing at the cultist’s shrine at that time,” the army brigadier general said.Izu was a 3SC player from 2014 to 2016 before he was killed in his hometown on Sunday.

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