After seeing his friends protesting against SARS, Victor Igwe decided to join them, disappearing into their midst and from life.
For several years, Victor Igwe always wanted to get into university, obtain a degree and have a successful life afterwards. But there was no money to make it happen.
In Victor’s family, only his eldest sister had managed to obtain a degree. She got one in Veterinary Medicine in 2017 from Ebonyi State University in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State. His dream was to be like her.
Victor’s older sister, Sopuruchi Nwofia, thus decided to sell everything he had to put Victor through school. Thankfully, Victor had a good result in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination and got into university.
Sopuruchi poured all of her savings into making sure Victor received a good education in order to fulfill his ambition. He always promised the family that once he finished university, he would change their lives. He used to tell Sopuruchi he knew the sacrifices she was making to fund his education
When Victor’s school closed in March 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic, students left campus for their various homes. Sopuruchi was happy his brother was returning, as his presence would be of immense benefit to their mother.
It indeed turned out to be: Victor ended up helping their mother a lot at home, with washing and cleaning and cooking, and in the market too, where she sold food items such as garri, beans and rice.
On October, 20, 2020, amid the nationwide #EndSARS protests, Sopuruchi was in her jewelry store in New market, Enugu, when someone who knew Victor called her phone. “Victor has been shot!” the person claimed.
On the day this happened, Sopuruchi remembers their mom had called Victor and asked him to go and help her get some food items from Mayor Market in Enugu.
When Victor got there, the driver of the vehicle he was in told him the car had broken down. Victor didn’t have any option but to sit down and wait for the driver to find a way of fixing the car.
While still around the Mayor Market area, Victor observed as some #EndSARS protesters passed by. Among the young protesters holding banners and placards, he recognized a lot of his mates from school.
Motivated by the familiarity, Victor decided to join them. Unfortunately, that would turn out to be a bad decision, as he ended up being shot and killed by the police.
Back to that phone call: Sopuruchi could not believe it. Victor? Shot? Dying? Her mind could not process it all. She and her dad immediately rushed to the Mayor Market area.
Upon seeing Victor’s lifeless body, Sopuruchi passed out. He later learnt it took a while for her [Sopuruchi] to regain consciousness, as most people were afraid to stay and help resuscitate her, given the fact that the police were still around, shooting anyhow.
Eventually, their dad and some brave onlookers poured water on Sopuruchi and took her home after he regained consciousness.
Victor unfortunately remained dead.
“Till today,” Sopuruchi says, “the shock is still fresh in my mind. Victor was in his final year as a computer science student at the Ebonyi State University in Abakaliki. He was so close to fulfilling his dream of earning a degree. He had left us without a goodbye. He had bowed out of life after just 27 years of living.”
Victor was the star and hope of the family. Sopuruchi says he was such a nice boy. That he loved to help people. He was intelligent and serious with his books too – which was why Sopuruchi had made every effort to push him towards his dream of earning a degree.
Sopuruchi says, “Personally, all of my savings, right from when I started business, went into Victor’s school fees, rent, clothing and feeding.”
Apart from academics, Victor loved music. He loved to play the trumpet in church, and was always invited to other churches and events to play.
In the family, Victor was the one closest to Sopuruchi. Remembering her younger brother fondly, Sopuruchi says Victor knew the way to her heart, and could calm her down when no one else could.
“I loved his jokes,” Sopuruchi says. “I will miss everything about him.”
At the beginning and end of every month, their family usually held prayers as a family, convened by their mother. But since Victor died, they have hardly done it. Sopuruchi says their mother breaks into tears anytime they gather, breaking their hearts.
“It’s been really tough on her,” she says, adding, “as a mother of four myself, I cannot even imagine the pain of losing a child”
Last year, it was announced in church that families who lost loved ones during the protest should bring their petitions to the Judicial panel set up to address extrajudicial killings and brutality meted out by the police (especially SARS) in Enugu state.
Since November 2020 when Sopuruchi submitted their family’s petition, the judicial panel has not said anything about it.
In January this year, the panel resumed again. They heard their case in court, but nothing positive has come out so far.
The family continue to hope they will get justice of some sort, but insist the loss of Victor cannot be quantified.
“If the government really wants to help compensate our family, they know what to do. A compensation would help, true, but it would also be like putting a plaster over a fracture,” Sopuruchi says.
“The sad fact remains that no amount of money can bring Victor back,” she says. “No amount of pacification can heal the wound of his loss. The police have caused irreversible damage to our lives, one that we have to learn to live with.”
“Only God can repay whoever it was that killed my brother,” Victor’s older sister says.