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Chinonso Onyema, who made a promise to change the life of his single mother and siblings, was on the verge of making it happen when police edged him out of his life and dream

Ukamaka Onyema used to have five children, but now, only four remain. And it’s all thanks to the police.

Chinonso Onyema, who was shot and killed by the police during the #EndSARS protests on 22 October, 2020, was her firstborn.

Her late son, although merely 23-years-old, was like the head of the family. Years after his father died in 2002, he became more or less the provider of the family.

He supplied food and paid for rent. Chinonso worked hard to provide for the family. When Chinonso came back from work, he would do what he loved and knew how to do best: cook for everyone.

Chinonso had big dreams. He hated to see his family suffer and always promised that he would make their lives more comfortable.

For five years, Chinonso learnt how to make kitchen cabinets and bedroom furniture near Timber Shade in Abakpa, Enugu. While at it, he saved money in hopes of starting his own furniture business.

Just two weeks after leaving his master to begin the process of going on his own, he was returning from a restaurant at Ugwueke in the Abakpa Nike area in Enugu, when a bullet brought his young life to an end.

His mother, Ukamaka, insists she would be remiss not to acknowledge Chinonso’s friends, who were very helpful to the family during that dark period, helping take Chinonso’s corpse to a morgue, and helping to buy his casket.

Chinonso was buried in his village in Ezeagu, Enugu State, on 6 November, 2020.

Ukamaka says his death was the loss of the very life of their family. Provision has been scarce. She sells pawpaw on the streets, but the income is not nearly enough to support her family.

Chinonso’s brother, Godwin, is trying to fill his big brother’s shoes. Just last year, he started an apprenticeship to become a plumber. The family hopes he matures soon to help out.

“I don’t know why they killed my son,” Ukamaka says. She asks, “What did he do wrong?” “He was a good boy. He was an introvert, always keeping to himself, always avoiding trouble. I used to tell his siblings to learn from him.”

When the Enugu State judicial panel on police brutality started their hearing, the family got a lawyer who helped file their case. But nothing meaningful has been done. Before ending hearings, the panel only said Ukamaka and her family should be patient and that they would let her know if the government says anything.

“I want the government to help us,” Ukamaka laments. “I want my children taken care of. The police answer to the government, so the government cannot escape responsibility for our tragedy. Chinonso promised to take care of us, and he would have done so had he not been unfairly taken away from us.”