The Police command in Ebonyi on Friday confirmed the death of a footballer during a football match in Ikwo Local Government Area of the state.
ASP Loveth Odaa, the command’s Public Relations Officer (PPRO), confirmed the situation in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), saying that several people were injured during the fracas on Thursday.
Odaa said that four police officers were critically injured during the fracas when police officers tried to stop angry fans from assaulting the officiating referee.
“The Ikwo Police Division received a distress call that the fans were assaulting the referee and our officers led by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) rushed to the match venue.
“When they tried to rescue the referee from the fans’ onslaught, the fans left the referee and started attacking our officers.
“They started struggling with officers’ rifles and when they collected one, the DPO fired into the air to scare them and save his officers.
“One person was incidentally shot during the melee as the fans thoroughly prepared to attack us by arming themselves with dangerous weapons,” she said.
She added that the council’s chairman and the state governor’s aide on internal security, have met with the commissioner of police and promised to discuss with the Ikwo stakeholders to restore normalcy.
“One of the wounded police officers is an inspector and he just regained consciousness while other officers are still in critical condition.
“All we receive every time these government officials intervene are apologies as we have certainly been attacked by people of Ikwo LGA.
“The people should inform the police to withdraw its services if they don’t need us again, to enable us re-post our officers to areas where we are needed,” she said.
A source, however, revealed that the deceased, Obinna Igwe, was shot by a police officer during the fracas.
“The football match was between Ndufu Alike and Ndufu Echara teams, competing in the final of a Unity Cup competition, organised by the council’s boss, Mr John Nnabo, at Urban Secondary School Ndufu Echara.
“Trouble started when the centre referee issued a red card to an Ndufu Alike player, which eventually resulted in his team conceding a goal in the second half.
“The Ndufu Alike team and its fans were displeased with the development as the dismissed player surged towards the referee and attacked him, joined by his team-mates and fans,” NAN was told.
Efforts made by NAN to speak with the council boss proved abortive, but a stakeholder from the area, Mr Ephraim Nwancho, condemned the use of live ammunition by the police during the fracas.
“The police’s action was against the rules of engagement as they were dealing with unarmed citizens,” he said.