Osatawaji Otuene, the elder brother of a 300-level undergraduate of the University of Port Harcourt, River State, Justina Otuene, who was allegedly killed by a 400-level Petrochemical Engineering student of the university, Damian Okoligwe, talks to DENNIS NAKU about the incident
Can you confirm your relationship with the deceased?
My name is Osat-Awaji Otuene. I’m the brother of the deceased, Justina Otuene. I am her elder brother.
How old was she and what was she studying at the university?
She was studying Biochemistry at the University of Port Harcourt. She was in her 300 year. She was 21 years old.
How did you learn about her death?
She was undergoing her industrial attachment at Prestige Hospital in D/Line, Port Harcourt. So she went to work last Friday morning but didn’t return. Everybody in the house became worried that she did not come back. We tried to reach her through her mobile phone that Friday but her line didn’t connect as of 6 pm. But when I tried her line again at 9 pm, it rang. So, I felt since her line rang she was probably at her friend’s birthday. We just decided that the following day (on Saturday) we would call her.
On Sunday morning, at about 8:30 pm, her friend called and said that she did not see my sister at her birthday, which she was supposed to attend on Friday evening. So, we decided to just wait because we tried to reach her through her line in the morning, but couldn’t. We waited till afternoon and were wondering what the problem was – whether her phone was switched off or something. On Saturday evening, it became a serious matter so we started calling all her friends, everybody that we knew we could contact to ask if they knew anything about her whereabouts. but everybody, all those we contacted said they didn’t. That was when we started announcing that my sister was missing! So, that’s how it started.
Did you check the hospital where she worked as an industrial trainee?
Yes, we went to the hospital the next day (on Sunday). We could not go that Saturday night. So we went on Sunday and they confirmed that she was at work that Friday and the information from her department, because she worked in the hospital’s laboratory, was that she booked a ride that she was going to for a birthday party. So, they confirmed that she was at work on Friday. So, from then on, we (the family) declared her missing officially.
I was at the Mini-Okoro Police Station where we were working with the anti-kidnaping unit when somebody called me and said a dead body was reported at the Ozuoba Police Station, and that I should go there and confirm if the body of that person was the missing person I was looking for. I got another call some minutes later and the person said that he had confirmed that the missing person killed was the person missing. So I immediately reported it to the investigating police officer at Mini-Okoro Police Station. So immediately, the commander gave us the go-ahead to confirm if the body was that of the missing person, that is my sister. We went to the Ozuoba Police Station and from all their findings, they confirmed that she was the person. So, that was how I knew.
Did you know that your late sister was the girlfriend of the suspect who was arrested by the police?
They dated but they broke up a long time ago. Before this incident, she was not his girlfriend. They dated, I think, two years ago, in 2021. That was a very long time and they didn’t contact each other after they broke up till, I believe, in 2023. If they had had any contact before then I would have known. Even if she hid it from me, I know that they didn’t have contact because I spoke to my sister’s best friend who gave me information that the guy who killed my sister texted her in June 2023. Though she didn’t give me the precise date, that guy texted her and asked for my sister’s phone number. That was the Information I received. They didn’t have anything together for a long time.
I’m not happy with everything that is being said in the media because if she was in a relationship for the money she wouldn’t have broken up (with him) in the first place and mind you, they broke up in 2021. The murderer got my sister’s phone number from her best friend in June 2023.
Did your sister live in the school hostel or off campus?
She lived off campus.
Did you know where she was staying off campus?
Yes. She lived behind Chem. That is what the place is called, behind Chem in Alakahia (near UNIPORT in the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State).
What do you think was the motive behind her killing?
I don’t think it has to do with payback. He knew his intentions from when he wanted to start doing whatever he wanted to do. I don’t think it was a payback for anything. I don’t know what his intentions were but he didn’t have good intentions from the onset.
You are also a student of the university. Do you know the suspect either on campus or elsewhere before now?
I have not seen him on campus.
You said earlier that your sister dated him previously. Did you ever see his picture on your sister’s phone?
When was that?
In 2021, and as of that time, I knew that they had something.
You were at the police headquarters when the Commissioner of Police paraded the suspect. Was there any part of his account that you disagree with?
The statement that Damian and my sister were dating is wrong. They broke up long ago so I feel like that should be corrected. The whole narrative of (my sister) being his girlfriend is wrong. It needs to be corrected. Again, there are statements that my sister was materialistic. It is wrong. She was my sister and I know the kind of person she was. The truth needs to be out there.
The truth is that she dated him two years ago and she didn’t have anything to do with him after then. So, the narrative that is going around that she was dating a Yahoo Yahoo boy and liked a flashy lifestyle is wrong.
Probably. Maybe, I don’t know how my sister got to his place because the murderer refused to convey the correct information when he was being questioned. Whether he picked her up from somewhere or my sister went to his house by herself, we don’t know. But the truth is I know maybe they must have gotten the contact probably two weeks before and maybe he must have convinced her to come, So, the narrative of dating a Yahoo Yahoo boy and that she deserved what happened to her or that it served her right is wrong. My sister did not deserve that narrative at all because it is not correct.
My sister was loving and very calm. She never looked for trouble, she was calm, loving, and God-fearing. She was respectful and very helpful. We are going to miss her a lot. I know how she was always of help when needed; she was always there. She was caring. She helped my mum even when they had a little misunderstanding sometimes. She did everything for my mum as the only daughter. So, we are going to miss her very much.