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Sunday, 22 April 2012

ENUGU: RETURN OF THE KILLER SQUADS!

The dark days of grim crime seem to have returned to Enugu State. The days when perceived enemies were abducted or killed at will and the citizenry made to live in fear, OZIOMA UBABUKOH reports
Between 1999 and 2007, several individuals, organisations and international human rights groups viewed Enugu State as an unsafe place. The human rights record of the then administration was labelled zero because some of the killings and assaults were alleged to have been sponsored by it, presumably to get at purported enemies of the state and opposition members. It was reported then that student cultists and miscreants were either hired or sponsored to execute those killings.

However, shortly after Mr. Sullivan Chime became governor in 2007, relative peace returned to Enugu and the once volatile state became a haven again for investors, tourists, holidaymakers and fun-seekers, among others. But this may no longer be the case, as there seems to be a reverse to the status quo with the recent kidnap cases and killing in the last one month.
First, it was a cult war between two fraternities of the Enugu State University of Technology. This was in mid-March. Since 70 per cent of ESUT students reside off campus, residents of the state got a taste of the hit between the Black Axe and Two-Two cult groups.
At the end of the clash, an eye witness who would not be named says, “Four people died, one each from the two cult groups and two others who are not students.”
Police investigation also revealed that during the clash between the two cult groups, the owner of Albertina Stores, the biggest super dealer electronics shop in Enugu, almost lost a son. His son’s attackers reportedly shot him at close range and left him for dead, but the timely and professional intervention of doctors saved his life.
The police, our correspondent learnt, have yet to make any arrests in that regard. Yet, as they made moves to check the cult clash from escalating, they were saddled with another blow. This time, it was the kidnap of Princess Uzoamaka Attah, a relation of Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State.
According to the Anti-kidnap Squad, a unit of the Enugu State Police Command, Attah and the suspected kidnapper became friends on a social media network – Badoo – which culminated in the exchange of photographs and phone numbers.
A leader of the Anti-kidnap Squad, Morris, said, “When the two of them became so close, one day, the suspect took a private taxi to the girl’s school, Rocanna Institute of Technology in Emene. Pretending to be her new boyfriend, he deceived the security men into calling the girl out, only to kidnap her to a hotel and thereafter called her mother to say that her daughter had been kidnapped.”
Morris said, “This was on March 27, 2012. When the kidnapper spoke to the girl’s mother, he requested $300,000. When the woman pleaded that she couldn’t afford the amount, he told her to get it from her brother, Governor Godswill Akpabio.
“After two days, on March 29, the sum of N200,000 was paid to the kidnapper, yet he refused to release the girl. He and his accomplice, a corps member, insisted that the money must be in dollars.
“They also threatened to use the victim for rituals and mounted pressure on the family. On April 2, another N1m was paid to the kidnappers, yet they refused to set the girl free. Less than two hours after the payment of N1m, however, we tracked them to their hideout.”
He said, “Through coordinate data received from GSM provider, MTN, and an electronic tracker, the suspects were tracked down to Pascana Hotel, Trans-Ekulu. The victim was rescued unhurt and the suspects were arrested, including the taxi driver who took them for the collection of the ransom on two occasions. The N1m was instantly recovered from the suspects, except for the N20,000 that had been spent out of it.”
Two days after the arrest of Attah’s abductors, another kidnap victim, Ifeyinwa Ogbodo, was not so lucky, her captors killed her even before talks over ransom could be concluded.
Morris says, “Aside from the case of Ogbodo, another kidnap victim was killed and thrown into the bush on Independence Layout just because she recognised one of the kidnappers. This happened some minutes before her parents could arrive at the scene of her murder with the ransom fee.”
Despite all these, Enugu residents have described the killing of Messrs Chukwuemeka Edeh and Junior Ogbuah as the “mother of all murders” in the state. They were both 29 years old.
Edeh, popularly called Mp3 by friends, and Ogbuah were killed on Saturday April 7, the eve of Easter Sunday. They were shot at the entrance of GT Bar, at 2, Chime Lane, Enugu. Ogbuah owned the bar.
Some friends of Edeh at the bar said the deceased, who was at the bar with his fiancée, had seen off his friend Diala to the car and was returning to the bar when he met another friend, Ogbuah, at the entrance.
“They had barely spent 10 minutes greeting and talking at the entrance of the bar when the attackers started shooting at them,” one of Edeh’s friend disclosed.
Comments from a female attendant at GT Bar seem to point to the fact that the killers were probably out to kill Ogbuah, and not Edeh. Moreover, the latter received just a bullet on the neck, while Ogbuah got three bullets in various parts of his body.
The female attendant told our correspondent on Tuesday that the said killers had asked her to identify her boss (Ogbuah) 10 minutes before he was shot.
She said, “That day, there were about five of them and they came into the bar like every other person to drink. I personally took their orders and served them.
“Not long afterwards, they called and asked me who Junior was. I told them that he was my boss. They politely requested to meet with him, so I pointed at Junior to them from where they were sitting.”
She added, “My boss (Junior) was talking with his friend (Edeh) in front of the bar and before we knew what was happening, they started shooting at them and we all started running.”
The bar attendant, who refused to give her name, said the shooting caused panic and some people sustained minor injuries.
Edeh, findings revealed, had just returned from South Africa three weeks before his death to renew his travelling documents and had meant to travel back after the Easter break. On his part, Ogbuah, before that fateful day, had been in court to claim ownership of several houses which distant family members alleged were sold or may have been given to some of his relatives by the late father.
Our source said that Ogbuah may have incurred the wrath of his killers when he repainted some of the houses in assumed anticipation of his court victory. This, SUNDAY PUNCH learnt, may not have gone down well with some people who felt they could be dislodged from the houses in contention as soon as the court judgment goes in favour of Ogbuah.
“In another case, the GT Bar, which is opposite Gorgik Hotel, is situated in one of the houses that are in contention and the other supposed owner who runs a bar there also has almost been thrown out of business by Junior (Ogbuah), who is said to have diverted his customers owing to his popularity in Enugu. Don’t you think this may have caused bad blood?” Ogbuah’s friend, Chinedu Okorie, said.
Okorie added, “Come to think of it, Ogbuah came back from Ogoja in Cross Rivers State that same day.” He adds, “His killers perhaps only waited for his return from Ogoja to carry out their plan.”
Edeh’s mentor, Mr. Dubem Okoye, recounted the matter. “We had just returned from a wedding in Anambra State. We got to the house about 9:30 pm and I wanted him to wait a while so that we could leave for Hidden Crest Bar at GRA together; but by the time I came out of my room, he was nowhere around.”
Okoye recalled that Edeh’s fiancée had even advised him to rest before leaving the house, but he seemed so much in a hurry to go see his friends at the bar.
He said, “About one hour after he left the house, someone called my phone to tell me that Emeka (Edeh) was dead.”
Meanwhile, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, has pleaded for calm, saying, “We must get to the root of the death of the two men.
 “The police are ready to give its best in this case. Meanwhile, eight men, including a girl, have been arrested in connection with the incident and we are still arresting more.”
Edeh was buried last Friday, while Ogbuah’s corpse is still at the morgue of Enugu State University Teaching Hospital.
The gridlock in the state during a Service of Songs last Wednesday for Edeh personified the love Enugu people had for him.
  by OZIOMA UBABUKOH
for punchng.com

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