Thursday, 8 June 2017

Journalist writes on how he survived Gov. Umahi's aides attempt to assassinate him

Almost Killed because of Facebook Comment Against the Governor.

Reporter’s Diary

How I was kidnapped, almost killed by PDP thugs at Ebonyi Govt. House- By Charles Otu, Guardian Reporter/Publisher

  It was exactly 5.30 PM (Nigerian time) on Friday, June 2nd 2017 at Hosanna Street when my phone rang and a caller with the Telephone Number: 0806---36-0 whose Caller ID revealed as ‘Ngozi’ called that she wanted to bring me a Change of Name for publication in my newspaper, The Peoples’ CONSCIENCE. Recalling that she had called earlier in the morning, I asked her to meet me at a popular Vanco junction where they distribute Newspapers to vendors in Abakaliki-the Capital of Ebonyi State, South- East, Nigeria.
Upon her arrival, I called her out from one of the popular Distributors’ offices, Mr. Okechi, popularly known as Oga Punch to enable me get her details and she stepped out to join me to the next office owned by Sunny. Unknown to me that she had signaled my abductors, I went in first with the lady following from behind and urged her to sit down so that I may have her details. Two fierce-looking young man one of which I later recalled his identity as Mr. Onyekachi Nwoba, aka Bone rushed towards me and requested that I give them my Handset. I asked who they were and why they demanded for it but they both gave me some hot slaps before grabbing me by the waist.

The more I tried to resist them from jacking me up was the more I got the beating of my life while my younger brother, Stanley who was with me and others (particularly some vendors and distributors) were also slapped and resisted from intervening in my abduction. I sighted the Youth Leader of Akubaraoha Youth Assembly- a notorious youth platform championing the second term ambition of the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David Nweze Umahi, Hon. Mark Onu, popularly known as ‘Chopper’ advancing menacingly towards the thugs which number had at this time increased to about 15.

‘Drag him to the bus along the road. He is a threat to the Governor and this government but we shall deal with him”, he, ‘Chopper’, loudly and clearly instructed them to the hearing of many sympathizers who had gathered albeit in fear that they may be dealt with if they had intervened further. He specifically asked them to attack anyone who tried to resist them and that was how I was dragged to a ready-bus branded ‘Akubaraoha Youth Assembly’ which sped-off following the popular Ogoja road.

While in the bus, I was instructed to lie down at the back seat and face the floor. I later found myself after some few minutes at the front of the Cabinet Office, (Government House), Abakaliki where my captors ordered me to come out and lie down facing the ground. As I was being dragged out of the bus, they made for various dangerous weapons including iron-bars, canes and stones and started hitting me with them with little concern or pity. Those who were seen around the premises were all ordered out of the place and ‘Chopper’ instructed them to lock-up the gate and they quickly complied.

As the torture increased and I got more unconscious, the Youth leader kept reiterating that I have become an agent of attacks and criticisms to the Ebonyi State Government and that I would be dealt with severely unless I agree to their terms. One of them opened one of my recent posts on Facebook where I had made an honest assessment of the Umahi-led administration in two years, matching his inaugural promises in 2015 with the actual realities on ground in Ebonyi.

He was asked to read to me the paragraphs they considered ‘very critical’ and ‘injurious’ to the Ebonyi State Government. The torture increased according to what they considered the ‘weight’ of each of the paragraphs. As I became increasingly unconscious and calls started coming and pleading for my rescue, the Youth leader, Mark Onu kept emphasizing that those calls from sympathizers whom they collectively described as coming from the ‘people that has been sending me to attack the State Government’ will never save me from their doom as according to him, “Even the Governor is fully aware that we are here with you and on this mission!”

Hon. Onu Mark Onu said the only way my life could be spared was if I was willing to sign an UNDERTAKEN that I will leave Ebonyi which he described as ‘their State’ for them and relocate to any other part of the country of my choice or in the alternative, be willing to write an undertaken that I would never write or say anything about the State Government whether they be positive or negative. Other jests and mockery were also made of me by the attackers who resumed their torture while anticipating my response as to whether I was willing to comply with their request for me to sign an undertaken.

It was at this juncture that the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Internal Security, Dr. Kenneth Ugbala came into the scene and I enquired if they were still with me and they echoed ‘Yes sir’! He asked if I was the ‘small boy’ that has been ‘disturbing’ the government? I tried to plead for mercy but that resulted to more torture. After addressing me derisively, he asked them to hold on and demanded if I was willing to comply with their proposal to write an undertaken on either options?  “Yes Sir”, I replied! He said but before then, he wants to warn me to steer clear from the Government House and other government buildings, agencies and parastatals and we then proceeded to the Kpirikpiri Police station- less than one kilometer from the Government House which they chose as a place we would write the said undertaken.

Already, I was forewarned by them that I MUST deny that I knew my attackers before the police both in my narratives and in my statement at the police otherwise, I would be handed back over to the thugs to ‘perfect their job’. I ‘agreed’ hence I was under duress and wanted to be alive first to tell my story. I was again, asked to bend my face and never to look out through the window of the jeep with which they conveyed me to the police station.

Upon our arrival at the police station, the SSA on Internal Security, Ugbala and Mark Onu in company of a few made their way straight into the DPO’s office. After some few minutes, I was asked by those sitting beside me including Onyekachi Nwoba aka, Bone to alight and walk gently as though I had no injuries and was further reminded that I should NEVER mention that I knew the identities of my attackers. “It’s alright”, I responded and staggered into the police station with bloods all over my body.

After narrating to the police a concocted lie that he saw some people beating me up and as the SSA to the Governor on Internal Security whose primary duty is to protect lives, he rescued me from the mob scene and decided to bring me to the police station, the DPO and the DCO asked me: who beat you? I answered that I didn’t know them! They were glad that I was ‘complying’ even though I had sensed foul-play on the part of some of the police authorities who obviously had been unduly compromised.

I was ushered to the counter-section and made to sit down while waiting for the statement materials to be brought to me. As I waited, ‘Chopper’ said that I should try and contact those that would bail me after making my statement and signing an undertaken. Some few sympathizers came into the station at this juncture and saw me on my pool of blood. The papers were brought and I had already started making statements when I became a bit unconscious and fainted and vomiting profusely. The visitors urged the police to first rush me to the hospital to be treated as my life was more important first than any statement on whatever happened to me.

But the police authorities kept paying deaf ears to it while perhaps, trying to receive ‘instruction’ from the SSA on Internal Security, Ugbala. He returned to the station immediately this time with more thugs and the entire place became riotous as he and his boys tried to chase away every sympathizing visitor from the police station. Looking straight into my dimming, sullied and bloodied face, Ugbala said: “I would have allowed them to deal with you the way they wanted. I wouldn’t have come to rescue you if I knew you would generate this level of concern”, asking the police to detain me in their custody and charge me to court on Monday and let him see who will come to bail me.

My sympathizers however carried me from the ground where I was lying down helplessly into a waiting vehicle and the police hurriedly signed the medical form before we headed off to the hospital. The thugs blocked the other side of the Old Enugu road trying to resist our passage but were not successful as we sped off to the Federal Teaching Hospital, (FETHA 2), Abakaliki where I was immediately wheeled into the emergency unit for treatments. More sympathizers had also at this juncture trooped into the hospital to see me in my not-too-conscious-state and I was given some basic first aid treatments before I began to regain some level of consciousness.

Some had asked me what happened and I narrated to a few of them my ordeal in the hands of my captors. I was terribly shocked to have received a text message on my phone from a number which read: “Luky boi. Check ur offce” at exactly 11.20: 24pm of that day. I asked my brother to check my office early the next morning but was informed that nothing happened there. My worried nerves had become calm when I saw a fellow Publisher who shares the same office building with me at No 2 Awolowo Street, Abakaliki at the hospital, Mr. Samuel Nweze. Thinking he heard about my attack and perhaps, came to sympathize with me, I was very wrong as he later narrated that he was shot by some unknown assailants who were on motor-bike.
It was only then that I reconnected the earlier threat text message I had gotten which after describing me as a ‘luky boi’ added that I should check my office. Perhaps, the thugs who tried to block me from being rushed to the hospital may have rushed to my office thinking I was taken there especially since some of them felt at the police station that I was merely pretending and when they couldn’t see me, they shot my neighbour on his back, I then reasoned. It was then that I understood clearly that God saved me from the hands of some desperate assassins who after failing to extract an undertaken to leave my state under duress felt the only next thing to do was to kill me. I also then recalled that the same number had called me while I was rounding-off the production of my new issue and introduced himself as ‘Nguji’ and that he wanted me to make a publication for him on the communal crisis in Izzi land and he had come around Godal Pharmacy (beside my office), with a view to visiting my office on my production eve. But hence I was busy, I sent my brother who returned to say he didn’t see him.

As I appreciate all men of good will for their immense support, prayers and care, I could only hope that as we keep to our determination to continue to be courageous in our objective reportage of issues, the security agencies whose duty it is to protect lives and property will delay no further in fishing out these agents of the Ebonyi State Government and bring them before the temple of justice and that justice would be duly served the perpetrators. I also call on National and International organizations to please intervene and prevail on this matter until justice is done. May the hand of the law in this matter not be like the Scottish assertion that: “Laws catch flies but let hornets go free”!

                                                                             Charles O. Otu, FCAI
                                                                           
                                                                             Victim & Publisher/Editor-in-Chief,
The Peoples’ CONSCIENCE Newspaper&  
 Reporter with The Guardian

To see Charles at the point of death click: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1328304510598187&id=100002559523729

Pls continue sharing till justice is done

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