MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
Barely two years after violence marred the relative peace of Ogbe-Odogwu Quarters, over the Odogwu traditional chieftaincy title, what
seems to be a renewed reign of fear is fast pervading Ogwashi-Uku, the headquarters of Aniocha South Local Government Area in
Delta State following what could be described as the orchestration of anti-people’s tendencies in the community.
As a result of this, no fewer than three citizens of Ogwashi-Uku have remained in police custody in Asaba and Lagos reportedly on charges brought against them by some petitioners perceived to have some connection with the Ogwashi-Uku monarch, Obi Ifechukwude Okonjo, who is a younger brother to the World Trade Organisation boss; Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Two of the arrested indigenes namely Ugo Emordi and Emeka Onwuadiamu have been in custody since 24th August, 2023 at the Force Criminal Investigation Department, (FCID) Alagbon Close Annex, Lagos. The third suspect Iloba Obata is held at the Delta State Police Command Headquarters, Asaba.
It was gathered that they are being detained by the police as a result of petition linking them to two separate homicide cases that took place in March 2022 and August, 2023 respectively at Ogwashi-Uku. AtlanticNewsOnline has no access to the contents of the petition but some indigenes of the town who spoke on the basis of anonymity have described the contents of the petition as
figment of the writers’ imagination with no iota of truth. They alleged that the petition was ostensibly scripted to misinform authorities of the Nigeria Police Force in attempt to avoid prosecution over the death of the two persons particularly Stephen Ubaka reportedly tortured by vigilante guards working for the Ogwashi-Uku palace.
Some of those interviewed including the Okwabani of Aboh-Ogwashi, Chief Paul Chiedu Onwuadiamu whose younger brother Emeka Onwuadiamu is in detention at Alagbon, said the petitioners were trying to silence what they described as the opposing voices in Ogwashi-Uku community who are against the King’s style of leadership and selection of chiefs.
According to Onwuadiamu, he was conferred with the Okwabani traditional title on 28th June, 2016 by the immediate past traditional ruler of Ogwashi-Uku, His Royal Majesty, Obi (Prof) Chukwuka Okonjo and pursuant to this recognition, he (Onwuadiamu) was registered as the holder of the Okwabani title by the Delta State Government.
Surprisingly, without his removal or suspension by the Executive Council of Delta State, one Mr. Jude Obidi with the active support of the current Obi of Ogwashi-Uku has been parading himself as the holder of the title and interfering with the discharge of duties of the office. However, the Office of the Deputy Governor of the state in a letter dated 8th September, 2022 (a copy of which is available to AtlanticNewsOnline) restated the right of Onwuadiamu as the recognized holder of the title and warned Jude Obidi; a lawyer to stop parading himself as the title holder.
Way back in June 2021, there was a violent incident that occurred as a result of conflict between the youths of Ogbe-Odogwu quarters and Mr. Gabriael Ohai who was installed the Odogwu of Ogwashi-Uku by the incumbent monarch, His Royal Highness Obi Ifechukwude Okonjo. There were allegations that Ohai had assumed the position in a manner not in consonant with the extant traditional rules guiding the choice of a successor to the Odogwu chieftaincy throne. Efforts reportedly made to prevent him from taking the title by other members of the kindred where the Odogwu title traditionally resides, had proved abortive as the King went ahead to confer the title on him.
During the confrontation and subsequent violence that erupted in 2021 between the Ogbe-Odogwu youths and Gabriel Ohai and his supporters, some properties belonging to him were reportedly destroyed. Sequel to this, the Delta Police Command had stepped in making some arrests while some persons were reportedly listed as wanted persons. Since that incident, parts of Ogwashi-Uku have not known peace as some of those who reportedly took part in the violence were being trailed for arrest.
It was gathered that Mr. Stephen Ubaka, who died on 12th of August, 2023 was accused by Gabriel Ohai as being one of the youths who attacked his property in 2021. Ubaka in early August, 2023 was allegedly traced to a particular filling station somewhere at Ogwashi-Uku by the vigilante team who abducted him and forcefully took him to the King’s palace where he was tied with belt and beaten mercilessly.
According to a revelation made by Ubaka himself which was recorded in a video prior to his death, he said after he had been thoroughly beaten and presumed dead, his body was carried and dumped at his Ogbe-Odogwu. Incidentally, he did not die instantly as presumed, so his family had come to pick him and took him first to a police station at Ogwashi-Uku where he was directed by the officers on duty, not to bother reporting anything official there but to quickly leave if he did not want to be detained till the next morning.
The time was about 8pm and his family had no choice but to do the bidding of the police by taking him away. The following day, his mother took him to the police Area Command at Ogwashi-Uku where the officer in charge reportedly suggested to him to go and look for a lawyer. Since he was already losing so much blood, he was taken to hospital where x-ray was done on him showing the internal injuries he had sustained. Regrettably, he could not survive the incident as he finally died.
It was gathered during investigation that following the death of Stephen Ubaka and the subsequent trending of the recorded video wherein he had disclosed how he was beaten and having also disclosed the identity of his torturers, some people went all out to ascertain how the video was recorded with their victim who was presumed to have died revealing so much about his ordeal. Ugo Emordi, Emeka Onwuadiamu and Ilobah Obata said to be involved in the video recording of Stephen Ubaka prior to his death were allegedly roped in, since the petitioners are not comfortable with such, as the video is a very strong evidence that the Azungwu quarters where the deceased hailed from, could use it against them in seeking justice over the death of Ubaka.
At the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Alagbon Lagos where Ugo Emordi and Emeka Onwuadiamu are being detained, the Police Public Relations Officer; Olaniyi Ogundeyi, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) told AtlanticNewsOnline last Monday that both of them were brought from Ogwashi-Uku in connection with homicide related matter but that investigation was going on to establish their culpability or otherwise.
Concerned Ogwashi-Uku indigenes have therefore pleaded with the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun and his officers to release the three innocent citizens (Ugo Emordi, Emeka Onwuadiamu and Ilobah Obata) from detention and drop the charges against them as the petitioners are desperately trying to cover up their oppressive tendencies at Ogwashi-Uku by intimidating the innocent.
However, when AtlanticNewsOnline spoke with Chief Gabriel Ohai on Sunday morning on phone for his own side of the story, he took time to react to the various issues raised, stressing that those who conspired and attacked him in 2021, destroying his houses, vehicles, raping his wife, killing his uncle and other things are the same people trying to prevent him from getting justice.
According to him, the struggle was still on because those who allegedly offended him by destroying his properties in 2021 instead of making peace with him refused to do so since then even though he had carefully presented himself to every police station that invited him over the matter including Force Headquarters, Abuja. He explained that after investigation by the Force Headquarters, he was not found guilty and allowed to go home.
Subsequently in recent time, he decided to open up case against those whom he alleged participated in destroying his properties and gave support to the youths who took part in the destruction. He alleged that those whose names were listed in courts at Ogwashi-Uku and Asaba with charges against them, ran away since 2021. He remarked that his case with Ugo Emordi, Emeka Onwuadiamu and Iloba Obata currently in detention was quite different with the killing of Chukwunwike Alawo at Aboh Ogwashi in 2022 and would not want to associate himself over the Aboh Ogwashi killing since whatever he knew about the incident was a story he was told.
He told AtlanticnewsOnline that Emordi, Onwuadiamu and Obata were arrested by the police based on the petition written by those who felt that the trio connived with some Ibusa people to attack the Ogwashi-Uku vigilante team at Aboh Ogwashi during which Chukwunwike Alawo died. They were reportedly conniving with some Ibusa indigenes to sell people’s land to companies and real estate developers. That when he got to know that Obata whom he alleged had been elusive from the police over his involvement in the destruction of his properties in 2021, was arrested and detained at Alagbon Lagos, he approached the Court in Asaba to seek the transfer of Obata to Delta Police Command where he is currently being detained to face charges in court.
On the issue of Stephen Ubaka’s death, he said both the deceased and his father were on police wanted list of those who took part in destroying his properties in 2021. According to him, many of the wanted persons in the list were being apprehended by the vigilante who in turn handed them over to the police and not to the palace as alleged. He added that all those arrested in connection with the destruction of his properties are being held in police custody and not in the palace. Ohai subsequently dismissed as untrue the assertion that Stephen Ubaka was tortured at the palace by vigilante people. “Nobody tortured him, it was a cooked up story” he emphasized.
According to him, Stephen Ubaka was a Tuberculosis patient who had complications with the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) over the years before he went for treatment at the General Hospital, Ogwashi-Uku. He referred AtlanticNewsOnline to Ogwashi-Uku General Hospital where Ubaka was admitted before his death to ascertain from the doctors the circumstance of his death. He alleged that Ubaka consented to doing the video recording to divert the cause of his imminent death when the doctors at General Hospital wanted to refer him to the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba with the understanding that he was not going to survive the sickness.
Chief Ohai insisted that if the police or vigilante had met Ubaka alive at the hospital, he would have been arrested and taken to detention to face charges for destroying his property like others. He remarked that “nobody can intimidate me for arresting those who destroyed my property when I did not destroy anyone’s property. So no matter what they tell journalists or anybody, I do not care. I will stand by the truth and would fight to the end to get justice.”
When similarly contacted on the various allegations, Barr. Jude Obidi politely told AtlanticNewsOnline that as a practicing lawyer with about 17 years experience at the Bar and being a former Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA) Ogwashi – Uku Branch, it would be unethical for him to speak to the media on a matter currently under police investigation. “I would not like to comment on any of the issues being investigated in other not to truncate investigation,” he added.