MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
The Ezionwelle community in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State is not enjoying the best of time, as a youth leader has alleged threat to his life and now seeks police protection.
The man; Ugochukwu Valentine Asikwo (42 years old) narrating his experience to journalists recently in Anambra State, claimed that some youths, unnamed prominent indigenes of the community and himself have been targets of ceaseless attacks, indiscriminate arrests and assassination attempts on trumped up charges allegedly by leaders of their community over land matters.
He pointed accusing fingers at some security agents, a land developer, and the civilian security outfit, Ebubeagu in the area. He gave a vivid narration of his escape from death last month stating that in early hours on a Tuesday in August, “I was sleeping in my parlour when I heard some sound outside. I looked through window and saw people jumping through the fence. They were all dressed in dark clothes and they wore masks on their faces. They were more than forty, fully armed with pump action rifles. They broke the iron doors.
“Four of them that entered through the gate were carrying AK47 rifles which showed that they were government officials. Their four Hilux vans and a shuttle bus were seen in front of my gate. Those who carried pump action are operatives of Ebubeagu. They surrounded the whole compound.
“They met one of my boys washing clothes early that morning outside. They were asking him, ‘where is the owner of this house. Where is the shrine located’? When he told them that he did not understand what they were saying, they started beating him.”
The armed men reportedIy forced their way into his apartment
after destroying the doors of all his tenants. “They dragged them out of their rooms and were matching them on their heads asking them ‘who is Ugochukwu.’ They went upstairs and broke the iron door leading to my younger brother’s room. He is a pastor. They dragged him out of his apartment to where they gathered all the tenants outside, downstairs.
“There was a young man I helped secure his release at Zone 13 police station in Ukpo. I met him inside the cell during one of the days I was dragged there on trumped up charges. So, he came to my house for the very first time to say thank you. He came late so, I asked him to sleep over till the next day. He was in my visitor’s room. They dragged him out and asked him who he was. He said he is a friend to me. They beat the living daylight out of the young man. They kept torturing him to reveal where I was, shouting that there is an allegation that we kill people here, and that we deal on hard drugs and gun running, and that we are terrorizing the Igwe and his people. That he should speak, that I am a killer. They asked him if he eats human flesh with me. The young man said he was not aware of these things stating that it was the first time of his coming to Eziowelle.”
According to Asikwo, while the armed men were ransacking his house, he hid out of their sight. “They were in my house till 7am from that 5am they came in.
“They collected my car key, which was on the television stand and my handsets, entered my private room, and took two of my power banks, and my necklace. They also took six phones belonging to youths whose parents seized and reported for being stubborn. They also collected the phone of my visitor. They took every cash they found in the house. The same thing was what they did in my younger brother’s apartment. They took about N30, 000 kept at his bedside. But when they realized who he was, they apologized and returned his money on the excuse that they took the money because they did not want someone else to take the money.”
He disclosed how the security agents threatened to kill his wife and children since they could not see him until “my brother protested that they were innocent.
“They used the butt of the gun to hit his head, threatened to kill him if he uttered another word. After they finished and left with that my visitor, I came out from hiding, went to where my car was parked and discovered they took it with them. The balance of the N1.5 million I withdrew the previous day was inside my car that they took. My ATM card, everything.”
Narrating his experience further, Asikwo said
“Two days later, my visitor that was abducted and taken away came back and narrated what happened to him. He said they took him to their cell and continued to torture him. He said they blindfolded him until they threw him inside a cell and removed the blind. So, he saw so many helpless innocent people inside the cell. He said they continued to torture him, they tied his hands backward, and he was in that position for four hours till his hands were numb from lack of circulation of blood. They were insisting that he must say where I was. He said he saw another prominent indigene of the town abducted same day, inside the cell. When they wanted to take them out of that place, they blindfolded their eyes again till they found themselves in Awka.”
Giving the genesis of his problem, the 42-year old man said “Last four years, people in the community came together and said they wanted an election to be conducted for the position of the chairmanship of youths. Our Igwe, Michael Okonkwo Etusi appointed one Emeka as the youth chairman without conducting election. Unfortunately, majority of people in our community rejected his appointee because they had no access to him.
“They began to suffer legal privileges. We rose in unison and denounced the oppression our youths were going through in the hands of the man appointed by our Igwe. We decided to hold a new election, accomplished all the necessities laid down by government which was acknowledged and I was elected the youth chairman with others. We took the names of the executive to Awka and they gave us an acknowledgment copy again.
“After that, we embarked on consolidation and extensive developmental projects which were warmly welcomed by the teeming masses in our community. We also resolved not to confront the other people appointed by the Igwe but to work harmoniously towards the development of our community. We built four well-furnished houses for widows who do not have children, paid school fees for indigent children from nursery to secondary levels and over a hundred of them were given scholarships.
“After that, we decided to take care of those who were sick and required urgent medical care. We began to take them to hospitals for both operations and everything. Those widows whose lands were snatched by the high and mighty, we went in there and began to retrieve their lands back to them. Based on these projects, the whole community embraced us.
“We deliberated and resolved all the cases that have been pending for years. That is where the war started.
In 2020, they wrote a petition against me to DSS in Ogidi. They invited me and I went there. I defended the petition, and their commander, after investigating the case, asked me to go that I have no case.
“Later, they petitioned us to Abuja and I went back home free. Later, they came through State CID, Awka, we went there to finish the case successfully. Then, they came again two weeks ago from Zone 13, Ukpo and it is the same action that they played. I have video evidence. The person they are fronting is Mr. Anthony Dibor from Awka who claims to be an estate developer. They invited him to come and covert the lands in our community and sell. One day, our women complained that they were being stopped from farming in their lands; we intervened only for them to petition police alleging that we attacked and brutalized them.
“We were invited by the police and exonerated also. Unfortunately, the petitioners are using a serving Assistant commissioner of Police at Zone 13, Ukpo whose records from the time he served at Port-Harcourt is questionable in collaboration with a former President General of our community.”
Sequel to this, he said
“they started arresting our youths and taking them to Zone 13. They said one of the suspects indicted me. They came from Zone 13 with operatives of Ebubeagu. More than 30 fully armed men invaded my house and were firing gunshots.”
“They carried me to Zone 13 and as we were approaching, they told operatives of Ebubeagu to go back while the policemen among them took me to Zone 13. Fortunately, when I was brought before the AIG, he was able to fault their claims and rebuked them seriously. He instructed the IPOs handling the issue to settle us and allow us to go and come back next two days. Unfortunately, they invaded my house with the same deadly team from Ebubeagu on Tuesday with the intention of killing me but God saved me.
“I am totally convinced that both the AIG and head of DSS do not know what their boys are using Ebubeagu team to do illegally. They are working in conjunction with one ACP at Zone 13, Ukpo. I call on them to investigate these cases and stop these unwarranted attempts on my life.”
Reacting to the allegations via a telephone interview with AtlanticNewsonline on Friday, the traditional ruler of Ezionwelle, His Royal Highness, Igwe Michael Okonkwo Etusi dismissed Valentine Ugochukwu Asikwo as “an impostor who was never elected the youth leader of my community.”
According to the Igwe, “I know the boy Asikwo who is parading himself as youth leader. I am not the one who appoints youth leader but officials of the Town Union through election. Asikwo was not elected but chose to gather some hooligans around him. You can find out from the President of my town’s union. The youth leadership is by election not appointment as Asikwo claimed. I do not have the power to appoint any youth leader.”
The traditional ruler disclosed that Asikwo and his gang members were being used to create unnecessary confusion by those who lost in the Town Union’s election and were bent on forming a parallel Union.
“To the best of my knowledge, Asikwo never contested any youth leadership election but virtually brought into the matter by some confusionists who want to form rival union.”
On the issue of police invasion of his house and brutality, Owelle Etusi noted that if anybody from the community had attacked him in collaboration with police or other security agencies, he should be bold to report the incident to the police and pursue same diligently instead of seeking redress through the media which in any case cannot give the protection he was looking for.
The estate developer whose name was also mentioned by Asikwo as the one conspiring to convert and sell the community similarly spoke with AtlanticNewsonline on the matter.
According to Mr. Anthony Dibor, “the so called youth leader Valentine Ugochukwu Asikwo is not known to be holding any such position in Ezionwelle community” even though he (Dibor) is a native of Awka in the same Anambra State.
He made bold to say so, given the fact that Asikwo never featured in any way when the Ezionwelle community invited him severally for discussion leading to his eventual engagement as estate developer for the community.
According to him, “I am a consultant estate surveyor and valuer duly registered in Nigeria. Some time ago, I did a layout job for Abagana Community with respect to erosion control on a parcel of land jointly shared with Ezionwelle community.
“On completion of the Abagana contract leaving just skeletal correction works, leaders of Ezionwelle had invited me to bid for their own job. They eventually hired me as estate developer after going through a rigorous pre-qualification process. Even a retired top official of government from Asikwo’s family was one of those who interviewed me during the pre-qualification screening. At no time was Asikwo part of the leadership that discussed and eventually gave me the job.
“It was therefore surprising that some boys from the community chose to attack me and my workers at a restaurant in the town’s market square while we were on our way to site. They came in an obscure name not in consonance with the town union nor have any bearing with state or local government.”
The surveyor narrated how the youths smashed his car, beat his engineer mercilessly, leaving him with body injuries. The matter was reported at Police Zone 13 in Anambra from where detectives came for the arrest of the attackers.
According to Dibor, it was in the process of interrogation both at the police station and in court that one of the suspects revealed how Asikwo contracted them to carry out the heinous act. It was the revelation that led to Asikwo’s arrest. More so, a voice broadcast wherein Asikwo threatened to kill him (Adibor) was another factor that led to his arrest.
Speaking in the same vein like Igwe Etusi and Surveyor Dibor, President of Ezionwelle town union and currently President General of Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU) Barr. Titus Akpudo told AtlanticNewsonline on Friday that “Ugochukwu Asikwo is not the youth leader of the community. Nobody elected or appointed him. He is one of those who like to cause disunity in the community. He and his gang formed a parallel government but I am personally not bothered about it because since he is not recognised by the government, every activity he is carrying out has become illegal.”
The ASATU Chieftain debunked the allegation that Ebubeagu operatives were brought along by the police to abduct Asikwo. The lawyer said that Ebubeagu outfit did not exist in Anambra State like Imo and Abia where they operate. ,”Only local community vigilante exists in Anambra State.”
He contended that if anybody had invaded Asikwo’s residence and brutalized him or his family by security agencies in concert with other outfits, as alleged, he (President) by virtue of his position in the community ought to be officially communicated. He has therefore dismissed Asikwo’s allegation as a ruse.
Efforts to speak with the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 13, to get his side of the story failed as repeated calls put to him were not picked.