Last Saturday, Nigerians across the country were poised to perform their civic responsibility once more in a general election. On the eve of the said day, the passion and zeal of people to exercise their franchise was very much palpable as Nigerians looked forward to the February 16th Presidential and National Assembly elections in the next few hours.
There was no inkling that the election would take a new date, at least not at the wee hours of the D-Day. Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, and persons who speak for the electoral umpire had previously and copiously assured Nigerians and even the international community that the commission was ready for its major assignment and that there was no reason why it would be postponed. In a video interview, Professor Yakubu had said: “I can’t foresee any possibility of postponement. We’ve started this a long time ago. We’ve gone ahead with our preparations. There’s absolutely no possibility of postponement. INEC is not even contemplating the postponement of the 2019 general elections.”
This, Nigerians believed. Many had planned their lives around February 16th and March 2nd being election days with implication that movement would be restricted, commercial activities grounded and social engagements impossible. However, in a dramatic twist, the INEC chairman, at about 2am on February 16th, announced that proceeding with the election as scheduled was no longer feasible “following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan and the determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections”. He went on to reschedule the Presidential and National Assembly elections to Saturday, February 23rd while the Governorship and House of Assembly elections were moved from March 2nd to March 9th.
The new development was received with complete surprise, disappointment and has not stopped drawing reactions from various stakeholders. The most devastated among Nigerians were those who had earlier scheduled their social engagements for Saturday, February 23rd, the new date for Nigerians to elect the President and National Assembly members. The consequence of the postponement on planned events, above all else, is the shattering of laid-out plans by the celebrants. Based on plans made since the last few weeks and months, Opeyemi Fashina and Oluwaseyi Onakoya were supposed to tie the proverbial knot today. The would-be couple had picked this day since November 2018 as the day they’ll become man and wife but the news that the rescheduled election was to be held on the day set aside as their big day came as a rude shock.
The duo would have to court for a longer period. Distraught and disappointed, the husband-to-be, Oluwaseyi, lamented: “It has not been pleasant for us over the past few days. I’ve been trying to console my (wife-to-be) because there’s nothing we can do about it. The date for the election has been fixed since last year and about a week to the scheduled date, the INEC chairman said everything was ready. He assured all of us that there wouldn’t be any form of postponement. What happened on the very day of election that led to the postponement? He has some questions to answer.” According to him, his thwarted wedding ceremony resulting from the postponed election has caused him an embarrassment and unplanned financial burden. He wondered who would help him defray the additional cost he would have to incur.
“This unfortunate incident has embarrassed me even though everybody now knows that the election was postponed. It has also put more stress on me apart from the financial burden. It has put more stress on me because I have to look for a way to get across to all those I had informed before. You know I don’t have control over how far the invitation has travelled. It’s not possible to get everybody back because some of those people I have invited have also invited other people.
“A friend of mine was planning to come from the United States but I had to tell him to suspend his trip. He was to arrive this week and he had made arrangements for his flight but he now has to postpone his flight. All of that is a whole lot of stress.” For his fiancée, Opeyemi, it’s a double edge of embarrassment and disappointment. She told Saturday Telegraph that the decorator is requesting extra charge while her make-up artist has said she won’t be available at a later date due to other engagements. Miss Fashina also expressed concern that the number of expected guests would deplete as the rescheduled ceremony may not come with the expected grandeur. “What do I tell my friends? What do I tell the people I’ve given money to for decoration, the caterer and so many other people? This is very painful.
We’ll have to print invitation cards again and start the planning almost afresh. My aunt who travelled down from America had to go back and she won’t be attending at a rescheduled date. Even my friends and my sister have returned to school. “The person doing the decoration is saying I’ll have to pay an extra cost. My make-up artist has also said she won’t be able to do my make-up again because she would be engaged for a very long time,” she said. Speaking on picking a new date for the ceremony, Opeyemi said: “We’re still trying to pick a new date but the challenge is having to pick a date that would be comfortable for all the vendors and the guests as well.” In Benin, the Edo State capital, there is a similar case as James Imonlega was to be wedded to Veronica today but he has been forced to go into marital union a day earlier than planned.
When the news broke, it left him demoralised. Like Ope and Seyi, James had picked February 23rd since last year rescheduling his wedding just one week to the event and leaving a lot to chance was more than a risk he could take. “I was so devastated when I heard about the postponement of the election. There were so many things on my mind and I couldn’t just think straight. People were also calling me to ask whether I heard about the postponement.
I was short of words. I was thinking of what my options were. It was a situation I never expected. I asked myself if it means the government couldn’t consider that people are going to have social engagements in the coming week?” As a way of informing his guests of the new date, Imonlega told one of our correspondents that he had to send bulk SMS to his contacts.
“I was left with no choice than to readjust the date. I had to move it to an earlier date which is Friday, February 22nd. One can’t be too sure of what the aftermath of the election would bring that’s why I chose not to reschedule the wedding for a later date,” he submitted while lamenting the amount of money he’s put into the printing of invitation cards which that have been made to serve no purpose.
“There were invitation cards I printed which I shared to people and they cost me a substantial amount of money to produce. Now, the cards are invalid. I had to start sending bulk SMS to my contacts to announce the new date and that also cost me some money,” he said further. The effect of INEC’s postponement did not just place a burden on the hosts of the social engagement.
Event planners also have a share of the burden as they try to ensure that the event doesn’t fail even as it is rescheduled. The Creative Director of Mo Sphere Events, Miss Monica Ogunsanya, who spoke to Saturday Telegraph, disclosed that she had also planned a wedding ceremony for a client which was scheduled to hold today.
She revealed that the wedding ceremony had to be postponed to Sunday, February 24th. “First, we had to speak to the families of the couple and have them agree before we then get back to our vendors (photographers, caterers, DJs, MCs). Some vendors may tell you that they have events on the day you’re moving your event to and these are vendors that must have been paid. It’s one week to the event so you’re supposed to have made all your payments ahead of the event.
So, if the vendors tell you that they are booked, it leaves you in a state of confusion. Luckily for us, the vendors weren’t busy on the new date we picked. The event has been shifted to Sunday, the day after the election, hoping that there won’t be crisis,” she explained. According to Ogunsanya, the major factor one must consider before shifting an event is the venue, which she described as the very essence of any event. “By shifting the date, one must consider the event venue to be sure another event is not holding there on the day you’re picking because it means you would have to forfeit your money with them and go look for another venue that would work with the day you’re picking. Nobody is going to refund you because the election day has been shifted to clash with your event.
They won’t want to do that,” she added. The case of Jennifer …, a young woman whose wedding could no longer hold due to INEC’s decision to postpone the election at the 11th hour. In a chat with Saturday Telegraph, she said: “The whole thing started like a joke and before you know it, it had us scrambling to see what to make of the situation. What do I do now? Since they shifted the election to February 23rd, we had to shift the wedding from 23rd, which was the initial date, to March 2nd.
I cannot even begin to describe how much it destabilised our plan, everything we had planned for and we had to go and meet people, send messages and all that. Many of the people we could tell verbally, we started reaching out to them, it has not been easy but since we are not INEC and we don’t have any power over them, we just have to see how we can manage the circumstances. It is so bad that it is as if we need to contact them before you are able to make your own plans however personal such plans are.” According to her, they remain apprehensive even if they have had to adopt the date earlier scheduled for the election of governorship and House of Assembly candidates. “As it is, even this one (new date), we are still not sure it is going to hold. Who can tell if there would be any other postponement?” She asked.
Dwelling on how her fiancé took it, she said he was distraught for hours like herself but their coming together, along with close family members and friends helped them deal with the hugely depressing disappointment as they started putting plans in place towards readjusting almost everything. “When my husband-to-be heard it, he was of course also devastated but he took it the way he saw it. There are many things we have had to spend extra money for.
Like the wedding planner, I had to beg and take care of certain things to still be able to get her to deal with the new March 2nd date. Same thing with the baker and these are plans that you can make towards the non-perishable items. For things that are already bought and that are perishable, no other way apart from having to buy them all over again because they would have become useless by then,” she submitted. For them, however, some quick thinking walked in their favour to help deal with venue, without which one couldn’t think of an event. “Regarding the wedding venue, we were lucky that we called first. There are two of us billed to hold weddings at the same venue on February 23rd but with the change in plans, it means we are left to struggle with another couple set to use the place on March 2nd.
Luckily, we made the call first even if we have to add some money to what we paid earlier and I can only imagine how the other party will handle it. It is even good that the people are very reasonable in that they didn’t say whatever we had paid for the original date was gone and we had to make an entirely new booking for the new date.” In all however, Jennifer is keeping her faith intact, saying again and again that she believes there is a hand of providence in it all. “I believe it’s all for good though.
I have a friend for instance whose situation is even worse because they have to come down from Abuja to hold the wedding in Lagos. I just pray they don’t postpone it again, because it won’t be funny if they do due to the fact that people won’t be as understanding as they have been so far,” she said with a measure of gratitude. Vivian Achimug, another young woman who was looking forward to becoming a wife to her fiancée of the past few years, sounded hurt even while keeping a brave face. “I felt really joyous about getting married. Every woman at some point in life wants to settle down with the man of their dreams.
The thought of the upcoming wedding itself got me excited,” she said while recalling the last few months of feverish preparations. All that, however, were tempered by the decision of INEC to postpone the election last week. “I was called about 4am that day by my sister to inform me of the new development. I was shocked and disappointed because before going to bed the previous night, election postponement would have been the last thing I would think could disrupt my big day.
But then it turned out that way. So, honestly it was really saddening and upsetting. I still haven’t completely gotten over it actually,” she told Saturday Telegraph. Asked which new date they have chosen for their big day, it is a case of being once bitten, twice shy for Vivian and her husbandto- be. “Yes. We rescheduled to March 23rd”, she calmly responded. Evident in her voice are the twin feelings of calmness and hope that by then, the issue of election, which has become the dominant topic across the country and platforms, would have been done and dusted.
My wife’s killers won’t know peace –Funke’s husband, Idowu Olakunrin
Babatope Okeowo Akure The husband of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of Pa Reuben Fasoranti, the leader of the Pan Yoruba Socio-political group Afenifere, Idowu has rain curses on the killers of his wife and those responsible for kidnapping, banditry and violent crimes in the country.
Idowu who spoke with Saturday Telegraph said those who prevented his 58 years wife from living long enough to bury her nonagenarian father, Pa Reuben Fasoranti will never know peace until they leave the earth. The bereaved husband said the dream of his wife was to give her father befitting burial whenever he joins his compatriots who had gone before him.
His words “Her major unfulfilled dream is her inability to bury her dad. That’s had always been her prayer. All the time that we were together she was praying that God should give her long life to bury her father, it’s a dream unfulfilled.
“My wife was a survivor, she survived a big accident, she survived cancer, and she beat diabetes. Why I said she beat diabetes, there was a time her blood count was between 400 and 500. I am happy for her because she was able to see her grandchildren, she just came back from the United States of America to celebrate the first birthday of her granddaughter and I am happy that she saw and held her grandchildren.
Her unfilled dream was to see Nigeria of her dream but can we see the Nigeria of our dream in our time? That is the question that concerns all Nigerian.” Idowu said there was nothing to live for as his companion, wife, sister, friend, and mother has left him. He, however, said those who were responsible or complicit about the insecurity in the country would not know peace.
He said “It is shocking and it shows poor security situation in our country. For people to suddenly jump out of the bush to the road and start attacking people, it shows Nigeria is heading towards disaster. I am not going to say that Nigeria is going to break down. But the people in charge must take responsibility for the security of the people.
“I must say the lukewarm attitude of President Muhhadu Buhari is encouraging these herdsmen. There are stories here and there that if they are arrested, there is always an instruction from the above that they should be released.
“Unless the President must come out to say he is not in support of these killer herdsmen in any form and allow the security agencies to perform their duties and give them the maximum support that they need, this situation will continue.
“They have killed my wife now, it is painful, I don’t care if they come after me, but the truth must be told that President Muhhadu Buhari by his action and inaction is encouraging these killings, banditry. If Nigeria breaks up today, as far I am concerned, he should be held responsible. When you prefer an ethnic group above other, we have history, history will judge you.
“If you say you are above the law and nobody can judge you, you are a Muslim and you believe in karma, you believe in Allah, I leave you in their court, they will judge you accordingly. They know me, you know my address, you can direct your men to come and kill me.
They have done what they could. They can’t do worse anymore. “This woman has a 93-year-old father; they want to see him suffer. Those who are responsible for this suffering will never know peace. They will forever suffer. Those who know something about it will never know peace. If President Buhari is responsible by his action or inaction and he is encouraging these Fulani herdsmen to kill, he will never know peace.
You pray to God every day, you go to the mosque every Friday, you rule a country only for people to be slaughtered like a chicken, you keeping quiet and not doing anything about that, well, I don’t care, you will never know peace.”
Describing his wife in a glowing words, Idowu said “I had a very good and beautiful wife, she was a neatness freak, kind generous, lov ing, caring, selfless but my happiness is that she left a very good legacy behind because she touched so many lives, irrespective of your religion, Christians, Muslims, Easterners, Northerners, in short, she was Nigerian personified, she would never discriminate, very hardworking woman who was very loyal to her bosses.
“She abhorred corruption; she would never touch anything dirty, she was mindful of her background. The Olakunri is well known in Nigeria, so also the Fasoranti, so it was as if she was carrying two burdens and she tried as much as possible to make sure that the names of the two families were never tarnished.
“I don’t know how to cook, I don’t know how to boil water, I don’t know how to buy things, she did everything for me, she was my mother, my sister, she was my confidant, but what can I say, they took her away, but those who did it, those who are complicit through their action or inaction will neve r know peace.
Since the incident happened, that has been my prayer, that those who participated or those who their action or inaction and are complicit will never and never know peace.” The father of the deceased, the 93-year old Afenifere leader said he would miss the warmth of his daughter.
Fasoranti said “ I will miss her warmth, her openness. She was friendly with everybody and she was a goal-getter. She was good at her job. She was very good. She was not interested in public affairs but she was very keen there should be peace.”
The daughter of the deceased, Feyisike described the late Olufunke Olakunri as a caring mother, selfless and upright in her dealings.
Feyisike who sobbed intermittently as she spoke about her mother said “my mum was selfless, she likes to be in everybody’s business, she was everybody’s hero, and my children’s superhero, everybody loved her, she was hardworking and a great woman, she didn’t deserve to go like this at all, not even this young.” According to her, the late mother wanted to do something with the government to make a change.
She said her mother was coming to Lagos to prepare for her daughter one year birthday when she met her untimely death.
Feyisike said “My daughter was supposed to turn one soon, she was coming to Lagos to help me plan the birthday. I will miss everything about her. What’s there not to crazy, she was obsessed with him, my mum was a good woman and I hope her memory doesn’t die, she touched a lot of people, I am proud of her even in death, I am proud of her and will always proud of her.”
Suspect: We were told my brother’s skull would be vomiting money
Mr. Samuel Olaniyi (65), who was arrested for exhuming and beheading his late brother, has told the police that he did it after a native doctor convinced him and his friends that the skull would vomit money, making them rich beyond imagination.
Olaniyi and his cronies were arrested by operatives of the Inspector- General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Lagos State arm, for attempting to use his late brother’s skull for money ritual.
Olaniyi was arrested along with Uchenna Olewunna and Sunday Mathew after they exhumed late Idowu Jimoh’s corpse at Ato area of Ogun State. Olaniyi, a palm wine tapper, alleged that it was his friend, Mathew, desperate to be rich that got him involved in the money ritual scheme. According to Olaniyi, Mathew, a logger, first approached Olewunna, a native doctor, who treats people, but has no idea of how to carry out money making ritual rites.
Olewunna linked Mathew to another of his colleagues in Sango area of Ogun State, called Baba Cele. The man asked for a human skull in order to complete the ritual. Baba Cele insisted that the skull must be that of someone close to one of the wealth seekers. Olaniyi: “It was my friend Mathew that got me involved in this mess.
When we met Baba Cele, he told us that we needed a human head. The head must be that of a person we were familiar with. That was the reason we opened the grave and took the skull. I was hoping to become very rich.
Baba Cele told us that money would be coming out of the skull regularly. He also said that he would take a share of the money, while we keep the rest. Matthew promised that when he succeeds, I would take a large chunk of the money. I took Mathew and Olewunna to my late brother’s grave, exhumed his corpse and removed its head. Mathew (52), who is a farmer and a logger, married with three children, said: “This is the first time I would be getting involved in human parts business.
I have a native doctor friend, Uchenna Olewunna, who I used to patronize. I even used to refer sick people to him for treatment. There was a time I told him that I had no job and wanted him to help in preparing a money making ritual for me, he asked me to get a human head, that he knew a native doctor would help in making me rich.”
He further said: “When I got home, I told my friend Samuel. He asked me if I had confirmed from the person that would perform the charm, I said no. We went to Uchenna and he took us to the main native doctor. The native doctor confirmed that he could do it and had been doing such for long.
The native doctor even told us that there was a time someone was arrested by police for being in possession of human parts, that he went to the police and retrieved the parts.
Some days later after we got this confirmation, Samuel called to inform me that he has found a place where we could get a head. I informed Uchenna and three of us went to the gravesite on a motorcycle.”
Mathew said that on the fateful day they went to the gravesite to exhume the corpse of Idowu, he acted as the lookout, while Uchenna dug open the grave and Samuel held the torch.
Mathew recounted: “After we took the skull, we gave it to Samuel, who is a security guard to keep in an uncompleted building. We went to inform the native doctor, who asked us to go and bring N48, 000. We got N16, 000, which we gave to Uchenna. He promised to add N10, 000 to make the amount N26, 000.
Uchenna informed us that the native doctor asked us to come with the skull and a charcoal. On our way, we were arrested by the police.”
Olewunna (49) said: “I’m a native doctor and also a farmer. I prepare herbs for sick people. It was Mathew that brought the idea of money ritual. I told him that I didn’t know how to do it. I told him that I have a friend, Baba Cele, who once told me to look for anyone who wanted to perform money ritual. I called Baba Cele and told him about Mathew. He said that I should bring the people involved.”
Ndukwe Osogho-Ajala: The child labourer-turned-billionaire
A review of Soulmate & Ndukwe Osogho-Ajala: The Uncommon Story of a Nigerian Entrepreneur by U.K. Eke MFR
Soulmate & Ndukwe Osogho-Ajala: The Uncommon Story of a Nigerian Entrepreneur, is a biography, published by Kraft Books Limited, Ibadan Oyo State, Nigeria in 2018. It has 332 pages. It is the masterly work of Onyekwere Okpara and Ezechi Onyerionwu, with contribution from Uwadiogbu Soni-Ajala.
By way of credentials, Onyekwere Okpara is a media expert, scholar, biographer, teacher and education administrator. Today, he is the Acting Rector, Abia State Polytechnic Aba.
Ezechi Onyerionwu is a literary scholar, teacher and writer. Uwadiogbu Soni-Ajala, PhD is a legal practitioner, public policy consultant and literary analyst. He is Ndukwe’s immediate younger brother.
The book attempts to demonstrate the power of character, the essence of integrity, the end-product of purposeful leadership and most importantly, the irreducible centrality of God in fulfilling destiny. On the last point, it nullifies the relevance of god-father, except one comes prepared, with determination, honesty, hardwork, diligence and focus.
There is a lot of story-telling, which the authors deliberately employed to hypnotise the reader, drawing full attention to the challenges which adversity, lack, deprivation and denial can pose to advancement and self actualisation. Yet, we are reminded that every person is accountable for God-given talents.
So, the book is easy to read.
Chapter One introduces the subject’s father, Osogho, a product of the home of an avid traditionalist, Ajala, with 7 wives, yet accommodating of Christian tendencies. Osogho’s quest for education was truncated by the withdrawal of the sole teacher in Apanu Item. He was admitted into the sacrament of baptism and confirmed by The Methodist Church. Dropping “Phillip”, his baptismal name was beyond exuberance as the authors volunteer.
Item is presented as a fertile land. The odyssey of the people is profoundly recounted. The elusive search for “akom”, a special pre-historic stone used in manufacturing knives, hoes, spears and other defensive weapons, the dependence on their deities and yet hiring of mercenaries to ward of attacks, a show of a peace-loving people, unlike their warlike Abiriba and Ohafia neighbors.
Osogho, the apprentice at the shop and steward at the home of his master, Nmaju Igara, reaped nothing after his service years due to collapse of Nmaju’s business. At 18, he took charge of his destiny, starting a business at Akpoha. His staying power and courage are recounted succinctly with 2 profound events—drowning a hippopotamus that attempted to capsize their boat and the rare feat of paddling a canoe across the Calabar ocean to Mamfe Cameroon, earning the title “Oji akpara aga anyim,” meaning one who traverses the ocean with a mere paddle. The relative success and comfort he enjoyed was shattered however, when his boat-load of merchandise, largely tobacco, was confiscated by Customs, rendering him bankrupt.
Relocating to Jos at the invitation of his maternal uncle, Emma Chukwu, opened another vista, first as a bus conductor, to deploy the wooden wedge, not the fare collector, and then ultimately starting business, with coconut and cigarettes as stock in-trade. Marriage at 28 in 1953 to the resourceful maiden, Ogbonne Eleke Oteh Adana, was a feather on his hat. Here, we are introduced to the products of the union, 3 boys and 3 girls, Ndukwe being the 4th child.
The defining essence of Chief Osogho Ajala is accentuated in the depiction of Ndukwe, who is discussed in chapter 2. This is best summarised in the words of the authors and I quote “…an in-built strength, confidence and belief in one’s ability, an incredible never-say-die attitude, uncommon bravery, courage and resilience, inch-perfect accountability and integrity and above all, an unshakeable belief in the Almighty “.
Born in Jos on the 16th day of March 1964, his earliest memories of life are woven around parental love, kindness and care, coupled with absolute devotion to siblings and family, without compromising discipline.
Ndukwe recounts the dark period of our history when the pogrom, a deliberate, organised and systematic massacre of his Ibo stock in 1966, forced the family to flee Jos in over filled trains, 16 years after his father settled in a place he considered home. The author recounts events across the country at the time, from the pogrom, crisis in the western region, jailing of late Obafemi Awolowo, the population census conundrum, Tiv uprisings and the first military coup d’etat which effectively ended the first republic and set the stage for the counter coup.
The horrific and traumatic experiences of the family, leading to escape to Aba are told by Pa Osogho-Ajala of blessed memory, the wife, Ogbonne and Dr. Soni Ajala in the most graphic ways, ending with an affirmation that Pa Osogho-Ajala abdicated his Jos residence without a pin, meaning that life was starting completely afresh at 40 years.
Surviving the fratricidal war and the dreaded kwashiorkor was divine, a product of Pa Osogho-Ajala’s ingenuity and provisions that were supplied by Ajala, Ndy’s eldest brother who was with the Biafran para military force. The hallmark of the losses and anguish, as chapter two ends, is the burning of the family house at Item and total loss of the property therein.
In Chapter Three, aptly titled “Surviving After the Survival” the devastation that attended the 3 years Biafran war is revealed so poignantly, even as Ndukwe’s family settled to a new normal in Aba.
Soni introduces us to the mercantilist and entrepreneurial tendencies of Ndy, as both Soni and Ndy hawked used clothes at the army barracks, always returning with bare metal hangers as proof of their prowess, to the excitement of their dispatching parents. Talk of Ndy, the hawker at 6 years.
The authors evoke emotions, recounting the ordeals of returning Biafrans, with tales of abandoned property, forfeiture of bank deposits in exchange for £20 and displacement from their work places.
Ndy’s first post-war claim to civilisation comes with his unplanned acceptance into primary 2 class on account of space constraints in primary 1. Yet, limited resources meant that his parents could not afford to pay his school fees whereupon he was turned over to an uncle who converted him to a veritable money making asset. In Ndy’s words, “when I hear of child labour today, I remember my childhood experience”. Yet, he was thoroughly deprived of food at the early stages of life. Again, hear Ndy “I was fed simply to remain alive and labour, to make money”.
Poetically, perhaps lovingly, Ndy submits that he would not have become who he is today without the unsolicited training in anguish he was subjected to and therefore holds no grudges against any body on account of his experience.
Arguably, the most astonishing account of this chapter should be Ndy’s near-miss of his common entrance examination due to over-load of domestic work, arriving late to the centre in extreme hunger, having been denied a meal and the helping hand extended by Ola Imaga, a classmate who volunteered 3 pence that fetched him “mgbadume” (a local bread, baked hard on purpose in order to immediately satisfy hunger). His success at the exam elicited hate by his uncle and his posting letter was confiscated and sold. By divine intervention, his father got to know. His instant reward was outright dismissal by his uncle and return to his parents, with ignominy. Clearly, these hardship and experiences laid the foundation for his later years’ philanthropy and indomitable character.
The contradictions of our nation-state are laid bare in Chapter Four, particularly in the context of overflowing earnings from oil and the absence of a deliberate policy on educating the children of the eastern region, post the civil war. As it affects the subject of this book, the Ajalas were yet to recover from the socio-economic lacerations of the war when Ndy gained admission into Wilcox Memorial Comprehensive Secondary School, Aba. At the minimum, the authors contend, a free education scheme for the South Eeast should have been embedded in the reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation policy of that era. For Ndy and his siblings,“the largess of the boom came and went unnoticed”.
The unbelievable sacrifice of Ogbonne, their matriarch, for her children’s progress comes full cycle here as we read of the sale of one of her only 3 wrappers, to enrol Ndy into secondary school, leaving her with just 2 wrappers, one for church services and special occasions and the other for the market and home. Gratefully, additional support came from a relative, Ndukwe Okorie, who pledged to pay his tuition fee.
Notwithstanding, the basics, including shoes and sandals were still lacking, creating restricted association and social interactions, ultimately influencing his character today as an introvert. In his words “I didn’t really have many friends as there was no time to play and hang out with them and secondly, my poverty was so significant, no good clothes, books, choice provisions to share”.
The good, excitement and plenty that the world offers were what Wilcox presented, saving him from becoming a total social misfit. Here he mingled, socialised and carried out tasks with others, including participating at march-past competitions where the school always emerged the clear winner. Ndy confirms to us here that his discipline and efficient time management could only have come from the regimented and regulated activities the school implemented with exemplary fecundity.
On page 70 of the book, Ndy regales in excitement of the healthy academic competition his core friends provided, ensuring that he always aspired to get better. He is generous enough to mention yours truly, Urum Kalu Eke, as one of such friends.
In Chapter Five, the authors narrate the inflexion point, the rekindling of hope of university education sponsorship offered by Chief Ogbonnaya Maduka, a wealthy businessman to whom Ndy was offered as apprentice. The excellent WASSCE result was sufficient to trigger a promise of university education instead of learning the clearing and forwarding business.
The young Ndy picked up casual labourer jobs at Lever Brothers, Nigeria Breweries and finally settled at Dubic Breweries as a laboratory assistant, waiting to write the JAMB examinations.
Excitedly, the family now had Ndy available to support Ajala, the elder brother, to cater for family needs. Life was “good” at Dubic but not even the tempting offer of accelerated promotion and training in Germany will sway him from university education.
The authors take the reader on an intellectual excursion, citing with deliberate alacrity, the works of Rick Pitino, David Niven, Jim Davidson, Stephen Covey and Joel Osteel, to expound the power of dreaming, visioning and sense of purpose. Ndy’s life is said to be centred around always daring to be different, outstanding, unique, peculiar and attempting something never attempted and subscribing to constructive rarity while refusing to be a crowd-pleaser, a people’s man, a spell-binding orator or a charmer.
Nothing more could move the reader to tears than Ndy’s account of how he stopped his father from borrowing to pay his university tuition fee, preferring instead to write the Item Community Development Union for a loan which was ultimately declined, leaving him with no choice than to secure part time jobs at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, library, working at the cafeteria to pack and wash fellow students’ plates, supporting that with carrying loads for travellers at the motor parks. These incomes were augmented by Soni Uwadiogbu’s remittances, who even as a secondary school student, set up a barbing salon to support Ndy and the family.
As the saying goes, “God has a good sense of humour” and He rewarded Ndy with awards as Best Graduating student in his department in addition to winning the FUTO Scholar award in 1986, 2 awards from Nigeria Breweries and Federal Government, then crowning it all with the Vice Chancellor’s commendation and Presidential handshake from Gen. IB Babangida, the Military President and Head of State at the time.
At FUTO, Ndy’s talents and personae were honed and chiselled and in the words of the authors, “the seeds of success as a scientist that had been sown earlier in his life blossomed”, even as he pays tribute to his alma mater.
Chapter Six positions Ndy as a pan-Nigerian. His posting to old Oyo State was for him, an opportunity to build the young students of the secondary school he was posted to, who though eager to learn sciences, found no teachers. This was a reminder of Unachukwu, the youth corper at Wilcox Aba, that assisted Ndy. Beyond this call to help, Ndy recalled the denials and losses occasioned by the civil war, with a contrarian leaning that while other policies may theorise national integration and harmony, the NYSC practices it.
The decision to settle in Lagos instead of Aba post NYSC will prove the turning point of his life. For the first time, he decided to soak less emotional distraction from the family, specifically, to gather momentum that would launch him into the orbit for self actualisation.
Lagos, the less-forgiving city, is painted wholly in Chapter Seven and lives up to its reputation, by offering no job opportunity to FUTO’s best graduating student of Industrial Chemistry, causing Ndy to step down his resume, resorting to his school certificate result, still to no avail. To maintain his sanity and his body, he secured a job as a casual staff in Guiness breweries but augmented the pay check with money earned as a block and cement carrying labourer in a construction company. The authors posit that Ndy was “a helpless victim of the Nigerian socio political process, purposeless leadership and blatantly reckless management of its huge material resources.”
There is a generous chronology of regimes, civilian and military, leading to the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme by the IBB regime, the devaluation of the Naira and the de-industrialisation concomitantly, a natural progenitor of unemployment right at the time Ndy was prospecting for jobs. N400 per month at Chemiron was God sent, providing Ndy with an opportunity to sharpen his marketing skills, a move that will ultimately lead him to accepting a job at Emily Millionaire, a cosmetic manufacturing company, paying N500/month instead of at Nigerian Hoestch that offered N12,000 per month. Stupid? Well, maybe not. When one is driven by a sense of purpose, instant gratification gets relegated.
We are introduced to Soulmate in chapter 8, providing context to Ndy’s rampaging entrepreneurial acumen. Disappointment from prospective sponsors and investors, post presentation of his business proposals or feasibility studies did not deter Ndy. Not even a vigilante group that detained him through the thick of the night after a forgettable and failed fund-raising trip to Aba will stop the dreamer. The inspiring and motivating acts of his role-model lecturers, particularly Dr. Unuigboje, Prof Amagh Nduka and John Idiodi were sufficient reminders that “doing humiliating things” were stepping stones to greatness as they firmly established the nexus between theory and practice in entrepreneurship. Ndy also pays respect to Oga Dom, who chaperoned him to buying a Peugeot 404 pickup van, fit for personal and business purposes. Here, he also acknowledges numerous helpers that believed his dream. It is a long list: His father who blessed his foray into private business after Ndy’s letter was read to him 4 times, Uwadiogbu Soni Osogho-Ajala, PhD, Chief Israel Ajala Osogho, Okechukwu Mba who also squatted him, the landlady, Mrs. Adedeji, of blessed memory and her son Adebayo who helped in chores, Samuel Ebiwano, Jude Eze, Emeka Nwachukwu, Imo O. Imo and a host of others.
Chapter Nine reveals the inner workings and philosophy of Ndy’s mind, running through apprenticeship, innovation and the imperatives of deep foundations which shape success. We see an elucidation of the core principles of small beginnings, anchored on well set up processes and efficient organisational structure which ultimately morphs into multinational conglomerates. This model has catapulted Soulmate from humble beginning to a behemoth of global acclaim.
The undeniable shame that failure brings is projected as fickle, compared with the success and recognition that follows, for those that acknowledge their mistakes, endure the power of belief and dare to act. This, the authors argue, is the indispensable principle of the successful entrepreneur and Ndy’s feat at Emily Millionaire aptly confirms this. But if Ndy was seen by others as the talisman at Emily Millionaire, it was for him, the launching pad to revolutionising the hair care products industry in the country and the globe at large, following the examples of the greats before him in the industry like Annie Turnbo Malone, Madam C.J. Walker, Sarah Spencer and Madame Nobia Franklin, not forgetting Milo & Tito Carter and Dr Shawn Bullard. But Ndy remains unique in more ways than one. As the authors remind us in this chapter, Ndy possesses the distinctive advantage of being a scientific entrepreneur with no boundaries for innovation, originality and authenticity. In modesty, again we are told that Ndy shares this rare distinction with the legendary Dr Ronald M. Di Silva, Dr Alan J. Bauman, Dr. Tiffani Bailey Lash and Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy.
His place in history is considered cemented through an absolute commitment to quality, details of which are provided in chapter 10, which highlights his trademark laboratory ethics, rigorous research, testing and commercial quantity production competences. For Ndy, a long gestation period before product launch is justified and can only accentuate acceptability and consumer protection. The fact of his direct involvement and supervision of all production processes are attested to by numerous employees.
With pontifical exactitude, the authors state that Ndy is always ready to sacrifice drastic growth and mind blowing turnover on the altar of reputation for quality products which translates to sustainable and enduring growth.
In Chapter Eleven, the character of Ndy is put on the front burner. He challenges the dogma that integrity in business is inconsequential and as the authors note, for Ndy, there is no other way to successful life and business outside the sacred turf of integrity and prudent management of resources, regardless of societal, peer and business pressure, although this has earned him the toga of a perfectionist. He is called out as a stickler for detail and time management. In fact, he is given the rating of the younger version of Nigeria’s Mr. Integrity, Gamaliel Onosode of blessed memory.
His insatiable pursuit of truth and transparency manifests in full disclosure of the constitution of Soulmate’s products and ultimately informs his refusal to brand Soulmate products “Made in USA” which was and remains the general inclination, in the face of competition and unbridled preference for foreign products. This reputation of integrity and trust transcends the domestic scene as Ndy affirms with gusto and pride, the unparalleled access the company has, to lines of credit from suppliers, stretching from Germany, France, India and the USA. For effect, he has never had his cheque returned. As he always says, “my word is my bond”.
We read the raison d’etre for Ndy’s obsession with biographies in Chapter Twelve. The transformational leadership tendencies that characterise his relationship with his workers, tending more towards influencing and inspiring them to be committed to the pursuit of excellence with a shared understanding that they are a family and partners in progress. With confirmatory and affirmative testimonies by numerous workers, his character and obstacle-free information dissemination structures are presented as the critical ingredients he has deployed to consolidate influence over his workers. This is what distinguishes him from the transactional leader.
To foster information symmetry and opportunity to co-create a lasting and best-in-class institution, The Soulmate “Meet the MD Forum” has been institutionalised as an open communication field, ensuring no-holds barred conversation between the MD, the rank and file.
Boldly, there is a resounding adoption by the entire team, of the globe as the target market for Soulmate’s products, anchored on the “raising the bar” mantra which Ndy continues to preach.
Interestingly, this doctrine has also been applied in the reward and compensation practices of the company to ensure attraction and retention of the best talents in the industry.
In this chapter, the reader notes the award of the Officer of the Order of the Niger to Ndy by an appreciative country in 2005 in recognition of his positive contributions to nation building.
In an era of globalisation, dominated by multinational companies, what does the future hold? This question is the focus of Chapter Thirteen. The answer is not obvious from original vision statement of the company, to wit: “our vision is to be dedicated to researching and developing high quality and effective products that contribute to restoring and maintaining the hair’s health and beauty”.
Driven by the popularity and wide acceptance of its products across major African countries, Soulmate has its eyes set on the global stage, with Africa as the centre piece. Ndy does not prevaricate about this aspiration and there is a groundswell of opinion among the management team that this is attainable. According to Ndy, this is not wishful thinking as they are already in execution mode
“Today, Soulmate’s African presence has continued to increase with firmly established operational bases in South Africa, Guinea, Botswana, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Gabon, Cameroon, Liberia, Tanzania, Kenya, etc”.
It is also envisaged that the various departments will metamorphose into autonomous and stand-alone businesses with independent boards and profit and Balance sheet targets.
Away from Soulmate, we see Ndy as a consummate business man with interest in multiple sectors, ranging from Information communication technology, to internet services, CCTV, travel agency, bureau de change, banking, stockbroking, banking, trading and real estate among others, each with different success or failure stories.
Perhaps, key to successful entrepreneurship is negotiation and Ndy in this chapter, provides a lesson to us all as we deal, at personal or corporate levels. For him, “the best outcome from the negotiation table should be “win-win”. He continues, “my philosophy about negotiation is …” we must shake hands”.
The most philosophical underpinning of Ndy’s entrepreneurial spirit is philanthropy and this is the subject matter of chapter 14. There is a clear statement of understanding of his role in the wealth flow process, that of a “mere custodian, a conduit, through which the good things of life can be delivered, are to be delivered, to his society”. For Ndukwe, “if wealth is not ploughed back into society through well-organised, effective and consistent philanthropy, then the aim of attaining the status of the wealthy would be serially defeated.”. He brings a spiritual dimension to the discourse when he asserts that “God could withdraw all He has given if He decides the purpose for the giving has not been realised and shudders at that possibility, praying God should continue to give him the grace and internal strength to consolidate on his giving – back mandate”.
Ndukwe tries as much as possible to create a curious distance between him and those outlining markers and signposts of superior welfare— heavenly mansions, sleek luxurious automobiles, private jets, yachts, ocean view homes,audacious jewellery, and what have you.”.
So what then is the conclusion of the matter? Ndukwe denies himself the good things of life so that he can have enough to give out.
This chapter is replete with details of his philanthropy and generosity, through the instrumentality of the Ndukwe Osogho-Ajala Foundation and Soulmate Foundation and I truly will encourage us to spend time reading this chapter.
Beyond the national honour of OON, the chieftaincy title of Omekaozuo Oha (he who does good for all) of Item, Knight of John Wesley (KJW) by the Methodist Church and more are profound attestation by an appreciative world.
Saving the best for the last, the authors unpack the home front in the final Chapter Fifteen. Ijeoma, the wife speaks of her husband as a thoroughly motivated man. He admires his kids, Kelechi, Ezinne, Onyinyechi and Chinaesom for their luck and is grateful to the Almighty for deeming him worthy of children of such exceptional talents.
What do I make of this work? This is an epic account, akin to the proverbial rags to riches story, written in flowing English which makes it difficult to put down once you begin to read it. Despite the pressure of my work, I completed it in less than 10 days. It is a must read and I strongly recommended everyone to grab a copy and read it, to understand life.
The book is gripping, intriguing, engaging and beautifully written, devoid of grammatical and syntax errors. The authors demonstrated scholastic rigour through well researched analysis and sequencing. As proof, they referenced over 70 publications by motivational speakers, renowned authors and pastors. They also referenced the bible at several junctions, to suggest a spiritual or divine alignment to Ndy’s odyssey.
There is therefore, I have to say, no better way to motivate the youth, particularly of Africa, who daily, evaluate difficult options, including crossing the deadly desert or seas in an attempt at escaping the reductionist policies of the state. The book reminds us that life is always about the choices we make daily and that the circumstance of birth is not sufficient. For as Cassius, a Roman nobleman told his friend, Brutus, in Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, “the fault dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves, that we are the underlings”. In simple english my dear friends, we can only be limited by our character. To a very large degree therefore, I must say that the purpose of the book was achieved by the authors.
Mr. U.K. Eke, MFR is the Group Managing Director, FBN Holdings Plc.
ABA COMMUNITY SCHOOLS’ LAND CRISIS Maintain status quo or be consumed by what you don’t know –Village head
Religion and education are two of humankind’s most ancient endeavours. They have long had a close relationship right from the colonial days in Africa with both playing big roles in nurturing and inculcating learning and character into humans.
Emmanuel Ifeanyi reports the complaints from the Eziukwu Community, in Aba South LGA, of Abia State, on how a popular church allegedly encroached on schools built on their ancestral land without permission.
Stories of the good old days usually tell of how early missionaries founded schools which in turn helped their religious teachings as many persons became literates thus making the reading and understanding of Bible easier.
But the events of nowadays are surprisingly turning the hands of time negatively as churches are now being alleged encroaching on schools, seeking to expand the worship places at the detriment of the academic centres as being alleged at City Primary School and the Township Nursery and Primary School, Aba. The two schools as gathered were established in the 1940s, which prompted the christening of the road where they are located as “School Road.”
The two schools located opposite the Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA), at 1, School Road, Aba, had the largest piece of their land recently allegedly encroached upon by the SDA, which quickly erected a fence within, cutting the school premises into two with the aim of taking over one side.
The original owners of the land where both schools occupy, the Eziukwu Community, while reacting to the incident, called on the SDA to stop the ongoing encroachment, stressing that it had no right to do so. Sources within the communities told Saturday Telegraph that the church on one fateful Sunday morning allegedly broke into the school premises and started erecting a fence in-between the school buildings They said the SDA in its action, took over a larger portion of land where a football field, staff quarters and agricultural farms are located.
One of the sources said it took the efforts of the community leaders and youths to prevent the church from fulfilling its mission, which according to the source, the church tactically did on Sunday, knowing full well that the management of the two schools would not be on ground to challenge it. Speaking to Saturday Telegraph on the matter, the village head, Eziukwu-Aba Community, High Chief Chidi Nkire, said that his people gave out lands to the schools and the church in two separate parts of the road, which makes it unacceptable for one to encroach on the other. “That school land belongs to Eziukwu- Aba. Even that land where the church is standing today belongs to Eziukwu-Aba as well.
“That place where the church stands today was given to it so many years ago and likewise, the schools were also given theirs from the other side of the road. “That road that divides both the church and the school has been there before the church and the school were built.
“There was never a time the land given to the SDA crossed the road to the other side given to the schools. Similarly, the school land didn’t cross the road to church as well. “The tarred road separated their lands and none of them have right to encroach on each other’s except if it’s this current day politicians that are trying to put things where they necessarily do not belong. “Any iota of encroachment by SDA on the school premises is unacceptable and improper.
“The land was given to the school by our community leaders in the 40s and any group of people who came up today to take that land and hand it over to the SDA is planning to close that road. “They should remember why it was called School Road.
That name was because of those schools and it has been there before the war, very close to the Eziukwu Market, which came later after the war.” On what should be done, High Chief Nkire said: “I want them to leave things the way they are. They shouldn’t tamper with what was done there because it may not go down well.
“I’m telling SDA to stick to its boundary and the schools to also remain within theirs. Nobody should encroach. “All the pastors, Bishops, headmasters,teachers in the church and schools, none of them was there when those lands were given out. They contributed nothing. “Everybody should go home and relax and let things be. Our children are there.
They should leave what we did the way it is to avoid getting consumed by what they know nothing about,” he warned. Mr. Ebenezer Nwaogu, a member of the neighbouring Obuda community, which is also very close to Eziukwu alleged that the “smoke behind the fire” is the Abia State government, stressing that no church would dare encroach on a land without government backup “The problem in Abia is that we don’t say the truth until it’s too late.
When the church encroached on the schools’ land, I told my people that the state government is aware of it and that’s the truth until they prove otherwise. “They claimed they’re building model schools, but are now busy giving out the lands of schools that trained most of them to a church without making any formal announcement on that.
“I must not fail to tell you that there are many churches in this country, but few Christians. I said so because a good Christian should have known that taking that huge portion of land will eventually kill the two schools. If the church wants to expand, why not buy those small buildings behind it and get more space? “There are about three or four old buildings such a rich church can buy to expand, but they rather seek for cheap alternative, which is using their connection with those in power to grab the land of a school that’s been yearning for attention over the years. “I don’t understand why someone will believe that depriving those chil-dren of their playground, staff quarters and agricultural farm and giving it to a church will gladden God.
“Will God accept such a gift or will he frown at it? I’m not God, but you need to go to that school and see the neglect, and the only thing government can do for them is to give out the largest part of the schools to a church. “I always tell people about the folly of religion. Whenever a religious organisation benefits from something that’s wrong, you see them keep mute. “Just imagine government taking over church land and giving it out for the establishment of a school? They’ll tag the school a centre for Anti-christ.
“They’ll organise crusades, prayers and all kinds of spiritual warfare between whoever did it and God as though they have power to tell God who to kill. “We must realise that those who built the primary and secondary schools left those spaces for future development. Why are we now allowing government to be giving school lands out for a church, market and even private residence? Some residents who spoke to our correspondent also alleged that the SDA did what it did on that land because they believe it owns the current administration in Abia State. One of the residents of School Road, Chigozie Iwuoha, said he was not happy with what the church did because it was meaningless to shrink an academic centre just to expand a religious centre.
“You know that since inception of the incumbent government, a lot of things have been going the way of the SDA Church. The state governor as I learnt is a member of the church although not worshipping at that School Road branch.
“The Abia State environmental sanitation exercise, which usually comes up on first and last Saturday of every month had the commencement time shifted from 7am to 9am just to allow the SDA members to move freely and be in their churches while the clean-up exercise will be at 11am. “It used to start by 7am and end by 9am, but now it’s 9am till 11am, which was just shifted for them. Now, see what they want again.
“My anger is that they even have their own school on their own premises called: ‘Adventists Model School’, but want to take over the land of a public school that doesn’t belong to them. “And the state government cannot do anything.
Probably, it is even the state that gave them the land. “That school is the primary school I attended and there was never a time I heard that the SDA had business with that land.” Another resident, Mrs. Geraldine Uzoma, lamented the ongoing trend of taking away school premises for other uses.
“See, the problem is now between church and markets. Abia State government is just a huge joke. I don’t know what the people we call leaders are doing. “Go to School Road Primary School, which is just a stone’s throw from Town-ship and City Primary School you’ll see how they’ve divided the land into three.
“They gave away the portion from Ochefu Street and Weeks Road to some mechanics who are now using it as their workshop. I think it’s one of the largest vehicle mechanic centres in Aba now. “They also took the portion from Eziukwu Road, which used to be the Agricultural farm, and turned it into huge market, which is an extension of the Eziukwu Market, thereby shrinking the school in between the mechanic centre and the market.
“Maybe the church borrowed a leaf from what happened at School Road Primary School and decided to move forcefully into schools’ land. “I also heard that the state government wants to give out some schools to churches, but the SDA already has its own school inside and even if the church want to take over the schools, it shouldn’t be done without due process or in such a suspicious manner of erecting a fence overnight.
“That attitude looks suspicious and unreligious and should be condemned. I don’t know what future we are building for our children when we are allowing churches and markets to take over schools’ lands.
“Nobody is thinking of expansion of schools, but only expansion of churches and markets. The future holds nothing if we continue that way.” When contacted, the first elder of the Seventh Day Adventists Church, School Road Branch, Elder Christian Nwaosu, said that the land was owned by the government. He directed our correspondent to ask the Ministry of Lands and Education for explanation on what is happening on the schools’ land. Nwaosu said that the community should also be consulted to inquire about the land while still denying that his church had a hand in annexing the schools’ land. “The complainants went the wrong way. They should have complained to the owners of the land. The land belongs to the government.
“They did not go to complain to the government that some people are encroaching on their land, they came to speak with the press. Do they mean well at all? “I have no other explanation. I cannot go to court to answer for a suit without a lawyer. Try and see if you can speak with the governor or his men to get explanation for the land. Call Aba Ukwu people, Obuda people and Eziukwu people. “If you go there now, you will not see our sand there.
Have you found out who tried to build a fence there and they said it is our church? Nobody takes another person’s land without the government supporting it,” Nwaosu said. A former Aba South Education Secretary, Mrs Ngozi Nwaogwugwu, who was in charge at the time, said she heard of the effort to take over the school compound by the church. She said that she inquired through the former Commissioner for Education, Prof. Ikechi Mgboji, who said the land had been given to the church by Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu although she did not receive a letter to that effect. When Saturday Telegraph tried to get official government reaction on whether the government handed the school over to the SDA or not, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Onyebuchi Ememanka, urged the complainants (the community) to activate official processes.
“No such report has been received by the government. I will advise the people making these allegations to take appropriate steps to bring their complaints to the relevant offices and departments of government. “We have a Ministry of Education and the Abia State Universal Primary Education Board.
These agencies are in charge of issues that have to do with primary schools in Abia State. Government is not run based on rumours. “If the report gets to the relevant offices, of course, the government will respond. The government of Abia State has before now, handed over schools to missions to manage.
“Government will still consider more applications once the correct procedures are activated. It is therefore strange to hear that a school was invaded and broken into simply because there are plans to hand it over to a church for management. “It becomes even more intriguing when the claim is that the church that seeks to take over the school is the alleged invader.
Let the complainants do the right thing and an appropriate response will come from the government.” Meanwhile, when our reporter visited the school, the fence erected by the church was still there as well as the wall pulled down to take in materials used in erecting the fence.
Cyclists’ robbery gang: We robbed victims by monitoring banks, ATM points
Operatives of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu’s Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT), have smashed a robbery gang, which specialised in using motorcycles to trail and rob bank customers in Lagos State. At the last count, the number of those in police custody are 10, while efforts are still on to catch others. Members of the gang claimed to have built houses from the proceeds of their crimes, and still another confessed to have given his father a befitting burial. Those currently in police custody are; Musibau Ogunbiyi, Rilwan Olarinwajo, Wahab Wasiu, Akeem Hassan, Idowu Taofiq, Sadiq Alada, Razaq Isah, Tunji Kundus, Tijani Koyim and Ibrahim Olagoke.
The downfall of the gang started after it robbed a businessman, who deals in motorcycle of N2million. The gang was alleged to have attacked the businessman in his shop at Abule-Egba area of the state, where they dispossessed him of the money.
It would be later discovered that the brain behind the attack on the businessman, was one of his regular customers. When the businessman’s shop was attacked, his phones and those of his staff were taken by the armed robbers. He petitioned the IGP, who directed IRT, headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Abba Kyari, to look into the matter.The police said: “Investigations showed that those behind the robbery were members of a large gang, operating on motorcycles.
The gang specialised in dispossessing bank customers of their money, moments after they had withdrawn it from banks or Automatic Machine Teller (ATM) points. It was also discovered that a member of the gang visits banks and monitor customers making huge withdrawals. He would then follow such customers.” The police further narrated: “The suspect, who has a waiting motorcycle, would trail the target and then alert his gang members. The gang members would normally wait nearby for signal.
They would dispossess the bank customer of his money at gun point. These suspects have been in this business for long and have robbed several bank customers in various parts of the state.” One of the gang members, Wahab Wasiu (28), whose job was to monitor bank customers as they leave the banking halls or ATM points, said that one Tunde lured him into armed robbery. He said that Tunde used to work with his motorcycle. Wasiu, a father of three, said that he was into Aluminium engineering.
He confessed to have joined robbery in 2017. He said: “There was a day Tunde invited me to follow him to do his business. He asked me to go to First Bank, located at Idimu and stand beside the ATM point, monitoring customers making huge withdrawals.
He said when I have a target, I should call our cyclist, Akeem Hassan, and then we should start trailing the person. “Sometimes, when I’m standing by the ATM point, monitoring customers coming out of the banks with nylon bags of money, I and my cyclist would trail the victim and rob him or her. So far, I have trailed over eight bank customers from different banks and robbed them.
I’ve built a house with the money I made from the robbery operations.” Another gang member, Musibau Ogunbiyi, alias Egwufe, said that he buried his father with his own proceeds. Ogunbiyi, who introduced himself as a mechanic, said that he used to work with Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) as a supervisor. He would later join the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). He said that he was arrested after fighting to take over a park at Alaba International Market area of Lagos. He spent a year in prison, and was later granted bail. Ogunbiyi, who said that he was a member of the Eiye Confraternity, added: “After I was released from prison, I started looking for a job, but couldn’t get any. I met Tunde at a popular hotel in my area. He told me that he had a gun, and was looking for connection to go for any robbery operation.
Three weeks after we met, Tunde called and said he had an operation and wanted me to join him. I met him at Egbeda and we went on a motorbike that was driven by one Semo. We went to Idimu and robbed a man, who was walking along the road; we took the sum of N250, 000 from him. Tunde had someone who used to give him information about targets. I got N70, 000 as my share, while Tunde left with the rest of the money.
“A month later, three of my friends called and told me that they had information that an Igbo trader that deals on motorcycles was making huge sales daily. They said that they wanted to lead a gang to rob him.
I told them that I had no gun for the operation but they persuaded me to use my contact to get a gun. “I called Tunde and told him about the operation; he brought his guns and we all went and robbed the man. We took N2milion from him.
I got N230, 000 as my share, Tunde got N240, 000 and we gave the remaining to the informants. I buried my father with my share of the money and bought some clothes with the remainder. Before I knew it, the police came and arrested me.”
Rilwan Olarinwajo (24) alias Star boy, said: “I’m a motorcycle operator; I became an armed robber through my friend Egwufe. My first operation was at Liasu Road in Idimu. I was the person riding the motorcycle, and there was a guy called, Enny, he was inside the bank. Enny was the person that monitored the man we robbed from the bank. I don’t know the amount of money collected from him, but I was given N30,000.”
How we lost loved ones to tanker explosion –Benue indigenes
It was on a Monday when the rains had stopped and people were set to start their daily routine activities of going the office work or to their farms. But for some residents of Ahumbe, a densely populated area in Gwer East local government area of Benue State, they will not forget in a hurry when many of their loved ones were trapped in a tanker explosion which killed many inhabitants including men, women and children.
The tanker, which was filled with petrol products, exploded about the same time a commercial bus fully loaded with people were returning from Cross River State where they attended a burial. All the passengers except the driver who was reported to have escaped, got burnt.
Scores of victims who sustained varying degrees of burns are receiving treatment in various hospitals across the state, while many others who were burnt beyond recognition have been given a mass burial in Ahumbe where the incident occurred. When Saturday Telegraph met with relations of the deceased victims, they revealed how they lost their beloved ones. Speaking, Dezungwen Shimave, a resident of Abenga communiy who lost his son, Pius, to the inferno said, his son, 24, finished from Government Secondary School Aliade and became a commercial motorcyclist while waiting for his result to continue with his education.
“He picked a passenger to drop at Jato Daura when he got trapped in the inferno. Before now, he had graduated from Government Secondary School Aliade as an SSS3 student he was aged 24 years.”
Also narrating the ordeal of his younger brother to journalists at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH), a relation of one of the deceased victims, Solomon Ka, Rev. Fr. Jacob Aku, resident priest of the St. Augustine’s Catholic Mission, Makurdi, said his nephew, a township bus driver was conveying passengers when his vehicle got trapped in the fuel explosion, leaving him with severe burns which led to his death. According to Rev. Father Aku: “My brother was earlier admitted at Bishop Murray hospital where we were told that his condition is very critical and we were referred to BSUTH. Even there, we were told by the doctors that he might not survive and would have to be transferred to University Teaching Hospital, Enugu.”
For Yongu Terfa David who was trapped together with his son, Tertese Yongo, the incident was like a nightmare. Yongu who managed to speak while in pains, said “We actually went to the scene of the disaster to scoop the product. After the first successful attempt, we still went again but were trapped this time around. I pray God gives me and my son quick healing.”
Also speaking, Mr. Godwin Ayenge told Saturday Telegraph that his younger brother, Paul Ayenge, an SS 2 student of Community Secondary School, Aliade, is currently in pains over severe burns he sustained in the fire disaster. Godwin Ayange who expressed appreciation to the state government over its resolve to foot the bills of survivors, and prayed for the speedy recovery of his younger brother to continue with his education. Joseph Toho, a staff of the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi who lost his nephew, Aondoyila Terkaa, to the conflagration said the deceased was returning to Makurdi from Shangev-Tiev in Konshisha local government area when he met his death.
Also speaking, a farmer in the area said: “I am Ihua Samuel married with four kids, a farmer and one of the victims of the tanker explosion in Ahumbe village. On that fateful day, we were in our village when we saw a tanker fall down and we ran there to rescue the people that were involved in the accident.
“Before we got there, we noticed that a bus was rushing to move past but as the driver was struggling to drive through, the exhaust of the bus brushed the fuel that spilled on the tarred road and the tanker exploded. As many of us that were there got burnt including the people that were involved in the accident. “And we were waiting for what would happen next, then men of the fire service arrived and they were trying to put out the fire. Immediately they brought out their equipment, the last part of the tanker just exploded. So, as the fire blew out everywhere, all of us that were there got burnt. Some of us are lucky to be alive while other victims did not survive.”
Woman paid us N50,000, showed us where to bury hubby after inviting us to beat him up –Suspect
I only asked that my husband be beaten, not killed
A man, who introduced himself as Nnaa Kingsley, has narrated how he was invited by a housewife, Mrs. Doughlas Ajemine (41), to teach her husband Inedugoba Tyger (40) a lesson over an alleged domestic violence, but ended up killing him at the Abalama area of Rivers State. ‘Why we had to kill Tyger’ Kingsley said: “In December 2018, I met Ajemine at Egbelu Odara Junction in Ogbogoro Town. I was with my friend, Sunny.
The woman told us that her husband was maltreating her and she was looking for Civil Society Organisation (CSO); I told her that I was no longer into such. She told me that her husband was taking all her properties and that he beats her every day.
“I told her that whenever her husband visited that she should call us or shout so that people in the community would come out to help. “Later on, she called, saying that she wanted us to beat the man. She told us that her husband used to come to her house in Ogbogoro to see her and that he also used to come to Abalama, which is her house, to beat and take all the money she has. In January 2019, she gave us N50, 000; she said that she would call us whenever the man was with her in Abalama, which was 45 minutes’ drive.
“Once she called that her husband was with her in Abalama; but we disappointed her. On January 26, 2019, she called in the afternoon, saying that the man was coming. She said we should come to beat him. We then took a cab from Chuba to Buguma, and took a motorcycle ride to Abalama. We waited for her call until 12am; she then called that her husband was sleeping, that we should come. When we got there, both of them were naked. They had just finished having sex.
“The room was dark; the woman flashed a touch for us. We saw the man in bed; Sunny wrapped the man’s face with a wrapper and a pillow. I started beating the man. He woke up and started struggling. He was shouting. The man removed what Sunny tied on his face.
Sunny and the man recognized each other. They started speaking their Kalabari language. I didn’t understand what they were saying or talking about. And then Sunny said we should kill the man since he had seen his face. I held him down, while Sunny strangled him. We called the woman, who was outside. We told her that her husband had died. She said that she didn’t ask us to kill him. She brought out a shovel and showed us a space to bury him. Woman had sex with her husband’s killer less than 24hours after his murder “The next day, which was Sunday, she called and gave us N30,000.
In the evening, she called again, that she wanted me to come and have sex with her. We met in a hotel and had sex for two straight hours. A week later, we met again in that same hotel in Egbelu Town. We also had sex for the third time. I stopped responding to her calls because she wanted to turn me to her new husband. Since the day I killed that man, I have not forgiven myself. I have gone to church to pray and asked God for forgiveness. Now that police have arrested me, I believe that God has truly forgiven me.”
How police unravelled murder of ‘missing husband’ Ajemine was trailed and arrested by operatives of the Inspector- General of Police (IGP) Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT), headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abba Kyari. The Unit ventured into the case after receiving directives from the IGP, Mohammed Adamu. Police launched investigation in February after Tyger appeared to have mysteriously disappeared off the face of the earth. The deceased disappeared after a political event within his community.
The police said: “Tyger, at the time of his death, had a misunderstanding with his wife, Ajemine. The tense situation in their matrimonial home led to his moving out. He relocated to Port Harcourt. The 2019 General Elections provided him an opportunity to reconcile with Ajemine. Rather than his wife accepting the reconciliation move, she made arrangements with two other persons to kill Tyger in their Abalama residence.
“It was while her husband was sleeping that the killers sneaked into the apartment and strangled him. They took his corpse to the back of the apartment and buried him. After he was buried, Ajemine took his car to a nearby market and left it there. She also sent messages to his brothers using Tyger’s phones; posing as Tyger, she typed that he would be travelling out the state on a business trip.” When Tyger’s brothers waited for days without hearing from him, they became uneasy.
They repeatedly tried calling his mobile phones, but they were always switched off. They alerted the police and IRT operatives were detailed to investigate the case.
The operatives thought it was another kidnapped case, but six months into the investigations, however, they unravelled the mystery behind Tyger’s disappearance. They discovered that he was murdered. After Ajemine was grabbed, she mentioned those she hired to kill Tyger. She also led police to the killer, Kingsley. The killer took police to where Tyger was buried and his remains were exhumed. Ajemine, after Tyger was dead, sold one of his phones and inserted her SIM into the second phone.
IRT operatives used the phone to nail her. It is also instructive to mention that before Tyger left to see Ajemine, he confided his whereabouts to his friend, Ibiye Dokubo, a politician. Dokubo’s knowledge that Tyger went to see Ajemine and the tracking of Tyger’s phone to Ajemine made her to become a person of interest. ‘I only asked that my husband be beaten, not killed’ While fielding questions from journalists, Ajemine explained that she met Tyger in 2014. They fell in love and got married the following year.
Tyger and Ajemine came into the marriage with two kids each from previous relationships. Ajemine, who works with the Rivers State Primary Health Care, in Asari Toru Local Government Area, revealed that Tyger was killed and buried in a shallow grave on January 25, 2019. She said: “Whenever my husband wants to have sex with me, he would beat and then rape me. He later abandoned me and moved into a new apartment in Port Harcourt with another woman.”
She said: “Before I accepted to marry him, he pleaded with me to become a mother to his two children. He said that the children were out of school because there was no woman taking care of them. I accepted and moved into his house. I started taking care of his children. I used to spend two weeks with the children and then I will move to my own house to be with my own children. When he proposed that I should move into his home, I accepted and moved in with my second son.
“My husband worked with Elf Oil and Gas. He had a court case with his company. At a point, he couldn’t pay his rent. By January 2016, he was sacked from his job. We relocated to our village in Buguma and his children were all staying in my house.”
She recollected that in April 2016, Tyger got some money from his former company and went to pay her bride price. They would later move to his family’s house. Ajemine said that it was there that Tyger became aggressive and abusive. She felt that it was because he no longer had a job. She said: “He shouted when there was no need and hit me when he shouldn’t. I advised him to look for a job. He went into oil bunkering, while still hunting for a job. We moved to Port Harcourt, while retaining a home at Abalama.
By December, 2017, he started beating me. He stopped me from coming to Port Harcourt to meet him.” Ajemine further explained: “Last April, my son and his daughter sat for JAMB. My son passed and his daughter failed. We agreed to buy a pre-degree form; but he stopped responding to our demands. I took his daughter to the Port Harcourt house to see him, there we discovered that a woman was living with him.” Angry, Ajemine packed all the woman’s clothes and took them to his family. Tyger came for the clothes and burnt those of Ajemine. She further alleged that whenever he came to their Abalama’s residence, he would pick one or two items, and then sell them. Whenever Ajemine protested, he would beat her severely, she said. She narrated: “I moved out of that house in Abalama to Port Harcourt after he got a charm to kill me. He didn’t know where I was staying. In January 2019, he called that he wanted to collect a metal ladder that was with me.
“Before then, I had met Kingsley at Egbelu area of Port Harcourt. Egbelu was the area I rented an apart ment. I told him that I was new in the area and that my husband would want to come there to harass me. “Kingsley promised to assist me. On the day Tyger came to collect the ladder, he wanted to have sex with me, but I refused. He tore my clothes; I ran out and called Kingsley. I was crying on the phone. He came with his friend and they started beating my husband. Tyger was crying; I couldn’t bear it. I went outside. When I came back, I asked for my husband, they told me that he was dead. They warned me not to tell anyone if I didn’t want my children and I to be killed.
“They took my husband to Sandfiled, close to our house and buried him, but I didn’t follow them to the exact spot. I then took his car to an abandoned market in Egbelu, where I parked it. I left the key inside the car. I then took my husband’s phones, and sent text messages to his family members. I made it look like Tyger was sending the messages to them. “I sold one of the phones for N15,000.
Kingsley, who killed Tyger, started calling me for money. I gave him a total sum of N150, 000. He also started having sex with me. In February 2019, my husband’s friend, Ibiye Dokubo, came on Facebook, accusing me of knowing what happened to my husband. There were other people also accusing me. I went on Facebook and countered what they said. I went to see a lawyer and wrote a petition against Ibiye Dokubo. I was still waiting for the police to invite Dokubo, when IRT operatives came to arrest me.”
Babalola makes case for repositioning legal education
Frontline legal colossus and Founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, (ABUAD), Aare Afe Babalola (SAN), has identified quality legal education as an essential element in producing legal professionals who can competently represent clients and contribute to the establishment of the Rule of Law as opposed to the Rule of Man.
The legal icon however observed that after five decades, it has become crystal clear that the quality of legal education in Nigeria needs to be improved upon in order to meet the ever dynamic international standards and to equip many law graduates with the requisite skills to be effective legal professionals in Nigeria.
To reverse the trend, Babalola who spoke at the 2019 Annual Conference of Nigerian Association of Law Teachers at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, on Monday, said that there is an urgent need for Nigeria’s educational policy makers to effect far-reaching rejig of the curricula of elementary and secondary schools as a first step to repositioning legal education for national development.
In his view, the amendment of the curricula should begin with inclusion of such subjects as Geography, History, Literature, Economics and Information Communication Technology (ICT). Babalola, who was represented by the acting Vice Chancellor of ABUAD, Prof. Smaranda Olarinde, reasoned that the reason for this was not far-fetched as the introduction and study of Geography would enable the would-be lawyers to know about the existence of man, both in the past and in the present while the study of History would enable them to know about the lives of important personalities, how they made it in life to the extent that many people adopt some of them as their role models even without meeting them.
His words: “When we look at the history of our great men today, most of them went to schools where the aforementioned subjects were taught. It was at the level that they were taught how to harbour a strong abhorrence for corruption and all other ills that are afflicting our society today.
They were taught the virtues of discipline, honesty, integrity and punctuality and all of that have become part of them since then.” As for Literature and ICT, he said: “On its part, Literature teaches us about great men and women in the literary world and how to weave words together while the place of ICT in the contemporary world cannot be wished away or over emphasized” He added: “To serve the needs of a 21st Century society, the justice system must be digital by default and design. Information technology is increasingly a key component of our lives…
The use of information technology has also become an increasingly significant factor in the delivery of legal education, legal services and in the adjudication of civil disputes. “All over the world, technology is starting to drive the administration of justice with virtual courts and Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) providing alternative methods of resolving legal issues. ODR is a process where legal disputes are resolved via web based systems and there are a number of different versions of this.”
After scaling the hurdle of reworking the curricula, Babalola called on the National Universities Commission (NUC), to make it mandatory for students who want to study Law to have a minimum of credit pass in English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, Geography, History, Economics and Computer Education because of the central roles these subjects will play in the practice of the would-be lawyers in future. According to him, “It is a wellknown fact that in the United States of America and Germany and many other countries of the world, the standard of law practice is very high unlike what obtains here. One of the factors responsible for the high standard is that a candidate must have a degree before he/she would be admitted to study Law. And that is why they have ensured over time that Law is studied as a second degree to ensure that those to be admitted into Law Colleges are really mature before coming to the Law College.”
He added: “On the contrary, in Nigeria, students who are admitted to study Law need only to pass School Certificate and JAMB Examinations. Time it was when students must pass GCE Advanced Level or Higher School Examination (HSE) before they were admitted to universities.
However, that the Federal Government in its wisdom summersaulted and lowered the admission standard to universities remains baffling and a mystery. “Nigeria should take a cue from what obtains in Germany and the United States where a student to be admitted to their Law Colleges must have earned a degree in some other disciplines or at least GCE Advanced Level as obtained in England and as it was before in Nigeria.”
On the place of the Law School in repositioning Legal Education for National Development, Babalola said the current trend whereby Law graduates go to the Nigerian Law School for their Bar Examination is commendable. But he added that government should go a step further by making the Central Law School an Examining Body only with power to screen quality and reputable universities for the training of lawyers for 18 months after their LL.B and conduct and moderate common examination preparatory for their final Call to Bar Examinations at the Law School.
With this proposed arrangement, Law graduates from Nigerian universities would proceed to reputable universities with upto- date facilities and faculty members of international repute for their post-LLB training and only go to the Law School to write their Call to Bar Examinations without having to be residential students in the Law School and only take the common Bar Examination.
This, in his view, will enable the Nigerian Law School to concentrate on supervision of the universities instead of proliferating Law Schools all over the country despite its lean pause. Besides, it must also be mandatory for Law students to go through clinical training during their undergraduate days in their respective universities as this will make their training more robust and all-encompassing.
Likewise, undergraduate Law Students must be attached to some selected reputable law firms during holidays like it is done in ABUAD to keep them busy, enable them acquire relevance experience and familiarize themselves with law processes.
On post-Call experience, Babalola said: “In our days, the norm was that green wigs must be attached to reputable and seasoned law firms before they could set up their own practices. But all of that would appear to have change. It is my belief that we must go back to that time-tested practice. Green wigs must be made to serve a period of a minimum of one year under reputable and experienced lawyers.
This will certainly enhance the standard of practice.” Babalola did not leave the practitioners out of the need to reposition legal education for national development, stressing that the starting point for practitioners is for them to appreciate the place and import of partnerships instead of running one-man law offices. Indeed, one-man law offices should be discouraged while law firms should be encouraged while lawyers should team up as law firms. In addition to the above, he counselled that lawyers should specialize in different areas of law such as Constitutional Law, Human Rights Law, Jurisprudence and International Law, Commercial Law, Litigation and Arbitration among many others.
In view of the different admission rules and guidelines for admission into Law degrees among the three bodies, he called on JAMB, the NUC and the Council for Legal Education and or government to take urgent steps to harmonise the different admission rules and guidelines in the interest of repositioning legal education for national development, particularly as the different cut-off marks for different universities would do more harm to the quality of education in the country.
To correct this malaise, he canvassed that the cut off points for admission into Nigeria universities should be the same, adding that “a situation whereby some universities admit candidates who scored 140 or less out of a total mark of 400 is ridiculous.” According to him, “In our days, a child who scored less than 50% would incur the wrath of his teachers and would be caned for his indolence.
But now, indolence is being encouraged by agreeing to admit people who scored as less as 30% in their qualifying examination.” Another way of repositioning legal education for national development is for all final year students of Nigerian universities, be they private or public, should be made to write the same final examination as it is being done by the Council for Legal Education for law graduates. It is through this method that Nigerians and indeed the whole world will appreciate the quality of our education. Under this condition, universities would be forced to raise the standard of students they admit as they will only admit candidates who are fit as university materials.
•Olofintila writes from Ado-Ekiti
One week after Rivers pipeline explosion: Residents still looking for relatives who went to scoop fuel
One week after scores lost their lives in the pipeline explosion that rocked Kom Kom Community in Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State, nobody has been able to state the exact number of victims. Not even the authorities can come out with a specific figure. At least 50 persons were reportedly killed that fateful Saturday morning, while attempting to fill their jerry cans with fuel gushing out from a leaking oil pipeline that supplies Abia and Enugu States. According to Kom Kom residents, the pipeline’s valve had developed fault a few days before the fire, but lack of prompt action by the maintenance engineers in charge contributed immensely to the fire.
The locals, including those who helped remove the corpses, equally said that more than 80 persons died in the incident, and that only a few persons managed to come out of the scene alive with various degrees of burns. Promise Chibuzo Nwankwo, a local politician, said the exact numbers of the dead were unknown “but I can confirm to you that scores of persons were recorded dead as a result of the explosion.” Another resident said that some bodies had decayed in the swamp due to the lack of a coordinated effort by the authorities to recover them.
“It was disturbing the way people thronged the swamp in search of fuel in a swamp where palm wine tappers claim they encounter deadly animals, including pythons while doing their job,” the resident said. Relatives of some of the victims lamented that they were yet to recover the bodies of their loved ones, who they knew had gone to scoop fuel on the day of the accident. A resident of Izuoma, Chidi, who condoled the victims’ families, described the disaster as an avoidable one had the management of PPMC engaged the community in the surveillance of the pipeline.
He said that it was wrong for the company’s management to engage only security operatives in surveillance duties. Chidi said:”There is nothing wrong if the PPMC and its partners, Shell, engage youths from Kom.Kom and Izuoma to watch over the pipelines. They know the area very well and stand a better chance to do a better job. The chiefs and elders also have a duty in this regard. “It is not as if this practice is new. It happens in most oil-bearing communities throughout the Niger Delta.” According to Kennedy Azodeh, an official in charge of maintenance operations, leaks from the pipeline had been spotted in the week before the explosion.
“Locals including vandals stormed the area in boats and canoes to scoop the product”, he said. Adding: “The company eventually cut off the supply and began maintenance work “accompanied by police officers and members of the Nigeria Security Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). People were asked to leave, but they refused’’. But another resident, who lives at the Izuoma end of the fire, but had gone to see the extent of the fire from Kom Kom angle, ruled out sabotage, noting that most of the victims saw a leaking pipeline and decided to scoop fuel.
He said: “What happened was not sabotage as being alleged, the pipeline was leaking, especially whenever they pump fuel into it for supply to the depots it feeds, the product will leak out so much quantity of fuel so people go there from time to time to eke out a little living, to the point that they built a barricade around the area to stop the leakage from escaping and surg-ing out.
“This time around, the leakage was so much that it overflew the barricade and ran off to the outer area, attracting more persons to try to scoop from the lower part of the swamp while most people, especially those who were used to the environment were taking from the main area.” Shortly after the accident, President Muhammadu Buhari condoled with people and government of Rivers, and ordered a thorough investigation. The president, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said he was extremely pained by the loss of lives as a result of the incident.
He, therefore, asked for ”a thorough investigation to determine what is responsible for the gas pipeline tragedy in Oyibo Local Government Area of Rivers in which several fatalities were reported”. The site of the accident is like a “no man’s land” between Kom Kom and Izuoma Communities.
But residents of the two communities felt the impact as their buildings vibrated when the explosion took place around 6 a.m.. Some hurriedly locked their doors, others wanted to flee, fearing an attack. Generally there was confusion as thick, huge smoke covered the area, with people in some areas struggling to see what was happening even though it was already dawn. The atmosphere was dark and the air was poisoned and most residents didn’t know what was happening.
This created fear among many, until news spread that a pipeline had exploded. Despite the length of the fire, not even a single building got burnt. The closest building to the site of the fire is more than 500 metres away from it. A nursing mother, who narrated her ordeal said: “We woke up that morning without any problems, all of a sudden, we discovered that the room we were began to vibrate seriously, the earth was shaking uncontrollably, I did not understand what was going on, I rushed to the door to look, par adventure I could be able to figure out what the reason was but I did not see anything,.
“I rushed back, picked up my baby that was sleeping on the bed with the wrapper I was tying, and began to run with my mother that came to take care of my baby and I, to only God knew where, because even the direction we were running to was equally vibrating. “But before I knew it I heard a loud bang and a huge fire erupted followed by billows of smoke, when I saw that, I concluded that it was a house on fire, then I heard people calling out to me to come back, that it was a pipeline that exploded, then we came back with my baby.”
Most of the victims reside within Kom Kom Community, especially in the areas divided by a railway line. But a source said that some of the victims came from neigh-bouring community, where he claimed that some organised oil bunkerers had entered through Izuoma with oil tankers to load fuel two days before the accident. He also claimed that some of the bunkerers had connived with some security operatives who patrol and watch over pipelines across the state. He said: “The leakage had been on since Thursday, two days before the fire. Some oil bunkerers had entered through Izuoma and loaded fuel with the connivance of some security operatives.
After loading, some of the tankers were also escorted out by security operatives. “It was after the big players had satisfied themselves and disappeared that news spread that there was free fuel. That was when youths from different places started trooping out.” Among those that lost their lives include three brothers who rushed to the site to scoop fuel after a friend of one of the brothers had showed them a 50 litre jerry can he scooped earlier. There were two brothers from another family, who lost their lives. Also killed was a palm wine tapper who was on top of a palm tree when the fire consumed him.
There is however, a survivor who fate smiled on. Having succeeded in taking home two jerrycans, according to a resident, the survivor in question wanted to return for more fuel when he started experiencing severe scratching all over his body. The scratching started in the swamp, but he had endured it all along, focussing more on how to carry the fuel home.
But as the scratching became unbearable for him, he then decided to have a shower first before returning to the swamp when he heard a loud explosion and saw a fire ball and smoke. A source who knows the survivor said that he had gone into hiding for fear of being arrested and questioned by the authorities for “stealing government’s fuel.” Another man, whose cousin was inside the swamp during the fire, was almost in tears at the railway line. He said he knew that his cousin was dead because the bodies of two victims he went there with had been recovered, and have since been buried. He said: “How can I enter this swamp and start looking for the body of my cousin? Where do I begin the search and where do I end it? What do I tell our people in the village.
“I was here when some boys brought out some bodies on Saturday morning, and I also came yesterday (Sunday), but I am yet to find the body of my cousin,” he said. Kom Kom, a Rivers border community near Abia State, boasts of a train station that serves passengers wanting to beat the perennial and dreaded traffic congestion along the Aba/Port Harcourt Expressway. It is the palm wine from the long stretch of swamps only demarcated by the railway line from Kom Kom and up to Imo River that sellers supply Port Harcourt and neighbouring Abia.
With scattered architecture, and the absence of planned road network, there is no road for an ambulance or any other vehicle on rescue mission to even access the railway line not to talk of getting close to the swamp. Most of the buildings were constructed in defiance of the stipulation by the Nigerian Railway Corporation, (NRC) that developers must build within some metres from the rail line. Days after the accident, there were no security operatives from the Kom Kom end to restrict the movement of persons, neither was there any restrictive tape to prevent movement into the area. Some of the victims were driven to their death by either despair or greed.
They knew the risk involved, but still decided to try their luck. The fire engulfed an area wide enough to contain about four standard soccer pitches that accommodated very tall palm trees that drew strength directly from the season-long water beneath them. A local said that only matured and courageous palm wine tappers dared enter the area. If the size is scary, it is chilling to realize the swampy nature of the area, and the deadly reptiles and animals that sought refuge inside. In the aftermath of the incident, residents fear that an epidemic might break out.
The swamp’s depth from the railway line entrance of the site is around an ankle length, and for dead bodies to remain in a stagnant water for long pose serious health hazard to residents, who have faulted the reluctance of the Federal Government to send down health workers or sanitation experts to coordinate the removal of dead bodies.
Mother of four: I moved into robbery from prostitution after my hubby left me
Forty-year-old Ugwoueke Euphemia has narrated how she became a prostitute and unwitting member of a robbery gang in order to save her four children from starvation. Euphemia explained that she, her husband and children were living in a village in Benue State, but had to relocate to Gboko after crisis broke out. When Euphemia was pregnant with their fourth child, her husband told her that he needed to relocate to Makurdi to get a better paying job. The man left for Makurdi, but ended up falling in love with another woman, abandoning Euphemia and their children. Euphemia said: “He stopped sending money.
I decided to trace him to Markurdi. When I got there, he chased me away; he warned me never to come looking for him again. Later that week, he sent money to us and that was the end. “My children and I had to survive, so I started dating men to raise money. It was in process I met Ezinne, who advised me that the only way out was to go into full prostitution. She said that as a mother of four, no man would want to date and spend money on me.
She said that it was better for me to ‘hustle’ since I have big breasts. I started going out with her, and with the money I made, I relocated my children to Enugu State. I have relations there, who assisted me to take care of the children while I ‘hustle’ at night. “In 2012, I met Emmanuel; he paid to spend a night with me. But in the morning, he was so happy with me that he begged me to be his permanent girlfriend. He promised to take care of my children and I. I accepted.
“He paid my rent and my children’s school fees. And just as he promised, he gave me more than enough money. One day, he told me that we were going to Owerri. We boarded a private cab and when we got to the hotel, he invited the driver to come inside and eat with us. He gave him Hollandia Yoghurt and roast meat. “We were still discussing when the driver suddenly fell into a deep sleep. Emmanuel asked me to go and wait for him outside. A minute later, he came out with the man’s car key. We entered the car and drove off. I was shocked and asked him what just happened.
It was then that he disclosed to me how he made his money. He told me that the name of the tablet was ‘Ativan.’ “Since I was benefitting from that business, I had no choice, but to con-tinue. My job then was to buy the food or drink and pour the sleeping tablet into it. Everything was moving well till 2013 when we travelled to Orlu. He bought roast meat and gave the driver, but he refused to eat. Emmanuel tried every other method, but the driver adamantly refused to eat. Emmanuel suddenly excused himself and disappeared.
After an hour, the driver asked me where he was, I couldn’t reach him on phone. At that point, the driver raised the alarm and people gathered. I told them that I was just a prostitute on duty, but they refused to believe me and pounced on me. I was seriously beaten and dragged to police station, from where I was charged to court. “I spent three years in prison before I was able to secure bail, thanks to one Mbachu. He goes to different prisons to help poor people get bail. I was released on September 21, 2017. “I returned to Nsukka and started managing my life. One day, my younger brother, Ejike, approached me and requested for that Ativan.
I knew the capability of the drug; I used to give it to my mum because of her constant headache. I warned Ejike that I didn’t want any problem. He assured me that his friend, Moses, was reliable and wouldn’t mention my name if arrested. I buy it N15,000 per carton.” Euphemia is alleged to be a member of a gang that specialised in lacing drinks and foods of car owners with sedative in order to dispossess them of their cars and other valuables. She and other gang members became guests of the police after operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT), smashed the gang. According to the police, the gang operates in different states, including Lagos and Ogun states axis.
The gang’s Waterloo began after it snatched a red coloured Toyota Corolla Saloon car marked GGG 720 FK from Clifford Echereode (34), living at 34Rd , E Close, Gowon Estate Egbeda Lagos State. It was gathered that on April 22, 2019, at about 10pm, Echereode was at Apple Junction, Festac, Lagos, in his Toyota Corolla Saloon car, which he uses for commercial transportation, waiting for any available passenger, when a man approached and requested that he should take him to International airport, Ikeja, to pick his brother. The man claimed that his brother was returning from Ghana about 11pm.
The man exchanged phone number with Echereode and cunningly lured him into a bar at Festac, where he bought roast meat for him. The unsuspecting driver ate the meat and soon fell asleep. The stranger disappeared with Echereode’s car, infinix Android phone and other valuables. Echereode took his complaint to the office of IRT, headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Abba Kyari. The operatives swung into action.
The operatives tracked and arrested Kingsley Nweze (34), believed to be the principal suspect in the gang. The suspect, upon interrogation, confessed to the crime and further admitted to have stolen other cars through the same modus operandi. Nweze explained that after stealing such cars, he moves them to the eastern parts of Nigeria to be sold.
The confessions of Nweze, led to the arrest of Moses Ugwu (47), Euphemia and their receiver, Onyebuchi Odoh (48). Ugwu explained that after his secondary school education, he applied as apprentice to learn spare parts trade. He learnt the trade for nine years, but towards the end of his nine years, his master started picking on him, accusing of every imagined crimes. One day, the man sent him packing, without giving him the mandatorily monetary settlement that comes with serving a master and learning a trade under him. Ugwu said: “While serving my master, I realised there was so much money to be made by selling ‘scraps.’ When I became jobless in 2013, I started picking, buying and selling scraps, especially iron. I buy from mechanics and spare parts dealers. I then sell to a company that buys scraps at a higher price. The company, which normally melts iron, is in Asaba, Delta State.
It was the proceeds that I used to rent a house in Nnewi and got married. I have five children and they are all in school.” He said that his troubles started after the company that buys scraps from him, which normally assists him with loans, stopped such gesture in 2017. The buying and selling of scraps became a drag and no longer profit yielding. He said: “My income dropped drastically, I was only making N7000 a day. It was not easy to survive with five children. I was praying and hoping for a breakthrough when a friend introduced me to Ejike. Ejike told me that he was a professional car snatcher and wanted me to work with him.
He said that if he gets useless cars, he would give me. I would dismantle and sell it as scraps. It was while we were doing that business, that he introduced me to his sister, Euphemia, who sells sleeping drug. “Ejike told me that the easiest way to snatch a car was by convincing the driver to eat food, which he wouldn’t know was laced with sedative. He said that immediately the driver falls asleep, we would leave with his car.” Ugwu said that his interest was piqued. He decided to buy the drug. He bought it from Euphemia at N150, 000 per pack. He bought five packs, which was about N750, 000. He deposited N450, 000, promising to pay the balance later. “I bought that much because I was ready to go into the car snatching business. I didn’t want to hear that it could no longer be found in a pharmacy,” said Ugwu. He added: “In Nnewi, private taxi drivers now use expensive cars, especially in hotels. You need to be generous to succeed. What I usually do is to hire a clean looking car and tell the driver to take me to any hotel of my choice.
I’ll tell the driver that I sleep in the hotel, and that I would be travelling to the village the following day. I’ll also tell him that I wouldn’t mind paying for him to lodge in the same hotel with me, so that he would be available to take me around during my stay. “The excited driver will accept. At that point, I’ll order drinks and roast meat for him. The person that brings the foods and drinks, is usually an agent. His job is to lace the food and drink with the sleeping drug. A few minutes after taking the food, the driver will fall asleep.
I’ll collect the car key and drive off. It’s very simple. The victim wakes up after an hour.” Ugwu confessed to have been the person that recruited Nweze. Ugwu and Nweze would later steal three cars, selling each for N800, 000. He said: “I’ve warned Kingsley several times to stop using phones of our victims, but he didn’t listen. It was because of his carelessness that police traced and arrested us. I was attending the burial ceremony of my sister when IRT men came there to arrest me.” Nweze, explained that after his OND, his father gave him money to start a grocery business, but his shop was later demolished by the state government.
He recalled: “Out of job, I relocated to Lagos where I secured a driving job with EcoBank in 2014. I worked there for two years as a contract worker. My salary was N35, 000 per month. In 2016, all drivers were sacked. In 2017, I got another Job with UBA. The salary was N50, 000. I was satisfied with the job till 2018, when Moses asked me to quit. He said that the bank was using me as a slave. He said there was a way we could make quick money. He started giving me fairly used cars to sell. After each sale, Moses would give me N50,000.” One weekend, Ugwu asked Nweze to find a clean looking car for him.
Nweze hired an UBER driver of a Toyota Corolla Saloon car. Nweze and the driver went to airport to wait for Ugwu. Nweze said: “When we picked Moses, he told the UBER driver that he had a business meeting in the next three hours and quickly needed to eat. Moses took us to a restaurant at Ajao Estate.
He told the driver that he was hiring for the whole day. He called me aside and showed me the tablet he was holding. He asked me to go and buy roast meat (Suya) across the road for the driver and sprinkle it with the drug. I was confused, but obeyed him. The driver happily ate the meat. “A few minutes later, he was already asleep. Moses took his car key and we left. It was while we were leaving that he told me that was his line of business. He gave me N50,000 and asked me to go home. Two days later, he paid N170, 000 into my account. That was my salary for three months. I was carried away and decided to work with him.
I joined him to do several operations in Lagos. I was also able to do one myself. He gave me the drug, insisting that I was then strong enough to handle my own operation. I did and after selling the car, Moses gave me N400, 000.” Euphemia explained that Ugwu came to Onitsha in Anambra State, where they planned on how to apply the substance on foods and drinks of car owners. She said: “I provided the Ativan drug used by the gang.” Odoh, described himself as a car dealer and has been selling cars for years. He explained that between January and April 2019, Ugwu brought three stolen cars, including a red coloured Toyota Corolla Saloon car, which he asked him to sell for him. Odoh sold the cars and shared the proceeds with Ugwu. He disclosed that after his arrest, he took IRT men to his buyers, where the two cars were recovered.
Features11 hours ago
Suspect: We were told my brother’s skull would be vomiting money
Politics11 hours ago
Baylesa guber: Intrigues as PDP ticket tears Dickson’s group apart
Show Biz11 hours ago
How Wizkid performed into 29th birthday after Braxton, Tiwa Savage
Arts & Entertainments11 hours ago
I wasn’t born with a silver spoon- DR. OLATOKUNBO AWOLOWO-DOSUNMU
News23 hours ago
Fulani herdsmen: S’west govs tackle Northern leaders over relocation order
Business21 hours ago
Report: CBN trying to force banks to lend, not buy bills
News11 hours ago
How we lost Colonel, Captain, three soldiers –Army
Features11 hours ago
My wife’s killers won’t know peace –Funke’s husband, Idowu Olakunrin