Emeka Offor, one of Nigeria’s most controversial government contractors, has resumed the use of senior police officers to arrest and detain fellow townsmen from Oraifite in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State with whom he has disagreements.
During the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Mr. Offor acquired notoriety for incessantly using the police hierarchy to terrorize kinsmen who disagreed with him over personal and communal matters, charging them with criminal conduct. Victims included Bonny Okonkwo, a South Africa-based businessman who was taken from his home in Lagos on July 13, 2013, and driven to Abuja in the trunk of a Toyota Prado. Once in Nigeria’s capital, Mr. Okonkwo was kept in solitary confinement until freed on court orders on April 7, 2014, by Justice Peter Afere of Court 25, who awarded N5m costs against the police for violating the man’s human rights.
Signs that Mr. Offor has resumed employing policemen to settle personal scores even under President Muhammadu Buhari emerged last Thursday (April 27) when a team of policemen led by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of the Oraifite Police Division, Alexander Onwuka, intercepted a commando-style a vehicle in which a prominent businessman from the town was traveling and made a move to arrest him, apparently on Mr. Offor’s instruction.
The businessman, Nnanna Nsofor, founder of Jessy Shipping Company in Lagos, is a younger brother of Humphrey Nsofor, an engineer and former majority leader of the Anambra State House of Assembly, who has for years been having a running battle with Mr. Offor.
“Nnanna’s offense this time is not so much the fact that he is Humphrey’s brother as the fact that he has a disagreement with members of the Okoye family in Umuife quarters of Irefi, Oraifite,” according to a source who pleaded that his name be concealed for fear of attack. “The Okoyes are latter-day allies of Sir Emeka Offor.”
Our correspondent was informed that Brown, Chidi, Chimezie and Ogonna Okoye fell out with Nnanna Nsofor, a longstanding family friend and benefactor who last year paid for the medical treatment of Brown Okoye in India and Egypt. Our source said the Okoyes were upset that Nnanna Nsofor had decided to build a house for Chinelo Okoye, a widow of their uncle, Jeremiah. They were opposed to the philanthropic gesture because they had actually driven out the widow out of the family house, forcing her to eke out a living through selling akara. The Okoyes accused the widow of witchcraft practices.
As the bereaved woman was preparing to relocate with her five children to her parents’ home in neighboring Nnewi town, Mr. Nnanna Nsofor, who lives in a compound next to her late husband’s home, quickly built a three-bedroom house for the widow and her children. The action greatly incensed the Okoye brothers. “They were so angry that Nnanna built a house for the woman and her children,” stated John Okoye, a retired teacher in the area, “that they had Louis Nkata Akachukwu, the head of their lineage who commended Nsofor’s gesture, arrested by the Oraifite DPO who handed over the old man to the State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Nnewi where he was tortured.”
An Oraifite-born civil servant familiar with the details of the case told our correspondent that, once Mr. Offor heard of the dispute between Mr. Nsofor and the Okoye brothers, he linked the latter with the DPO in Oraifite with a view to punishing both Humphrey and Nnanna Nsofor. The Okoye family members were advised to write a petition alleging a threat to their lives by Nnanna Nsofor. They accepted the advice, thus discarding the peace agreement the older Nsofor brokered last March between the Okoyes and his younger brother, with the assistance of the traditional head of the Irefi community, Obi Sunday Enekweizu.
“It was sad that the DPO posted to Oraifite in 2015 came to arrest Nnanna [Nsofor] on Thursday in a Toyota Hilux van which the same Nnanna and two other persons purchased and donated to the police last year to enhance their operations,” said the former majority leader. He added that Mr. Onwuka did not know his younger brother, but relied on a sergeant in his team to identify him. When the businessman demanded the arrest warrant, the DPO could not produce any, and consequently directed the younger Nsofor, who was on his way to the funeral of Joseph Igboanugo, a businessman in Aba, Abia State, to come to the police station the next day.
Sensing danger, the clearing agent got his lawyer, Oseloka Osigwe, who is based in Nnewi, to write a petition on Friday, April 27 to the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in-charge of Zone 9 of the Nigeria Police Force, Hosea H. Karma. The lawyer’s petition alleged the members of the Okoye family of “threat to life, criminal defamation and conduct likely to cause a breach of the public peace.” According to the ex-lawmaker, “We opted to take the case to Zone 9 so that it could be handled more professionally.” He added, “Policemen in Oraifite have since the Jonathan presidency seen themselves as private agents of Emeka Offor”.
The AIG reportedly sent for the case file from the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Samuel Okaula, and the commissioner directed the DPO in Oraifite to bring the file to him. As the AIG was still studying the file, Mr. Offor arrived on Saturday, April 29, at the AIG’s office in Umuahia, Abia State, accompanied by the Okoyes. Our sources claimed that Mr. Offor’s intervention led to the case file being returned to the DPO.
On Sunday, the DPO arrived as early as 4 a.m. at Nnanna’s Jessy Hotel in Awka, the capital of Anambra State, in search of the businessman who did not sleep there. According to a hotel worker who was on duty when he arrived, Mr. Onwuka, a superintendent of police, came with 15 heavily armed security agents. The source also claimed that the DPO was also accompanied by Chimezie Okoye, described as a close friend of Olisagbo Ifedike (alias Ofeakwu), one of the most notorious kidnappers in the history of Anambra State who was caught by the police in his residence at Ifite-Oraifite in 2012, leading to the demolition of his two buildings by the State government under former Governor Peter Obi’s leadership. “It is shocking that while Ofeakwu has since died, the very person arrested with him, Chimezie Okoye, was released immediately through high-powered intervention on his behalf,” said a prominent member of the Oraifite community.
Though Mr. Nsofor is in an undisclosed location in Anambra State with his lawyer working on legal documents to ensure that his freedom is not abridged arbitrarily, the Okoyes, emboldened by Mr. Offor’s backing, have been claiming that the shipping executive is already in detention at the SARS state headquarters in Awkuzu, Oyi Local Government Area. The claim is causing panic in the town because 42 indigenes of Oraifite, including Christian Okwumuo, an Nnewi-based architect, and Nonso Adili, a 30-year-old motorcycle spare parts dealer also based in Nnewi, have yet to be seen two years after they were whisked away by SARS officers reportedly at Mr. Offor’s instigation.
However, some Oraifite persons arrested by SARS at Mr. Offor’s behest managed to regain freedom. They include Eugene Arthur Nwora, a successful Onitsha-based importer arrested on March 27, 2014, but released on court orders after two weeks of detention in a cell with hardened criminals; Tochukwu, Ifeanyi and Chinedu Igboanuzue detained for four months until the court ordered their release in March, 2014; Muozube and Ifeanyi Nwokolo as well as members of the traditional Ayaka Troupe.
The younger Nsofor told SaharaReporters in a telephone interview that Mr. Offor had threatened him with dire consequences if he did not part ways with his elder brother whom Mr. Offor reportedly called “a sworn enemy.” He added that Mr. Offor “even accused me of providing funds for Humphrey [Nsofor] to sue our Umuezechem kindred over the 30 plots of land at Okwubulegbe which Offor purchased using the cover of All Saints Anglican Church. I told him the accusation was baseless because my brother had become wealthy long before I went into business.”
Mr. Offor’s apparent influence on the current police leadership is surprising considering that, shortly after he became president, Mr. Buhari directed his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, never to allow the controversial businessman into the Presidential Villa. A source in Aso Rock said President Buhari was wary of Mr. Offor’s involvement in several questionable government contracts, including botched work on a turn around maintenance of refineries. Since Buhari’s administration, all Mr. Offor’s companies have collapsed.
Like many chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was defeated in the 2015 general elections, Mr. Offor has now joined the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). However, his finances remain gloomy. It took 11 months before he buried his father who died on February 22, 2016. In the end, he was assisted by people like former Senate President Ken Nnamani, who led a fundraiser, and Ifeanyi Ubah of Capital Oil, who provided a significant amount of cash to the beleaguered businessman.