Worried by incessant complaints of gross abuse of human rights against Emeka Offor, Nigeria’s most controversial government contractor, the Federal Government has quietly set up a high-powered panel to investigate the reports.
Made up of five members, the panel is headed by Yusuf Kolo, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) who is also in charge of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP)’s Special Tactical Squad (IGPSTS) at the Force Headquarters in Abuja.
“The government could not have chosen a better officer to perform this assignment,” an intelligence officer familiar with how the panel was set up told our correspondent in Abuja, requesting anonymity. The intelligence operative added: “It is only serious assignments that are given to ACP Kolo, because he is a thorough, tough and fair-minded officer. This shows the seriousness with which the President Muhammadu Buhari government is treating the reports about Offor.”
On assuming office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari directed his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, never to allow Mr. Offor, whom he called “a mere Aso Rock contractor,” into the Presidential Villa.
SaharaReporters gathered that Mr. Kolo once served as a top officer at the Anambra State headquarters of the State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Awkuzu, Oyi Local Government Area. Some of Mr. Offor’s townsfolk from Oraifite accuse him of instigating the detention and torture by SARS of some indigenes of Oraifite during the Goodluck Jonathan administration when the businessman acted with impunity.
According to a document prepared by a large section of the Oraifite community in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, Mr. Offor’s use of SARS officers to arrest and dehumanize his kinsmen over private issues reached its climax when Mohammed D. Abubakar served as former President Jonathan’s Inspector General of Police. According to the petitioners, Mr. Offor masterminded the arrest of 42 persons, with some of them still missing.
The missing persons are now presumed dead. They include Christian Okwumuo, an architect based in Nnewi but who hailed from Umuezopi village; Mr. Obinna Adimachukwu, the only son of Mr. Avenger Adimachukwu of Isingwu village; Mr. Benjamin Onyemaibeya, son of a man popularly known as Jackdemo from Awor village, Oraifite; Mr. Nonso Adili, a 30-year old spare parts dealer from Umuezechem but based in Nnewi; and Mr. Chibueze Nwandu, a palm wine seller at Nkwo Edo Market in Oraifite who hailed from Umuezopi village.
Among those who regained freedom after between two weeks and three years in detention are Mr. Ifeanyi Nwokolo, vice principal of Ozubulu Catholic Girls secondary School, and Mr. Samuel Muozube, a member of the Anambra State Basic Education Board (ASUBEB). They were saved by Group Captain Benson Nnoruka. The brilliant Nigerian Air Force pilot cut short his military career after Mr. Offor reportedly convinced him to quit, promising that he would support him for the Anambra State governorship post in the 2003 election. However, the businessman abandoned the erstwhile officer on the day the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) conducted its primary election in Awka, the capital of Anambra State.
Also incarcerated at Mr. Offor’s behest were Anthony Ugboaja who was arrested and handcuffed while attending a meeting of his Umunnakwe kindred and Mr. Sunday Chukwumezie, a bricklayer from Nkalafia village who was whisked away by a contingent of policemen on December 24, 2014, and released in February, 2017. Another victim, Okenna Muozube, was kept in solitary confinement for two years.
The following persons were released only on court orders, according to a petition by Oraifite indigenes: Three brothers from the Igboanuzue family, namely Tochukwu, Ifeanyi and Chinedu, who were in a police cell for three months in Nnewi; Arthur Eugene Nwora, a prosperous businessman in Onitsha who accused Offor of masterminding the seizure of his seven 20-feet containers then worth N980m and his detention by SARS operatives in Onitsha for 10 weeks; and members of a traditional troupe known as Ayaka who are peasant farmers.
The most publicized case of all the detainees is that of Bonny Okonkwo, a South African-based businessman who was arrested from his residence in Lagos in the early hours of July 13, 2013, manacled and driven like that in the boot of a Toyota Prado SUV for nine hours to Abuja. He was kept in a cell with hardened criminals like kidnappers and dreaded armed robbers for nine months.
Mr. Okonkwo was charged with defaming Mr. Offor for he asked the businessman in an online town newsletter named Mbala Obodo to use part of the one million dollars he promised Rotary International in the fight against polio and tuberculosis to pay fellow Oraifite people who lost their life savings with Mr. Offor’s Afex Bank following the bank’s collapse in 2005. Mr. Okonkwo was released months later, on April 7, 2014, on the orders of Chief Magistrate Dahiru.
A leading human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria based in Lagos, took up the case of Mr. Okonkwo’s dehumanization. Justice Peter Afere of the Federal High Court in Abuja agreed with Mr. Falana that Okonkwo’s human rights were violated and awarded N5m costs against the M.D. Abubakar-led police.
According to former Anambra State House Majority Leader Humphrey Nsofor, since former President Jonathan’s defeat in the 2015 presidential election, “Offor had not been using SARS officers to intimidate our Oraifite people until last week when he instigated the Divisional Police Officer in our town to arrest my younger brother by all means and send him to SARS’ detention facility in Awka after parading him in Oraifite naked as an armed robber.”
Mr. Offor’s attempt to frame up Nnanna Nsofor, the chairman of Jessy Shipping Company Ltd in Awka, may prove to be Mr. Offor’s undoing, according to Mr. Okonkwo who spoke to our correspondent on the phone from his South African base.
SaharaReporters learned that Mr. Nsofor’s team of lawyers in Nnewi and Abuja, led by Ifeanyi Ejiofor, Oseloka Osigwe and Harry C. Ezeude, quickly petitioned the security agencies last weekend when the local police in Oraifite were searching for their client. The security agencies that had been compiling petitions by Oraifite people against Mr. Offor felt that it was time to stop the controversial government contractor in his tracks.
SaharaReporters was reliably informed that the Oraifite DPO, Alexander Onwuka, a Superintendent of Police, is likely to be among the first persons to be summoned by the ACP Kolo-led panel investigating Mr. Offor’s alleged use of security agents to intimidate people from his Oraifite hometown.
A member of the investigative panel, who requested anonymity, stated, “We are interested to find out why he [DPO] went with many police officers to seek to arrest Nsofor in his hotel in Awka as early as 4 a.m. last Sunday, apparently without informing the police in Awka.”
The panel said that it was embarrassing to watch the footage of how the DPO and his boys handcuffed a hotel worker named Franklin Emmanuel Okolie and a guest whose name was simply given as Lion Base, a well-known film producer while searching for Mr. Nsofor.
The panel will also visit Hosea H. Karma, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) of Zone 9 in Umuahia, Abia State, which covers Anambra State, to obtain his own side of the story about the effort to arrest Mr. Nsofor on trumped-up charges.
Another person likely to be interrogated by the panel is Anthony Obi, a retired forest guard who runs the Emeka Offor Foundation. “Mr Obi is actually the person who does most of the dirty ground work for Offor,” an official of the Oraifite Improvement Union (OIU) told our correspondent. He recalled how Mr. Obi used “Offor’s police to lock up his own elder brother, Mr. Emma Obi, and his wife, Caroline, as well as their three children, Chibuzor, Nwabunike and Tochukwu, last January 17.” The Obis were in prison in Onitsha for two weeks. Their release was secured by Governor Willie Obiano who was appalled at their maltreatment.
Meanwhile, Chimezie Okoye, one of Mr. Offor’s henchmen who went with the DPO to invade Nsofor’s hotel in Awka, has been on the run following SaharaReporters’ disclosure that he was arrested in 2012 with Olisagbo Ifedike (alias Ofeakwu), the most dreaded kidnapper in Anambra State, but was set free through Mr. Offor’s intervention. One of his cousins told SaharaReporters in confidence that the revelation “rattled him so much so that he must have fled Nigeria in order not to be arrested by security agents and tried for serial kidnapping.”