Okochi Obeni, pastor of God’s Descendants Assembly, Amasiri, Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, has said he was tortured and forced to drink gutter water for criticising council Chairman, Ogbonnaya Oko Enyim, over his failure to construct a road as directed by the state governor.
The cleric, who is currently hospitalised at the Alex Ekwueme University Teaching Hospital in Abakaliki, while narrating his ordeal to PUNCH, said he was tortured beyond his imagination for speaking out on social media at the instance of Enyim.
He said, "I’m a social media activist. Both of us are from Amasiri community, so he is the chairman of my local government area. As a social critic, I criticise bad governance and people in power not doing well. The perceived negative relationship I have with him started when he was asked to build a kilometre of road like his counterparts in other local government areas of the state.
"The governor told them to construct a kilometre of road anywhere in their councils. He was unable to do that. It took him quite some time to take action as regard the road construction. So, I wrote about it. I criticised it. So, when he was seeking re-election, I wrote again that any local government chairperson who could not build a kilometre of road in their council was not worthy of being re-elected. It was from that point that I started having problem with him.
"He started hurting me, using different means. He reported me to the Anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Nigeria Police, saying I was attacking him on social media. I went there and my statement exonerated me. I told them I did not have any personal issue against him and that I was only trying to hold him accountable as a public office holder.
"I was expecting to be treated badly by these people, but I did not envisage it would take that form. That day, I was called by one Amadi Julius Nyerere, who is a nominee of the chairman and a Technical Assistant to Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi.
"He called and said the Essa age grade chairman wanted to see me. I thought the plan was to reconcile me with the council chairman, so I went there. On reaching there, I discovered that all the aides of the council chairman, Isi Oru age grade members, and Essa age grade chairman (who is related to the council boss), and his executives, were all there. It dawned on me that there was a plan already on the ground that was being followed using all means available since their plan to use policemen in Ebonyi State Security Neighbourhood Watch had failed.
"So, they resorted to attacks. I never experienced the kind of ugly treatment they gave me. They tied my hands behind my back and up till this very moment, I can’t make use of my hands. I can’t hold any object; you can see how I’m struggling to hold my phones. They forced me to drink gutter water and did all sorts of things to me. They put my body through all manner of inhuman treatments, aside from flogging me 36 times.
"As I said earlier, my hands were tied behind my back. Those people made to stay on my knees for over two and a half hours inside a gutter. So, to be honest with you, my strength was failing me and I needed freedom. I lost consciousness twice. All I needed was freedom. I noticed blood was not flowing through my veins anymore. Whatever anyone told me to say at the point to regain my freedom, I would say. If you watched that video, you would hear where in my dialect, I was begging them to loosen the knot in the rope used to tie both my hands together."
Pastor Obeni said his medical condition has since degenerated and could lead to permanent paralysis if not urgently treated.
He said, "A doctor examined me and discovered that most of my veins and nerves had been damaged because of the long hours that my hands were tied and I was beaten. He said the health challenges could become permanent if I didn’t treat them quickly. He said it could lead to paralysis. They further advised that I should be moved to the physiotherapy centre of the hospital and that’s where I am currently. I have been receiving treatment here but I still can’t hold any object. I can’t easily close my hands or open them. I still feel so much pain all over my body, but it is better than how I felt on the day of the incident."
He called on Nigerians to demand justice on his behalf by asking that all those who took part in his arbitrary arrest, detention and torture are arrested and made to face the law.