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My life is in danger.The plots to frame me up!

August 9, 2009

 I really do not expect a man whose sins have been brought to the public domain by my work as a journalist, to give me a pat on the back.

 Neither do I expect a man who believes that the media should only serve the interests of the high and mighty to understand why we should do our work uncensored.

 But I expect them to at least understand that I have a right to pursue a career and do my work, within the confines of the law.

 I therefore wish to bring to public view, the threats against my life and means of livelihood following a publication on edition 153 of National Daily newspaper, x-raying the roles of two government consultants - Chief Zeek Martins Nnadozie of Zeekford Consultancy Services and Chief Dan Okehie of Brick-Red Financial Consultancy Limited, in the alleged N6b buy-back scandal in the settlement of debts owed former Imo local government officials between 1999 to 2002 and 2004 to 2007. A report I worked on for two months.

After the report was published, Zeek Martins Nnadozie announced his vendetta against me. And before anybody who cared to listen, he would allege all sorts of things against me and even threaten to undo me beyond my imagination.

 He also told one of my colleagues, (another practicing journalist in Imo state) that he was mobilizing “protesters” to invade the home of my parents. The assault and mayhem, he may unleash with that, can only be imagined. And protesters in this case could mean anybody.

 I took it in my stride on the understanding that a man had a right to be angry believing that when he cools off, he would come to terms with the fact that a journalist had as much right to pursue his career as he had in running his consultancy business.

 I did not discuss this any further with anybody until Nnadozie put his allegations in prints on the July 27,2009 edition of Newsbearer magazine.

 - Nnadozie accused me of having a hand in the kidnap of his wife and daughter.

-  Accused me of demanding N1 million from him.

- He alleged that my publication castigated the person of the Governor.

  I would not have reacted to these but for the facts that the records should be placed aright, I wish to put this in perspective one after the other.

  Basically, these allegations are parts of the prelude to frame me up for crimes inconsistent with my nature and person. The allegations are windows into the mind-set of Nnadozie and their plots against my life. Anyone who has been around long enough in our political system would perfectly understand that such wild allegations and alarm are diversionary prelude to the lethal onslaught against their target victim.

 Also, everyone knows that kidnapping is a capital offence in Imo state and for him to have accused me of such a crime is a serious pointer to the extent Nnadozie and his collaborators are willing to go to eliminate me and protect their interests. To say the least, his action is an opening gambit that is not new in Imo state.

An action that easily calls to mind the circumstances that led to similar wild allegations and subsequent detention of an Editor of Nigeria Newspoint newspaper (a local tabloid in Imo state), who was early last year accused of gun-running, the Police was moved in to hound him but after searching his office and home, found nothing incriminating. He was taken on bail but the trauma lingers. Just for doing his work!

The question is, why should the journalist always be forced to go underground or hounded out of town just to keep their juicy businesses running?

Nnadozie’s allegation that I demanded N1m from him is as laughable as the kidnap gaffe. The simple questions are When? Where? Why? and How?

 This is a man who cannot even identify me if I walk past him. Sometimes I type my reports in his business centre and he still would not recognize me. The same man was asking for my phone number from a colleague, who declined to give it to him after he had threatened to do me in.

And yet I made a demand of N1millon from him. Perhaps, in the dream.

 I can vividly recall that on Saturday, the 13th of June, 2009, Nnadozie commissioned one of my colleagues who happen to be his friend to prevail on me to drop my report about the buy-back deal.

My colleagues plea for Nnadozie was touching but I explained to him that I had already filed in the report and that beside the ethical constraints, my newspaper, for some reasons was now operating as a weekly and by Saturday, production has commenced and it was just impossible for an out-station correspondent to call up his head office and tell them to drop a story that has been paged.

He understood my explanation, didn’t push it and thanked me. He is still a living witness. 

The report in question was a mild version of the material resources at my disposal. I have deliberately delayed the second part of the report  for my safety, due to the heat it had generated and to avoid it being misconstrued as a personal war against any individual or group.

Nnadozie’s shouts of castigations against the Governor clearly stems from the stereotype that some classes of public officers are above public scrutiny.

 Much as I respect Nnadozie and Chief Ikedi Ohakim, The Governor of Imo state, I also owe a responsibility and obligation to my employer and most importantly to the general public who had entrusted them with the mandate to serve.

Beside being a journalist, I am also an indigene of Imo state and as such, have the locus standi to express my view on socio-political activities in my state without harassment.

 Nnadozie claims to have petitioned the Police, EFCC and SSS to arrest and interrogate me but I am strongly convinced that he would not want further probe into this matter.

 Nnadozie’s motives:

For the greater part of my years of practice as a journalist, I have covered the crime beat and I understand perfectly that every crime has a motif or motives.

Nnadozie and his collaborators bagged fund in far in excess of N100m in the last buy-back deal with the Imo state government. They were looking forward to a repeat performance in the buy-back settlements of benefits owed Special Advisers and Development Area Coordinators that served Imo state. These transactions run into many billions of naira.

 For Nnadozie, any media report against the first transaction could threaten the subsequent ones. And he cannot afford to lose millions of naira because of an “ordinary journalist.” Hence Nnadozie is prepared to adopt 'extreme measures' to keep his millions rolling in.

 The publication and Government's sudden skeptism for the new deals have now triggered his desperate plots against my life. These are his motives and reasons for planning to frame me up for a capital offence which may not even be limited to ‘kidnapping’.

For a couple of months now, different sets of persons have been trailing me. On several occasions, my colleagues have had to call me on phone to advise me to stay away from town or if I was already in town to keep away from the Newspaper House at Ritibi Street, Owerri, as there were strange people asking after me.

Some of my colleagues have also observed that these people apparently didn’t know me by face and were most likely trying to put a face to my name.

As a result I have had to resort to working underground, under harsh and strenuous conditions, always on my toes, looking over my shoulders and praying for God’s protection.

Initially, I did not know who was taking this unhealthy interest in me until recently when Zeek Martins Nnadozie and his group began to define their plans.

I am therefore calling on the relevant authorities - the Police, SSS, ICPC. EFCC, NUJ, human rights defenders and all advocates of free speech and expressions, to prevail on Nnadozie and his group to desist from their plots against my life and means of livelihood. To also enforce my right to freely pursue my career without threat to my life.

As amatter of fact, if any untoward attack, assault or frame-up should befall me, Nnadozie and his collaborators should be held responsible. I wish to also note that this plot may not be divorced from the Imo state Government House as one of the Governor’s aides had called me up, soon after the publication hit the stands, threatening that they have drawn the battle line with me. For doing my work!

 Finally I am not a heavy weight of any sort and cannot stand the onslaught of the Imo state Government. I am also not a popular face in the political or social circles; neither do I wield the financial muscles of Nnadozie and his sponsors.

I do not aspire to be a superstar or celebrity but to remain the ‘faceless byline’ I have always been, a tiny voice seeking to contribute my little quota to the advancement of the society I find myself.

 And for doing this, I do not deserve death or threats.

 Steve Uzoechi

Imo state Correspondent,

National Daily Newspaper

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