Controversy over death of politician

The late Onianwa  on hospital bed

The late Onianwa on hospital bed

BRINGING the killers of Mr. Emeka Onianwa to justice will no doubt be one of the acid tests for the police in its determination to fulfill the promise by President Muhammadu Buhari to prosecute all masterminds of electoral violence.

The budding politician died last April 13 from wounds allegedly inflicted on him by socialite, Chief Fred Ajudua, his wife, Princess Pat Ajudua, Mr. Innocent Esewezie and five other persons during the April 11 Governorship/House of Assembly elections.

The election pitched two homeboys, Ajudua of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Mr. Tony Azuya of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), who were hitherto buddies against each other.

Emeka “Bamishe” Odogwu, Ike Okobi, Uche Ofuoyeandi, Azikiwe Nwabuwa and Odigwe “Scorpion” Ngbai are also accused of having a hand in the deed, which took place at Ibusa, Oshimili North Local Council of Delta State.

A letter to the Inspector General of Police by Mr. Femi Okafor, counsel to Azuya explained that on the fateful day at/or about 12:00pm, the late Oniawa, accompanied by two other party agents, Mr. Nwafe Okonkwo and Mr. Azu Amatokwu drove out in his armoured vehicle to monitor the election at various polling units in the town.

The lawyer wrote that when the APGA monitoring team got to Ward 8 Omeze/Ngbojo polling booth, they met Bamishe; the PDP counsellor for the ward; Okobi, Okolichi, and Scorpion, all PDP agents.

According to him, when the late Emeka and his team approached the ward, they were angrily confronted by Bamishe who demanded that they leave immediately, but they refused to be cowed.

While the tense situation lasted, Odogwu was said to have made some frantic phone calls asking for reinforcement. Not too long after, a Hyundai Accent vehicle marked LG 027 AKU, belonging to Oshimili North Local Council but in possession of Ofuonyeadi drove speedily to the scene in a cloud of dust.

Ofuonyeadi who was reportedly at the wheels with some PDP faithful, drove near the armoured vehicle that was carrying Azuya and Onianwa.

Having surveyed what was fast turning to a battlefield, he reversed and drove off, again speedily.

Shortly after, he wrote that a convoy of PDP supporters came on motorbikes, each carrying two passengers. Then, Onianwa and company sensed danger and so quickly jumped into their vehicle and zoomed off towards town. They didn’t drive too far away from the bedlam before running into the Hyundai Accent, which blocked the narrow road, making it impossible for the deceased and his associates which included Nwafe Okonkwo and Azu Amatokwu to drive pass the narrow earth road.

The lawyer remarked that the trio got down from the armoured vehicle, pleading with a cross Ofuonyeadi to remove the vehicle from the road to make way for them but Ofuonyeadi refused and there was a bust up.

He further wrote: “While this was going on, Mr. Emeka Odogwu and the other members of the group who had come on motorcycles came and joined the scene, and while the argument was going back and forth, we were informed that Mr. Emeka Odogwu put another call to Esewezie.”

In the melee, the petitioner charged that Ofunoyeadi opened the boot of his car, brought out a gun, and slipped it into the armoured car.

Thereafter, he shouted that he had found a gun in the armoured car, infuriating the people against the APGA agents who beat them to pulp.

He petitioned: “They were stripped of their clothes, and thereafter, they were pushed into the booth of the said Hyundai car and driven straight to the residence of Mr. Ajudua, the husband to Princess Pat Ajudua.”

The lawyer wrote that the three captives were whisked into the living room of the Ajuduas where they were confronted by the enraged husband, his politician wife and Nwabuwa.

Okafor alleged: “We were further informed that as soon as the abducted and thoroughly assaulted victims were ushered into the living room of the Ajuduas, Nwabuwa sprang up from his seat and dealt a dirty slap on Onianwa and the rest of their captives. Mrs. Ajudua, used her walking stick to batter their captives while Mr. Ajudua, took a rod in his house and started hitting Emeka on the head and other parts of his
body. The deadly blow from the rod coupled with the other beating already given to the trio resulted in Emeka bleeding from the ear, nose and mouth. While this was going on, Mrs. Ajudua started kicking the late Emeka with shoes.”

He further alleged that Onianwa fainted because of the excessive loss of blood right in the living room of the Ajuduas, charging that when the young man was no longer responding to the ceaseless beating, the socialite ordered a halt and a phone call was made to the local
Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Mr. Nwabara to come immediately to his house and arrest the victims.

Since Onianwa could not walk, Ajudua was said to have instructed Nwabuwa to drive their badly battered victims to the police station, with the sum of N20, 000 for their treatment.

Okafor further charged that on sighting the battered victims, the DPO suspected that the victims needed some urgent medical attention and immediately arranged for them to be taken to the hospital.

At the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba (FMC) where he was taken for treatment, Okafor wrote that he was reportedly manacled and chained to the bed. Kept under the watchful eyes of an armed police guard, Onianwa’s condition deteriorated fast. His cousin, Michael’s attempt to make the doctors treat the forlorn patient was rebuffed by the stern and authoritarian policeman.

Persistent pleadings by Mike that the policeman should allow doctors attend to the dying man infuriated the policeman who arrested and kept Mike in the cell for two days in Asaba.

With his health fast declining, the prisoner was transferred to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, (UBTH) where he died a couple of days later from the wounds.

After the matter was reported to the police station in Ibusa, the DPO Wabara, who has since been redeployed, transferred the case to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), and some arrests were made.

Okafor petitioned: “Our worry is that even after the police at Asaba were informed that the victim of the gruesome assault had died, they still went ahead and released the suspects from their custody. Ajudua was not detained despite his complicity in the crime. The law of the land frowns against extra-judicial killing.”

In 2011, Ajudua and Esewezie were at daggers drawn. While Mrs. Ajudua was the Accord Party candidate for Oshimili North Constituency, her opponent, Mr. Patrick Mozea was that of the PDP. Four years later in 2015, both politicians found themselves hobnobbing in PDP when the
legislator made a move.

In the ensuing violence which took place on election day in 2011, the female lawmaker narrowly escaped death as she was shot on her right thorax but her driver and one of her aides were killed.

For that fatal shot, Esewezie, Mozea, Bamishe, Aspira and some others were indicted. In the resulting murder and attempted case at Akwukwu Igbo High Court, Esewezie was discharged for want of diligent prosecution on June 12 last year.

Esewezie said that he was innocent, insisting that his accuser, Azuya was all out to stigmatize him because of his refusal to join him in APGA despite his persistent pleadings that he move over.

He said that he was at his polling unit, Post Office throughout the day of the election and couldn’t have participated in the alleged abduction and torture of Onianwa.

Esewezie fumed: “Azuya, the APGA candidate wanted to go to the tribunal and so is busy, gathering materials. He wants to tarnish my image. I am a loyal member of the PDP but Azuya invited me to join him in APGA, but I refused. My refusal to pitch tent with him is the cause of the campaign of calumny against me. He just wants to tarnish my image for the sake of his petition at the tribunal.”

Mrs. Ajudua denied having a hand in the abduction and death of Onianwa, insisting that she didn’t have any encounter with the deceased talk less of abducting and participating in the torture and subsequent death.

She said the case was at present with the Inspector General of Police Solomon Arase, who is personally handling investigations and was supremely confident that she would be vindicated at the end.

The lawmaker, who like Esewezie also spoke with The Guardian on the telephone said: “I didn’t abduct and torture anybody. The IGP in Abuja is currently investigating the case. I will be vindicated.”

The Delta State Police spokeswoman, Ms. Celestina Kalu confirmed that the case is no longer being investigated by the Delta State Police Command, but at the Force Headquarters in Abuja.

Kalu demanded to know if the accusers had a video-tape where Ajudua and company accosted the deceased, took him to his house and beat him to stupor. She also wanted to know if they have videos with concrete facts.

She said: “They alleged that the guy was murdered by the Ajuduas but to prove a murder case where you don’t have strong evidence is not easy. The case is still under investigation by the Force Headquarters, Abuja. It is no longer with the Delta State Police Command. You can’t blame the police because if they have the video that the Ajuduas committed the murder, very simple, nobody can doubt it. They are telling stories. The police can’t just arrest anybody and charge him for murder.”

They say justice delayed is justice denied. It is no doubt the fervent prayers of the Onianwas, who will have to live with the scars for the rest of their lives, that the police speed up investigations and bring the cast of characters involved in the killing to book.

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