â€” Says if I had known, I would have paid him his money
By Albert Akpor
AT the homicide section of the dreaded State Criminal Investigations Department (SCID),Â Panti, Yaba, Lagos,Â Lucky Agofure, an Edo-state born hotelier looked resignedly remorseful.Â He stared directly at this reporterâ€™s eyes and said, â€œIf I had known,Â I would have paid Princewill the N1,000 debt that has now led to his death.Â Now, look at what it has put me intoâ€.
Princewill Oduochaâ€™s journey to the great beyond started sometime in December 2009 when he got a contract to repaint an almost decrepit hotel building somewhere in Owutu area of Ikorodu; in the outskirts of Lagos.Â As a professional painter, late Princewill Oduocha had won the contract to re-paint the building for N41,000.00.
He had successfully executed the contract and had collected N40,000.00 remaining a balance of N1,000.00 only.Â It was one of the several attempts to collect the remaining N1,000 that claimed his life following a fight with the suspect who is, of course, the Director of the hotel.
Fight and subsequent death
Before his eventual death, Princewill Oduocha was reported to had repeatedly visited the hotel to get his balance paid without success.Â But on February 6, 2010, the late painter resolved to collect his money against all odds even if it meant inviting the police into the matter.Â However, as it turned out,Â the police only came to pick up his debtor on account of his death.Â He did not live to collect the money any more.
Narrating what led to the death of his creditor, suspect Lucky Agofure said the issue that resulted in a fight and subsequent death was unwarranted and insisted that he did not directly cause the death of Princewill Oduocha.Â His words: â€œ I am the Director of â€œUP Uâ€ hotel located at Owutu.Â Â I hired Princewill for the job of re-painting the hotel.
We decided to repaint the building so that callers and visitors will get attracted and have value for their money.Â When Princewill came, he initially charged N50,000.00 but we beat it down to N40,000. 00, but he insisted that we should add N1,000 to it which we accepted anyway.Â Â He started the job and to speak the truth,Â it was satisfactory at completion.
We did not hesitate to pay him N40,000.00 with a promise however, to pay the remainder on an agreed date.Â I want to state here that I am like a servant because the property is a family one and I am just the one collecting and sharing the money for family members.Â On that day, Princewill came for his N1,000 and I begged him to come back because there was no money to pay.
Earlier in the day, family members had come and collected the previous dayâ€™s sales.Â I pleaded for him to come the following day but he refused making so much trouble and embarrassing visitors in the hotel.Â All of a sudden, he turned away briskly and grabbed two plastic chairs at the reception of the hotel and was making for the gate when I confronted him.Â Soon,Â we started fighting.
We were separated and he left.Â Â He did not sustain any bruises.Â Â Â Moments after,Â he resurfaced with a middle- aged man who said that as soon as Princewill got home after the fight, he started complaining of excruciating pains in his chest and he had to bring him here so that we can decide on what to do.Â Immediately, we rushed him to a nearby hospital where he later died.
Honestly, if that day was not a Wednesday when family members come to collect proceeds, there would have been money to pay him.
And again, If I had known, I would have used my money to pay him and later collect it from the companyâ€™s purse.Â After I was arrested,Â I heard different stories.Â Â Some said I used an iron to hit him on his head, while others say I called other workers of the hotel to fight him.Â This is not true.Â Â It is not also true that after the fight, we detained him for close to three hours before being rushed to the hospitalâ€
But the police through the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in- charge of the SCID, Mr.Â Solomon Arase said the case is a rather pathetic one adding that investigation and perhaps autopsy would help in the prosecution.Â â€œWe are still investigating the case and like you know,Â if the suspect is culpable, he will be charged to court.Â Ours is to investigate and charge to court; the magistrate or Judge decides;Â as the case may be.â€