By: Chidi Nkwopara
An urgent call from the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in Imo State , Mr. Linus Nwaiwu, to this reporter informing that the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Aloysius Okorie, wanted to see him in his office at 8.30am, Thursday morning, was taken with a pinch of salt.
This was because no clue was given as to why the CP invited him. However, as soon as he got to the CP’s office, he received a shocker.
Then the bombshell! “We have discovered a house located in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by thick forest, where kidnappers have been keeping their victims.
You will go with me to that place to see for yourself the extent these criminals can go in perpetuating criminality”, Okorie told Crime Guard.
The trip was smooth up to Ejemekwuru in Oguta local government area and the convoy turned into a lonely earth road that links the community with Azara Obiato in Mbaitoli local council area. The convoy swam through several deep, stagnant waters along the road into the forest.
Honestly, I kept my cool because we had a full complement of so many armed mobile policemen that accompanied us to the fearful and lonely location. The convoy again turned right, after covering some kilometers, and started driving into the dense rain forest.
The vehicles came to a halt. We sighted some buildings. Some had been finished, while others were at varying stages of completion. The CP moved from one building to the other and carefully explained what we were seeing. We saw empty cement bags that served as beds for the kidnapped victims. There was also some currency wrappers left behind by the hoodlums. Shock was the word.
Then the Police boss opened up, “The interesting thing about this place (the hideout) is that it was one of the first cases I handled when I was posted to Imo State. The traditional ruler of this community, Eze Chinedu Osuebi, made a complaint that he didn’t know what the owner of the premises was doing and what he was using this place for. He also said the premises is a security risk for the whole community”, the CP recalled.
Continuing, Mr. Okorie said the royal father said the owner of the property never fancied associating with members of the community, and only holed up with his people.
“Nobody enters here. Nobody can have access to this place. We have been investigating the matter. Then, all of a sudden, we saw another petition from the owner of this place, alleging that Eze Osuebi sent people to burn the place. Lawyers took it up from there.
The Command was almost going to charge the traditional ruler and some members of the community to court for arson but we took our time because I needed to see the place myself”, the CP said.
Answering a question, Mr. Okorie said that after a while, credible intelligence report revealed that the place was being used for deadly criminal activities, adding that the Command infiltrated the place with informants.
“I am now very sure of this particular place and what it is being used for. In fact, we were to storm this place but for the objections of the relations of the kidnapped victims, who feared that their loved ones could be hit by untended bullets. The family members paid the ransom and when we stormed here, they had already disappeared”, Okorie said.
“This type of isolated place is the better place for them to have used. The immediate neighbourhood is almost five-kilometer radius. There are no immediate neighbours. It is fortified but the back side of the premises empties into an endless forest. In the event of any security attack, they can beat a retreat”
He used the opportunity to appeal to traditional rulers to keep surveillance on all uncompleted and abandoned buildings, stressing that such places turn out to be havens for criminals.
“If not for the fact that the royal father of this community started a long time ago to complain about this premises. Before I knew it was here, I had already asked my men to go and invite the Eze. There was a day he came into my office and was almost weeping. He said the owner of the premises had become a law unto himself”, the CP said.
He further revealed that the owner of the premises, Mr. Francis Uzoechi, is from Isiekenesi in Ideato South local council area of the state, adding that “this is what makes the whole thing intriguing”. Okorie also said that the man claimed he planned to use the place as a monastery.
For now, Mr. Uzoechi is cooling his heels in the State Police Headquarters, Owerri. It was also gathered that the community have not been very happy with the man and at a point, there was a fracas and that can explain why we have liters of glasses around.
By virtue of the provisions of the anti_kidnap law, passed by Imo State House of Assembly, this compound has automatically become government property, following its usage as a home for kidnapped victims.
“I am not equivocating. I am confirming to you that this place was where they kept Laz Nwaozo. The Eze Isu, Eze Madumere was kept here. Laz Nwaozo was the last person they kept here”, the CP said.