By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor
The plight of Franca Ogbu, a 22-year-old student of Federal University of Technology, Yola, Adamawa State, who was bathed with acid in May 5, 2011, has continued to generate pity and controversy.
While some people are frantically making inquiries with a view to rendering financial assistance to the 100 level Economics student in the university, who desperately need N12 million for surgery at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital where she has been lying for over one year with her face disfigured, one of the students indicted over the incident by the school authority who identified himself as Enkoom Franz Ehizogie opened a pandora box over the ugly incident.
Ehizogie, 23, who claimed to be a final year Chemical Engineering student with matriculation number EC/05/1234 at the same university told Crime Guard that six of the students expelled from the university over the ugly incident are suffering for an offence they did not commit.
He further said that the university authority has been economical with the truth over circumstances that surrounded the incident. According to him, “the crime was committed by thugs who were hired by the wife of a certain lecturer in Chemistry department of the university because Franca was allegedly having an affair with the lecturer and the wife was not too happy about it. The said lecturer is close to the university authorities.
“That is why they tried by all means to hang it on our necks and bury the matter under the carpet. I don’t know Bright Nkere Chibuzor neither do I know Nelson. I was framed for what I didn’t know about. The only connection I have is being a friend to the elder sister of the victim, Florence. My name and photograph was posted at the school website as one of the people who committed the crime.”
He told Crime Guard: “Thank you for granting me your listening ears. My names are Enkoom Franz Ehizogie from Ndokwa east local government area in Delta State. I am 23years of age. I was a final year Chemical Engineering student with mat. number EC/05/1234 of the Federal University of Technology, Yola. I met Florence Ogbu in December 2008 during my 300level, 2nd semester.
“Then, she was a 100 level student of Food Science Technology in the university. She told me she had a sister in the school who was doing remedial studies(popularly known as pre-degree) called Franca who was searching for admission into 100 level at that time.
“I assisted Florence in engineering drawing during the next semester when I was in my 400level first semester. I kept the relationship at the level of friendship with no strings attached. Unfortunately, her sister, Franca did not get admission into the school but she stayed back in the school female hostel as a room mate to her sister, Florence. Eventually, I went for my industrial training at Warri Refinery and Petrochemical from June 2009 to February 2010 of which I was totally absent from the university. However, I still kept in touch with Florence through phone calls.
“On resuming for my final year, I tried to reach Florence but she claimed she was busy, so we didn’t see each other and neither did we have quarrels with each other. On the 7th of May 2010, at about 11am, news was going around the University about a girl that was bathed with acid.
As at then, I didn’t know the identity of the victim, but the next day, I paid a visit to a friend of mine who had a minor road accident. I saw lots of students at the Federal Medical Centre, Yola. It was then a certain Pastor told me it was Franca Ogbu, sister to my friend, Florence Ogbu that was the victim. Of course, I felt bad because I am also human.
On Tuesday, the 11th of May 2010, I was heading for lectures at my department when a man from the security office of the university told me that the Chief Security Officer wants to see me. I immediately followed him. On getting there, I was interrogated briefly and made to write a statement of which I stated clearly that I don’t have any hand in the acid bath incident.
I was locked up in the security cell and the next day, 12th May 2010, I was transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Yola by the security authorities of my school. On getting there, I wrote my statement in the presence of IPO Nashiru. I was placed in a cell without access to food, water, my medication or any form of communication.
It was on Thursday, the 13th of May that the torture and intimidation started. I was taken to a room they call the computer room, handcuffed and whipped with machetes by the Officer in-charge of anti-robbery, Mr. Alex Imbang, the surveillance officer, Mr. Blackson and two other policemen who I don’t know their names. Eventually, the machete broke and they purchased a new one and continued the torture. They drilled holes in my private part and at a time, I started having asthma attack, drifting in and out of consciousness and it became a matter of survival for me.
It was either I sign the statement they have written or die in the hands of these brutes. So, I made the wise choice and signed the document they wrote without reading a single line of what was written in it. The scars are still very much visible on my skin till date. A certain Bright was brought to the state CID on Friday, 14th May 2010.
I was told to identify him but I couldn’t since I have never met him before but we got to know each other since we shared the same cell at the state CID. I was chained and taken on the police patrol car to the off campus area of my school to identify some alleged cultists but I couldn’t identify anyone because I didn’t know any cultist. After spending 14days in the state CID, I was released on bail while Bright Nkere and Eddie Bassey were taken to court.
On the 21st of June 2010, I was in my department copying my examination time table when my HOD called me and gave me a letter of indefinite suspension directly from the Vice- Chancellor. My course mates heard it and they protested peacefully at the administrative block of the university because of the injustice being dished out by the school. The letters of indefinite suspension were given out to other students who according to the VC, were involved in the acid bath case.
After the protest,my HOD told me to come back for my exams, that the school has decided to grant me a fair hearing. After my exams, I was invited to see the senate disciplinary committee. It comprised of the university staff and the police officers from the state CID. I went there expecting a fair hearing but to my surprise, the committee was only interested in roping me into the crime.
They tried by all means to prove that I committed a crime of passion but when they couldn’t, they brought out the statement written by the police and for the first time, I heard some of the contents. I was surprised at the extent the police lied just to label me a cultist with enough armory to start my civil war. I begged the committee to excuse the police men from the hearing so I could talk freely because I was shocked and traumatized when I saw the same men that tortured me right in front of me but it all fell on deaf ears.
After the hearing, I was locked up in the security cell and released that same day around 6pm. I went home back to Warri and sometime around September, I was told by a friend of mine that I have been expelled for my alleged involvement in the acid bath case.
Fortunately, on the 8th of March 2011, a letter from the Director of Public Prosecution, Ministry of Justice, Adamawa state clearly exonerated me from the crime. My lawyer wrote to the school and informed them of the letter from the ministry of Justice but they replied saying their decision is irrevocable. So, we proceeded to the High Court, Yola.
The preliminary hearing should have been on the 6th of October, 2011 but judges conference was on and so, the hearing was shifted. They even pasted our pictures and names on the school website on their list of expelled students.
Having said this, I will want to point out some glaring facts about the case that you as a third party will not know of.
(1) I know Florence but I have never ever seen Franca to this day. The first time I saw her was on a newspaper appealing to Nigerians to donate for her surgery.
(2) Franca has spent two years and some months in that school prior to the acid bath from 2008-2010. A lot could have happened which I don’t know. She wasn’t my friend. I only knew her sister.
(3) At the time of the attack, I was at my off campus residence more than 5km away from where the attack took place. I have witnesses who can testify to that.
(4) The attack took place in mechanical engineering department close to chemical engineering department. I have spent 6years in that school, 2005 – 2010. If I was the one who committed the crime, most definitely, someone would have spotted me because FUTY is not a very big university.
(5) As at the time the attack took place, I was a final year student of Chemical Engineering. Which final year student in his right mind will do such a thing over a girl?
(6) Six students were expelled. Did they all pour the acid together ? I don’t see how people can believe that six young men, some in their final year, some have even graduated (like in the case of Bright) will come together to plan attack on a 100 level student. This to me is a serious loop hole which any unbiased mind will detect.
(7) I am asthmatic and allergic to strong smell. I can’t stand the smell of concentrated acid. It will give me an asthma attack. Of course, I was a Chemical Engineering student and I never ever handled strong chemicals or reagents. We don’t even have them in our laboratory.
(8) They claimed that the girl identified us when she was in the hospital which was another lie. I have not been in the same room with Franca.
(9) The only Muslim that is involved in the case was exonerated even though he had romantic relationships with both Franca and Florence.
(10) The school authority hurriedly gave the indefinite suspension to douse the tension being caused by the parents of the girl without trying us in the disciplinary panel or waiting for the police to come up with their report. They later ordered the disciplinary committee to hear our case just for it to look like due process.
(11) The Ministry of Justice, the highest authority in the land, exonerated me .Why then will the school find me guilty when the police found me innocent if not for their sinister motive ?
(12) You will want to ask why we were singled out from all the people in the school and prosecuted.Simple. An average Deltan in a northern university is seen as a bad boy/ militant.If I am such a bad boy, how did I scale through to final year without bad records or issues of cultism? What link do I have with cultism? Was I ever found partaking in cult activities? Florence called my name as one of her friends. Is that enough to make me guilty? Am I the only friend she has in the whole school?
(13) I have a sound IQ, for God sake. Which villain will be stupid enough to commit a crime as heinous as this and stay at the vicinity of the crime waiting to be caught or walk freely to the security office.
(14) You can contact the school authority. They will paint me black as a dare devil cultist who is capable of anything so that you won’t poke holes in the well orchestrated lie they churned out to the public but I beg you not to believe them.They are hiding something I am about to expose.
The crime was committed by thugs who were hired by the wife of a certain lecturer in Chemistry department of the school because Franca was having an affair with the lecturer and the wife was not too happy about it. The said lecturer is an untouchable in the university. That is why they tried by all means to hang it on our necks and bury the matter under the carpet. They all know the truth including the police, Franca and Florence.
Having said all this, I rest my case. I know Franca needs help but at what cost? Also consider me. I was 2 months away from my graduation. Six years gone down the drain, my result was clean without any carry over. Now, I am writing Jamb again looking for admission into another school while my mates are doing their youth service.
I intend to fight this case to the finish and when I am more financially buoyant, I will sue the police for the torture and trauma they caused me. I believe in our justice system. I am applying to read law this time around so that I will one day fight for the masses. I have even been forced to change my name because they have spoil t my name totally and assassinated my character.