Crime Guard

November 6, 2013

Anxiety, as families agonise over disappearance of two undergraduates in Aba

Anxiety, as families agonise over disappearance of two undergraduates in Aba

*Martin Azih, Temple Nwakanma

By ANAYO OKOLI, Umuahia

THE families of Joseph Azih and Theophilus Nwakanma, all residents of Aba, Abia State, are presently in serious agony. This is because their children have been missing without trace since August 30, 2013, after  they were arrested by  operatives of the Abia State Vigilante Group [Bakassi] at the Redeemed Street, World Bank Quarters, Aba. Specifically, they were said to have been arrested by the Scorpion Squad of the Vigilante outfit based at Ekeakpara in Osisioma, Aba. This squad is said to be headed by one Ugochukwu Amaugo.

The missing undergraduates are Martin Bonaventure Azih, 22, a final-year Physics/Education student of Imo State University and Temple Nwakanma, a student of Business Administration of Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Imo State, who were at the time of their abduction on industrial attachment at PZ in Aba.

According to their families, the undergraduates, said to be close friends and live in the same neighborhood, were arrested at about 3pm on the faithful day at the  World Bank Estate in the commercial city, and since then, over 60 days, their where about is still unknown.

*Martin Azih, Temple Nwakanma

*Martin Azih, Temple Nwakanma

According to Joseph Azih, Martin’s father, his son and his friend, Temple just finished a  meal of rice which the said Martin prepared by himself and went out with his friend within the estate when they were abducted.

According to information from the parents, the Vigilante outfit said that the boys were arrested for illegal gathering, but later claimed that when the boys saw them, they started running.  According to them, eight people were arrested by the vigilante group but six of them were released after allegedly extorting money from them.

The families said that when they did not see their children, they started asking questions until they were told by residents of the estate that some people were arrested by the Bakassi people that day. Based on this information, they went to the office of the vigilante group who admitted arresting the boys but claimed that they handed them over to the Army Camp of the Operation Jubilee at Umuahia Tower.

But the parents did not believe them as they could not produce any handover note from the Army that the undergraduates were handed over to them. Nonetheless, they went to the Army Camp where their fears were confirmed as they could not see their children there and the soldiers said such people were not brought there.

They promptly went to Aba Area Command of the Police and reported the matter. They also went further to announce a case of missing persons on the radio and television.

In response to the report made at Area Command, the Area Commander, Rabiu Dayi invited the leader of the Scorpion Squad, Ugochukwu Amaugo who admitted that his team arrested the undergraduates. He reportedly made a statement and was later released on self-recognition after he was directed to produce his boys who carried out the arrest to say what they did or where they kept the two undergraduates. However, the police directive was not carried out as neither those who arrested the boys were produced to the police nor the boys released.

Based on this development, the parents are anxious that they might have been harmed by the Vigilante group, especially when the camp where the boys were reportedly taken to is said to be located inside the bush. So far, families of the missing boys have also reported their mysterious disappearance to the headquarters of the vigilante outfit in Umuahia

Crime Alert gathered that the plight of the distraught family members of the missing undergraduates was worsened when somebody who claimed to work with a commercial bank in Umuahia, capitalized on their desperation and introduced one Ubochioma Ezenwoke, who claimed to be an operative of the Directorate of State Services, DSS, to assist in locating their children after he, Ubochi, said they were in their custody.    The said DSS operative allegedly ended up extorting N300, 000 from them.

The families alleged that he initially asked for N2million, he first collected N100, 000 which he claimed he would deliver to his Director and went ahead to extort more money from the families.  The said Ubochi is alleged to operate with a syndicate , some of who pose as Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) to dupe persons by claiming that they work with DSS.

It was learnt that their nefarious activities later blew open and they were subsequently arrested and detained at the DSS headquarters, Umuahia.  The story, according the parents of the missing boys, took a different dimension few days later as the suspects were released.

Worried that no positive progress was being made to trace the children’s where about, the families petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, urging him to investigate the Vigilante outfit.  Copies of the petition were given to DSS, Army and National Human Rights Commission.

The petition entitled “Petition against members of Abia state Vigilante Group (Bakassi), Scorpion Squad at Ekeakpara for abduction of Mr. Martin Azih and Temple Nwakanma”, was written by their lawyers, Eleuthera Chambers of 64, Hospital Road, Aba.

Part of the petition dated September 9, 2013, states; “we are informed by our clients and we verily believe them that Mr. Martin Azih and Mr. Temple Nwakanma, their children who are undergraduates were abducted by members of the said group on Friday, 30th August, 2013, some where at World Bank Housing Estate, Abayi, Osisioma Aba in Abia State. The said Martin and Temple have not come back since the said abduction and nothing has been heard from them by their parents or any of their relatives since.

“The parents of the boys made a report at the World Bank Police Station, visited and searched for their children everywhere including other police stations in Aba and Umuahia without success. They thereafter went to the said Vigilante Group [Bakassi] Scorpion Squad at Ekeakpara where they were reliably informed that they actually arrested them at the World Bank Estate very close to the World Bank Police Station but the said Vigilante persons claimed that they handed the boys over to men of the Nigerian Army at Umuahia.

“It is now obvious that these boys are not in the custody of the Nigerian Army or the Police, but are with the said Vigilante group which has continued to hold the boys illegally without charging them to court or disclosing their whereabouts”. The petition prayed the IGP to investigate the matter and bring to book whoever is responsible.

In response to the petition, the IGP, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar directed the Abia State Police Commissioner, Tilli Abubakar to investigate the matter.

While the Police has commenced investigations into the case, the families also pleaded with the Governor of Abia State, T.A. Orji, to use his good offices and fish out their children.   “We know that Government set up the Vigilante to help maintain the effective monitoring of these boys. We are appealing to the Governor to please, intervene as a father to enable us trace where our children are kept.  Our dear Governor , for sure, does not like acts of impunity hence he set up a board to monitor the operations of the outfit but we doubt 60 days. We have been in serious distress and agony,” they lamented in tears.