-By Godwin Oghre
Rebellious youths in Sapele, Sapele Local Government Area, Delta State, have knocked the living daylights out of an indigene, Mr. Oborakpororo Arienmughara, who relocated from Russia, some years ago, and stalled work at the petrol station he is building in the town for rebuffing their demand for ‘deve’ (bribe).
To exacerbate matters, the insubordinate youths, suspected to have link with a notorious kidnap gang, contrived an iniquitous plot with some police officers from Benin City, Edo State, to seize Arienmughara at gunpoint, handcuff and detain him on spurious grounds. The indigenous investor had his right toe pulled by the police officers in their mercantile bid to extort money from him. A friend of the victim, who had fled Sapele, contacted by his scared stiff wife to get him off the hook, joined the security agents to swindle him of N4.2 million.
Intriguingly, his lawyer, Barrister Festus Elume of F. F. Elume and Co., Elume Chambers, Sapele, already in court over the scandalous affair, is under threat by same gangsters, who trailed him to his Benin City residence, but by divine intervention, confusion erupted as one of them was about to pull the trigger, paving way for his miraculous escape.
Leaders of Sapele community are dumbfounded at the impunity of the gangsters, but they seemed hamstrung, as the police supposed to checkmate them were hanging out with them.
Investigation by Niger Delta Voice showed that Arienmughara’s predicament started when the defiant gang approached him at the site of the petrol station at Okirighwre to give them bribe. As a “son of the soil”, he reportedly refused their overture and understated threat, saying that it was wrong, but the boys took umbrage and swore to give him trouble.
Narrating his ordeal to Niger Delta Voice from a hospital bed where he is now convalescing, the victim said one of the youths drove to the petrol station he was building with police officers on November 4, 2015 and pointed at him. The police officers bundled him away at gunpoint, tortured and detained him without verifying the practical details of the allegations against him.
“I am now at a crossroads, if I knew this would happen, I would have remained in Russia. All my colleagues who learnt about my ordeal have sworn never to come back to Nigeria. It is because I refused to pay money to the youths that all these are happening to me. “They pounded me and are using the police to bully me and my family, can you imagine that police officers arrested and locked me for refusing to offer bribe to youths. They beat me and forced me to write statement at the police station,” he said.
He asserted, “The police officers demanded for N10 million before they would release me, my father was repeatedly threatened by some policemen that he should tell me to cooperate and bring money or they will come and arrest him too. My father is sick, he came out of his sick bed and began running about to free me.”
How police, friend defrauded me
“My house was repeatedly searched by policemen but nothing incriminating was found. The police officers forcefully collected N350,000.00) from me after threatening that they would plant incriminating evidence in my house and clinic if I do not cooperate with them.
“They threatened to write an incriminating statement against me if my wife does not bring another N100, 000.00 and when my wife had no option, she gave it to them. That was how they were forcing us to give them money. They milked us dry through one of my fake friends. The police forced us to part away a total of N4, 200, 000.00,” he said.
Arienmughara disclosed, “Some of the money were collected in cash, others were through money transfers. Here is the transfer slip with which I made one of such money transfers into the account of my friend.”
AIG unknowingly freed me
He recalled that a friend framed him two years ago leading to his detention on December 3, 2013 until the early hours of the next day when they hurriedly released him because D.I.G. Hashimu Argungu, who was then the A.I.G. at zone 5, did not allow such nonsense to continue for long.
According to him, “It was when that my friend called my wife and she narrated to him how I was arrested by a surveillance team in the middle of the night and whisked away that he came to know about it. He even promised my wife that he was going to secure my release without paying a dime and we trusted him, not knowing that his purpose was to dupe us.”
He further lamented: “All my company documents have been seized by the said policemen and they have simply refused to release same till date,” adding, “That my friend having seen that the bubble has burst is now trying to remove himself out of the matter. He even told me to sign a hurriedly arranged power of attorney for him to collect the company’s document on my behalf. It was just a plot between him and the police to scoop more money from me but I am now familiar with him
They want to kill me
“I and my entire family now live in fear of them; they now want to kill me. The crime I committed is that I came from Russia to invest and develop my town thereby create employment and some people would rather die than to see this to happen without me pledging ‘loyalty’ to them. “I would have written to the state government, but I am constrained having seen how its Security Committee handled the Okegborode case in which people were hacked with cutlass and battle axes because of community politics.
“With the way and manner the committee handled the matter, no reasonable person would want to seek government’s intervention in certain security matters because that person would be forced to compromise a case like this involving attempted murder and threat to the security and well being of the state.
How they bundled, pulled my client’s toes — Lawyer
Speaking on the plight of his client, Elume said: “This is jealousy taken too far and demanding money with menace, torture, corruption, frustration of the current government developmental and economic policies.”
He said his client had dragged five persons, including three police officers to the Federal High Court, Abuja, in connection with the matter. In a petition dated November 20, to President Muhmmaudu Buhari, Elume said: “Our client just returned from Russia having spent four (4) years there and decided to start the business of operating a petrol station in Sapele, his home town.
“Our client was in his site at Okirighwre when he noticed a car pulling over ahead and someone who drove the car pointed for some policemen that our client is the man they came for. The policemen told our client that the Assistant Inspector General of Police – Musa A. Duara wants to see him. This was on November 4, 2015. He went with them. The reason why the Assistant Inspector General of Police wants to see him, the team of policemen did not tell him.”
“On arrival at zone 5, he was told to make a statement and he sought to know the allegation against him, a police officer just told him to put something down that they want to ‘profile him’ He refused, the police officers started beating up our client and told him to raise his leg. He did and they forcefully removed the nail of his right big toe with a very sharp object.
Day assassins came for me
His words: “I am being continually trailed by assassins hired by some people I know very well. They are Sapele people whom I am prosecuting criminal cases against in Abuja.
“When they discovered that I have relocated to Benin City because of them, they hired four assassins, who recently traced me to my house in Benin City at about 11.00 pm at night. I had gone to bed then. They scaled through the fence and forced their way in through the main door, which they broke down and ordered me to lie down face down while they searched everywhere for some specific documents that I am using to prosecute them.
“As they could not find the documents, one of them told the others that he was going to shoot me dead, but their leader objected leading to a very sharp disagreement among them, and they began fighting themselves. Just as they were fighting, a little boy in my compound flashed a torch light through the window and I was able to see the face of one of them, who I can identify if I see him again.
“In the ensuring pandemonium, I crept out and escaped. I ran to the University of Benin, UNIBEN gate that night with only pant, where I stayed with the security men till the following morning.
Sapele leaders decry harassment of citizen Arienmughare
Spokesperson of Sapele community, Dr Vincent Ekariko, was disturbed about the plight of Arienmughare. He said: “The way these people are treating Oborakpororo is not good for the growth and success of this town. I think he should be encouraged to do his own quota towards the development of the town. Pursuing him all over the place and forcing him to part away with huge sums is unfair.”
“If this trend is allowed to continue, it is bound to scare away investors from Sapele. We need development in the town; companies and investors have deserted the place because of people who do not want the success of Sapele. This town was once a second township after Lagos, but from the 1980s till date, we have been witnessing very slow development, leading to the eventual fall of nearly all economic and social activities,” he asserted.
A youth leader in the area, Mr. Fegudson Barovwe, said, “We the people of Sapele are not happy that some people will just sit somewhere to determine the fate of this town. These people fighting Oborakpororo now are scaring people and companies away from the town. What has Oborakpororo done that they want him dead? Is it because he has come to add his quota to the development of the town that they want him dead?
“We are not comfortable at all with the whole episode and we want the government to step in and allow the man to do his business. Even if they want the strangers to pay “deve” to them before they can invest in the town, must Oborakpororo , who is a native pay “deve” to them? He queried.
Counter revolt plan
Barovwe added, “If you find out the people fighting him no, you will be surprised that they are strangers who came to settle with us here and they now want to become landlord of the town.
“That is not going to be possible. They should allow him to do his businesses or we will revolt against them soon. They are not the owner of the town we are the real owners and it is us that will determine who stays here. Since we allow them to stay here, they cannot turn round to drive us away from the town, they should warn them.”
Call me back later
Edo State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Stanley Osifo, who spoke to Niger Delta Voice on phone, referred our reporter to the zonal Police Public Relations Officer, AIG’s Office, Benin City, saying the matter was not under his jurisdiction.
Efforts to speak to the Zonal Police Public Relations Officer, AIG Office, Benin City, were unsuccessful as there was no further response from his phone after he initially answered and told one of our reporters to call him back later. He did not also reply a text message by another reporter notifying him of the allegations and requesting to hear from him.
An unofficial source at the AIG’s office, however, said, “The victim’s claim of financial inducement to the tune of N4.2 million does not hold water too. The Police did not collect money from him, which is all I can say to you, you can go to the AIG if you like and ask him too.” Delta State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Celestina Kalu, said: “I do not want to comment on that issue, though I know what you are talking about. In fact, I am busy.”