Pastor Okochi Obeni of God’s Descendants Assembly, Amasiri, Afikpo North Local Government Area, Ebonyi State, has narrated his spine-chilling ordeal to the Punch, how he was tortured, brutalized and forced by the council chairman, Ogbonnaya Oko Enyim to drink water from the gutter, after he was knelt down for over two hours, with his hands tied to the back and given 36 strokes of the cane.
The victim is now hospitalized at Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, where doctors fear that he may now be paralyzed for life.
The alleged primitive resort to self-help by the LG chairman, has also damaged the hands of the cleric, who said he now even has difficulty holding his mobile phone.
Pastor Obeni narrated: “I’m a social media activist. Both of us are from Amasiri community so he is the chairman of my local government area. As a social critic, I criticize bad governance and people in power not doing well. The same way I criticize people in positions of authority not doing well is the way I criticize the chairman. The perceived negative relationship I have with him started when he was asked to build a kilometre of road like his counterparts in other local government areas of the state.
“The governor told them to construct a kilometre of road anywhere in their councils. He was unable to do that. It took him quite some time to take action as regard the road construction. So, I wrote about it. I criticized it. So, when he was seeking re-election, I wrote again that any local government chairperson who could not build a kilometre of road in their council was not worthy of being re-elected. It was from that point that I started having problem with him.
“He started hurting me, using different means. He reported me to the Anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Nigeria Police, saying I was attacking him on social media. I went there and my statement exonerated me. I told them I did not have any personal issue against him and that I was only trying to hold him accountable as a public office holder.”
When the police refused to be used to silence a citizen exercising his constitutional right, Mr. Enyim and his thugs took the law into their hands.
Obeni added, “I was expecting to be treated badly by these people, but I did not envisage it would take that form. That day, I was called by one Amadi Julius Nyerere, who is a nominee of the chairman and a Technical Assistant to Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi. He called and said the Essa age grade chairman wanted to see me. I thought the plan was to reconcile me with the council chairman, so I went there. On reaching there, I discovered that all the aides of the council chairman, Isi Oru age grade members, and Essa age grade chairman (who is related to the council boss), and his executives, were all there. It dawned on me that there was a plan already on the ground that was being followed using all means available since their plan to use policemen in Ebonyi State Security Neighbourhood Watch had failed.
“So, they resorted to attacks. I never experienced the kind of ugly treatment they gave me. They tied my hands behind my back and up till this very moment, I can’t make use of my hands. I can’t hold any object; you can see how I’m struggling to hold my phones. They forced me to drink gutter water and did all sorts of things to me. They put my body through all manner of inhuman treatments, aside from flogging me 36 times.
“My hands were tied behind my back. Those people made to stay on my knees for over two and a half hours inside a gutter.
“I want people to know that public service should not be a do-or-die affair. If you know are not competent to be in a position of authority and can’t tolerate criticisms, please stay off and let people who understand what governance entails take up positions of authority. Also, allow the media to do their work.”
According to the victim, the doctor says most of “my veins and nerves had been damaged because of the long hours that my hands were tied and I was beaten.
“He said the health challenges could become permanent if I didn’t treat them quickly. He said it could lead to paralysis. They further advised that I should be moved to the physiotherapy centre of the hospital and that’s where I am currently. I have been receiving treatment here but I still can’t hold any object. I can’t easily close my hands or open them. I still feel so much pain all over my body, but it is better than how I felt on the day of the incident.
“My worst fear is that these current health challenges might lead to permanent paralysis in the future. I’m begging people to pray for me to recover quickly.”
CHECKPOINTCHARLEY understood that Police spokesman, Mr Frank Mba, said some arrests had been made but the chief culprits, Oko Enyim, Okpara Akpu Mbe, Oko Olughu, Amicable, and others have not been arrested.
Mr. Mba was yet to respond to calls on his mobile phone, as at the time of filing this report.
Nigerians in the corridors of power get away with breaking the law, due primarily to lack of strong institutions. However, the barbarism of Mr. Oko Enyim and his gang and the inhuman treatment they meted out to the pastor in a democracy is a new level in impunity in a country that was supposed to be an example in Africa and a source of pride for all black people every where.