From Okey Sampson, Umuahia, and Tony John, Port Harcourt
The family of Mr. Chinedu Nwagwu, a security man at Rockson Engineering Company, which built one of the Federal Government power plants at Umuobasi, Umugo, in Ugwunagbo Local Government of Abia State, is crying foul over their missing father and breadwinner. Nwagwu went to work on February 24, and has not been seen since then.
However, Nwagwu’s image was allegedly seen in a witch doctor’s magic mirror in Akwa Ibom State but he didn’t utter a word. According to the witch doctor, those behind his disappearance were heavyweight occultists. That was why he couldn’t say anything.
Piqued by the company’s alleged nonchalance over their missing father, on March 8, the family of Nwagwu wrote a petition to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), detailing how their father went to work five months ago and vanished within the company’s premises.
The petition, signed by one of the family members, gave this insight: “On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, our father, Mr. Chinedu Nwagwu, went to work at Rockson Engineering company and signed in by 5.47am, till date, has not returned. He did not sign out and did not leave the gate, according to the gate man, as the company operates with one entrance.”
To complicate issues, the family further stated that as they spoke the man’s bicycle with which he went to work, his food flasks, bag and cap were still where he kept them.
While urging ICPC to wade in and take steps to force the company to provide their father, the family said: “Since then, the company is not saying or doing anything. It seems they have forgotten that it is a human being that is involved here.”
Giving an update on the incident, the missing man’s daughter, Onyinyechi, said: “So far, the police have been fully involved in the matter. The state CID in the course of their investigation invited the people on morning duty in the company that very day, interviewed and detained them, which made the company (Rockson Engineering) to come out.”
However, the angle from which the company came into the matter left mouths of members of the family agape. Take this from Onyinyechi: “The accountant of the company, Mr. Anthony Alozie, came to the community to suggest for a traditional search, instead of looking for our missing father through legal means, which our traditional ruler mandated them to do within 10 days. What this means is that the assignment the company was given, they came and gave it back indirectly to the monarch.”
It was learnt that Alozie, on behalf of the company, gave the community through their monarch, Eze Chidi Onyeije, N1.2m for the traditional search. The traditional ruler in turn divided the money into two, gave the family of Nwagwu N600,000 and the community had the remaining amount for the traditional search.
A source within the community told this reporter that some of the natives went to a neighbouring state to search for the missing man in the traditional way, but nothing was found out. According to the source, “those who went called the missing man and he appeared in a mirror, but, surprisingly, he could not talk to the people to know what happened to him. It appeared those who caused his disappearance also did something diabolical to shut him up from saying what happened to him, to cover the whole thing up. Even the native doctor was utterly surprised at the result as he said it was the first time such would happen, somebody would appear in the magic mirror and could not say anything.”
The family is certainly not happy with the way the issue of their missing breadwinner is being handled by the company. According to Onyinyechi, “the matter needs to be followed legally. My question to the company is, does government make use of this traditional method to carry out their investigations? So, for me, it does not hold water; it’s as if the company knows what they did.”
She further queried: “Why will they (company) be the one that would suggest this traditional search and they also brought money for that purpose and they didn’t go themselves?
“Our traditional ruler gave them 10 days to produce our father, but after eight days they came with the money to give the community the assignment they were given. The company is behaving as if the money given for the so-called traditional search translated to paying compensation and that is why they are mentioning it anywhere they go. What is N600,000 given to the family for that purpose compared to the life of our father?”
The family has not ceased to point the finger in the direction of the chief security officer (CSO) at the time of the incident, Emmanuel Amasor. According to the spokesperson of the family, “He knows what happened to my father because, as the CSO, his workers started calling him from around 11am but he never picked his call till 2pm, despite the fact they were distress calls. Even at 2pm when he returned, he said the sun was too much; he never attended to the matter till 6pm when my family came looking for their father. So, that’s why I keep saying the man knows what happened to our father.”
The family is of the view that in order to confuse issues the more, the company allegedly hurriedly transferred the officer whom they accused of being in a better place to tell the whereabouts of their father out of Abia State.
“It’s like the company is even happy because they have transferred the officer, who I am sure knows what happened to our father. They have been saying he was around when the incident happened but he has been saying he went for a church programme. But when the police interviewed him, he said he went for one marketing seminar like that. So, he has been saying a lot of things; his statement is not stable, it is inconsistent,” Onyinyechi said.
Furthermore, Onyinyechi queried: “Why did they quickly hand over to the NDPHCN? Why did they stop paying Mr. Chinedu Nwagwu? That means they have concluded that he is dead. Are they not supposed to be paying him until the issue is resolved? We are appealing to Nigerians to help us. They are treating the matter as nothing because they feel we do not have anybody to speak for us.”
When Daily Sun visited the power plant company at Umugo, the CSO, Emmanuel Amasor, who admitted that Mr. Nwagwu actually came to work that faithful day and did not leave the premises before he was declared missing, had said he contacted the company’s head office in Abuja (as at then) and he was still awaiting their response three weeks after the incident.
A relation of the missing man, Chidi Emelogu, wondered why such approach should be adopted in searching for a man that went missing while in the office: “They are behaving as if what they are searching for is a goat, but we are talking of a human being here and I believe the police will do all within their powers to unravel the circumstance surrounding the disappearance of my brother without trace in his place of work.”
Although the SCID, Umuahia, has taken over the matter, the family is insisting the company must provide their breadwinner.
“The stand of the family is that the company should look for their staff because they have even not done what they are supposed to do. A man that went to work in such a fortified company that has even uniformed government security personnel manning the gate cannot just disappear like that without the connivance of some people. Even if they have buried our father, let them show the police where he was buried so we can exhume the remains and give him a proper burial.
“Police are still investigating but, for now, the matter is in the cooler because of the burning of the SCID (office) by hoodlums. But it has not ended and it cannot end like that. The company must do something to provide the man,” the family said emphatically.
What if the company comes with an olive branch, to seek a soft ground to assuage the family, could there be any space in the heart of members of the family? Onyinyechi was quick to respond, saying the company doesn’t appear to be thinking in the direction of peace, with the way they have been going about things. Even at that, she insisted the family must first be told what happened to their father before any other thing.
She said: “We will first like to know from the company what happened to our father. Last time, when the police invited the family members, the community and some staff of the company, representatives of the family and the community went, but nobody came on behalf of the company. They’ve never honoured police invitations. So, how would anybody convince us they want peace?”
The traditional ruler of the community, Eze Chidi Onyeije, narrated how, after the company came with the idea of searching for the missing man the traditional way, they tried and there was no success. He was of the view that, since the SCID had taken over the matter, they may at the end of the day unravel the mystery surrounding the disappearance of one of his subjects at his place of work.
Reacting on behalf of the management of Rockson Engineering Company, its consultant, Alozie, denied that the firm knew the circumstances leading to the disappearance of Nwagwu.
Alozie told Daily Sun that they were still puzzled and worried over the incident, adding that the company has had several meetings with Nwagwu’s relatives and the paramount ruler of the Umugo community, all in a bid to unravel the circumstances behind his disappearance.
He further disclosed that the company did not give N1.2 million to the community as compensation, rather the money was released to the people based on their demand to carry out community search.
“At a point, we looked at the whole thing and asked them (the natives), why can’t you people join the search? Why leave it entirety to the police? They said, yes, they wanted to do but they were handicapped; they did not have the resources.”
He also denied the allegation that the company refused to honour an invitation from the police, saying the company has shown much commitment to the matter: “It was because the company was concerned about getting to the root of the problem that made them (Rockson Engineering) to release the fund (N1.2 million) to the community when they demanded money to carry out their independent search.”
He stated further that Rockson Engineering Company was not the owner of the facilities where Nwagwu disappeared; rather, it was the property of Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC).
“The site in question is not controlled by us. We are a contractor working for NDPHC, who owns Alaoji Power Plant. We’re in their premises working for them,” he explained.
Alozie, who described the man’s disappearance as unfortunate, said, despite the fact that police were handling the matter, the company had promised to sustain payment of his monthly salary till the last count.
He said the CSO was not transferred, but was invited by police and detained: “The police wrote a letter that the chief security officer should come. They (police) are already holding the CSO. Which other CSO do you want to come? The man was with them there (detention).
“We have a lawyer on our behalf going there. Were they (community) informed that the CSO is with them (police)? They (community) know him. Is he not the man that has been in their community?
“If they said that we transferred the CSO, ask them whether they collected N1.2 million from us before the CSO was transferred? Ask them, if they said we did that.”