Intersociety explains abduction, disappearance of 5 engineers in Ebonyi, demands forensic evaluation

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Intersociety outlines ten dimensions to the abduction and disappearance of five NELAN engineers in Ebonyi state and demand for their forensic evaluation

From preliminary findings made by leaders of the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), the 3rd November 2021 abduction and disappearance till date of five NELAN Consultant-Engineers; namely: Engineers Nelson Onyemeh, Ernest Edeani, Ikechukwu Ejiofor, Samuel Aneke and Stanley Nwazulum is most likely to have been characterized by Ten Negative Dimensions. To get desired justice or to the root of the dastardly act, the ten negative dimensions must be impartially and forensically evaluated.

They are:

(a) Mysterious deaths related to the Project,

(b) Abduction conceived in actus reus and mens rea,

(c) Possible death of the abductees in captivity conceived in actus reus and mens rea,

(d) Unanswered questions in Governor Umahi’s confirmation of the Engineers’ ‘abduction and killing’ in captivity,

(e)Failure by Government to rescue the abductees if still alive,

(f) Failure by Government to retrieve the bodies of the abductees if slain in captivity,

(g) Failure by Government to apprehend, investigate and prosecute the real culprits and their sponsors,

(h) Failure by Government to provide adequate security and protect the five Engineers and other NELAN workers handling the Road Project supervision,

(i) Government’s complicity and possible cover-ups,

(j) Impersonation of NELAN Consultants and their Engineers by suspected agents of the Ebonyi State Government and,

(k) Justice delayed and denied.

Therefore, for justice to be done and seen to be done in the abduction and disappearance of five Civil Engineers, the ten negative dimensions must be unmasked and forensically evaluated through comprehensive and conclusive impartial investigations. Most, if not all the five Engineers have 40 years of field engineering experience. While three of the five Engineers came from Anambra State, two others hailed from Enugu State.

It must be recalled that the said abduction had taken place after the commencement of the Ebonyi Ring Road Phase 11 Project, financed by the African Development Bank and others. The supervision consultancy contract was awarded to the NELAN Consultants, an Enugu based reputable Engineering Firm; with responsibility of supervising the Ebonyi Ring Road Project and ensuring its execution and completion within the stipulated timeframe and in accordance with the prescribed or agreed standards.

The project site and its Ring Road Project are situated in Onu-Nwenewo, an Ezza village in Effium Community in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. The First Phase or Phase 1 of the Project was commissioned in October 2021 by Gov Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State; the beneficiary State. It must also be clearly stated that the Project is zero ‘counterpart funding’. In other words, the Government of Ebonyi State is not involved in the financing of the Project except in the monitoring of same as the host State Government.

Similarly, pieces of evidence abound showing that there have never been reports of hostility and violence by the host Community towards the Construction and Consultancy firms handling the Project. As a matter of fact, Intersociety had interviewed some indigenes of the affected Community, who pleaded anonymity so as not to attract the State Government/Governor’s wrath.

They confirmed to Intersociety that “relationship between their Community and the Construction/Supervision Companies has been cordial from the start of the Project and same Community could not have turned around to abduct the five Engineers”.

Also, the Ezza-Effium Consultative Assembly, in its recent statement, debunked the Ebonyi State Government’s claims that “Ezza Warriors are responsible for the abduction and killing of the five Engineers” and maintained that the area had no hostile relationship with the Companies handling the Ring Road Project and its supervision.

Outlining The Ten Negative Dimensions

(a) Mysterious Deaths Related To The Project

It must be pointed out here that when the AfDB Ebonyi Ring Road Project was about to start, it was greeted with mysterious deaths including the Ebonyi State Government’s announced “death in fatal automobile accident along Enugu-Abakiliki Road of the State Commissioner for Works (Engineer Nwaeze)”. The Ebonyi State Government/Governor had publicly pronounced him dead and said “he was killed by automobile seat belt”.

The State Government’s pronounced dead Commissioner was also the Chairman of the Ebonyi State Project Implementation Unit for the said AfDB financed Ring Road Projects. There was also the mysterious death of one Engineer Mrs. Uchechi who was then in charge of the Project Implementation Unit for the Ring Road Project. She died mysteriously when the Project was about to take off.

(b) Abduction Premeditated

The abduction and disappearance of the five Civil Engineers was well thought out or conceived in guilty act or “actus reus” and guilty mind or “mens rea”. That is to say that it was never accidental or ‘mob action’ base abduction and disappearance. The culprits did not also circumstantially act alone or act outside the remote knowledge or complicity of the State actor authorities. Further detailed investigations will throw more light.

(c) Possible Death In Captivity Premeditated

The possible death in captivity, of the five Civil Engineers was also well thought out or conceived in guilty act or “actus reus” and guilty mind or “mens rea”. That is to say that it was never accidental or ‘mob action’ base abduction and disappearance. The culprits did not also circumstantially act alone or act outside the remote knowledge or complicity of the State actor authorities.

In other words, if truly they have been killed in captivity, it means the same circumstances surrounding their abduction and disappearance and those behind the dastardly act and the motives responsible must have been the same. Further detailed investigations into same will throw more light.

(d) Unanswered Questions Trailing Umahi’s Confirmation Of The Engineers’ Abduction And Death

The Ebonyi Governor has recently organized a Press Conference in late November 2021 during which he announced and confirmed the abduction and killing in captivity of the five abducted Civil Engineers belonging to the NELAN Consultants. The Governor also announced the killing of some security operatives and injuring of others at Igbuduoke Village in Effium/Ezza by “Ezza Warriors”.

The said victim security operatives were said to have been attacked while returning from investigation activities in connection with the abducted Engineers. Granted that such gubernatorial declaration is weighty in law and criminology but there are several loopholes or unanswered questions inherent in the Ebonyi State Governor’s pronouncement.

In other words, the Governor’s pronouncement did not address the following: What was the Ebonyi Governor’s source of information regarding the abductees’ “death in captivity”? Why didn’t the Governor disclose the whereabouts of the dead bodies of his confirmed abducted and killed five NELAN Engineers?

Is there any prima facie evidence showing that “Ezza Warriors” abducted and killed the five Engineers? Have the investigative security operatives concluded their investigations into the matter and issued a report or reports?” if “Ezza Warriors” were responsible, what were their reasons? Were the victims’ families including wives and children duly informed? If the Ebonyi State Government is not complicit, why in a haste to have the NELAN Consultants and their Engineers replaced?

If the Ebonyi State Government is not complicit in the dastardly act, why has it not set up an Independent Judicial Commission of Enquiry? When has a Governor’s role as a Chief Security Officer included that of a criminal investigator and prosecutor? These questions are just but a few

(e) Government Failed Woefully To Protect The Construction Workers

One of the key roles of any host governing authority as a condition for citing and execution of any mega project by a multinational institution such as the African Development Bank is provision of physical protection and security to the construction company handling the project including protection of its facilities and workers. In the case of the Ebonyi State Ring Road Project (Phase 11) financed by the AfDB, the Government/Governor of Ebonyi State failed woefully.

(f) Government Failed Woefully To Rescue The Abductees, Dead Or Alive

The Government of Ebonyi State also failed woefully in the instant case and this is capable of endangering other workers handling the Project and their facilities as well as eroding corporate confidence reposed in the Government of Ebonyi State by the financiers of the $150m project including the African Dev Bank. It is also capable of jeopardizing and disrupting the Project and would-be others in future.

(g) Government Failed Woefully To Apprehend The Real Culprits

The Government of Ebonyi State is still far from not being suspected of complicity in the dastardly act, as up till today, the real perpetrators of the dastardly act are on the prowl. Chances are also very high that none of those arrested knows anything concerning the dastardly act and in the end, the real culprits will be left to walk freely in the street with a license to perpetrate more and ‘impunitized’.

This is more so when the real culprits were most likely not to have acted on their own and chances are very high that they were hired and sponsored by the powers that be to perpetrate the dastardly act including using some security personnel as “collateral damages or victims”; with example being the reported killing of some security personnel in their duty lines in connection with five Civil Engineers’ abduction and disappearance.

(h) Suspected Government Complicity And Cover-up

A litany of biases and contradictions abounds on the part of the Government of Ebonyi State concerning the dastardly act under reference. Pieces of evidence indicating impartiality, biases, contradictions and cover-ups by the State Government have continued to emerge.

A typical case in point was a meeting of ‘the stakeholders’ from the affected communities and reps of the Construction/Supervision Companies, summoned by the Government of Ebonyi State about three weeks after the 3rd November 2021 abduction and disappearance of the five NELAN Consultant-Engineers during which the Governor announced that “DSS intelligence shows that the whereabouts of the five captive Engineers have been located and they are still alive”; only for the same Government/Governor to “confirm” about five days later of “abduction and killing of the five Engineers” .

It also amounted to cover-up and diversionary for the State Governor to have suspended top civil servants of the State Government from the affected Communities including two Permanent Secretaries and two Dev. Center Coordinators in Ohaukwu as well as withholding of their remunerations. This was done without recourse to any investigative finding including Judicial Panel of Enquiry.

The Government of Ebonyi State had also been accused of shielding perpetrators of such dastardly acts in the State including the recent withdrawal of criminal trial by the State Attorney General of three persons standing trial in a murder case invovling a respected indigene of Ogwuma Community in Afikpo South. The perpetrators of the dastardly act are strongly believed to be linked to a killer squad known as “THE MORE CAN BE DONE”, also accused of being responsible for death of dozens in recent past.

The killer squad is also accused of working for political establishments in the State. There were also reports of the recent release under questionable circumstances of 52 members of another killer group in Ezza-Effium arrested by Nigerian Army and handed to the Ebonyi State Police Command for prosecution. Their questionable release was suspected to have been masterminded by top agents of the Government of Ebonyi State.

Totality of the above is a circumstantial confirmation that killings and other forms of violence including abductions arising from the so called “intra/inter communal conflicts” across the State including the 3rd November 2021 abduction and disappearance of five NELAN Engineers are politically motivated and sponsored. In other words, violent politicking is responsible for remote causes surrounding such bestialities.

That is to say that for real truth of what transpired in the Effium’s dastardly act to emerge, it must require a special criminal investigation and civil enquiry by requisite Government institutions outside Ebonyi State. By Law, the National Human Rights Commission is one of such Government establishments needed to commence the civil aspect of the enquiries. This is going by powers bestowed on it by its amended Act of 2010.

Other statutory Government investigative bodies needed in the instant case are the Force Bureau of Intelligence and the Force CID of the Nigeria Police Force, Abuja. The public services of the three Government institutions are therefore required in the instant case. This is more so when by the Nigeria’s Apex Court decision in Chief Gani Fawehinmi V. Inspector-General of Police And 2 Others (SC201/2000) (2002) 6 (10th May 2002) (involving then Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu of Lagos State), “a sitting Governor can be conclusively investigated and if indicted, he or she can be prosecuted after the expiration of his or her tenure of office or upon loss of his or her office immunity in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution”. Credible international rights groups can also be called upon or petitioned to intervene.

(i) Impersonation And Attempts To Replace NELAN Consultants And Their Engineers

Suspected agents of the Government of Ebonyi State have been strongly fingered in the impersonation of the NELAN Consultants and their Engineers as well as several attempts to replace the Firm with another loyal to the State Government or its agents. For instance, barely seven days after the abduction of the five NELAN Consultant-Engineers, on 10th November 2021, the Firm received a threat letter from the Government of Ebonyi State, showing its “displeasure over the Firm’s failure to report to the site”.

In the letter to the Firm, signed by one Engineer Felix Otta, the Ebonyi State Government described the bereaved Firm’s absence from the Construction site as amounting to “a gross negligence of duty”. Yet in another letter dated 12th November 2021, the State Government issued “A Notification of Force-Majeure” against the Firm with a threat to invoke same.

As if that was not enough, in a strange meeting hurriedly scheduled for 29th November 2021, the NELAN Consultants were impersonated at the meeting. This was even as the Firm was still studying the motive of the strange meeting and engaging investigative security operatives working on the abduction and disappearance of their five Engineers. The Firm was shocked to receive information that one “Engineer S. Sowumi” impersonated them at the meeting after he was imported and paraded as a “representative staff of the NELAN Consultants”.

(j) Justice Delayed And Denied

The sum total of the above therefore amounts to justice delayed and denied. This is not only to the NELAN Consultants and their abducted and disappeared five Civil Engineers but also to the citizens of Ebonyi State and those that perpetrated the dastardly act. This is because Justice is a-three-way traffic: justice to the victims and their families and victimized others, justice to the general society that was wronged; and justice to the perpetrators that perpetrated the dastardly act and defiled the society.

Justice to the perpetrators must come by way of adequate sanctions and punishments to deter them and others from further perpetration of atrocious acts and repeat-offences; justice to the society is by punishing the offenders to avoid repeating same and compensating the victims to prevent them from going into crime with aggrieved mindsets; or falling victim to post traumatic stress disorder.

Therefore justice must not only be done in the case of abduction and disappearance of the five Civil Engineers of the NELAN Consultants in Effium-Ohaukwu in Ebonyi State, Southeast Nigeria but also must be seen to be done.

We hereby call for unbiased, detailed and conclusive criminal investigations and civil enquiries into the Ebonyi Ring Road Civil Engineers’ abduction and disappearance.

While the duo of the NPF’s Bureau of Intelligence and Force CID is called upon to ensure detailed and conclusive criminal investigations into the dastardly act including rescuing the abductees if still alive or recovering their remains if slain in captivity and identification and fishing out the real culprits and their sponsors no matter how highly placed; it is also our call on the National Human Rights Commission, State and National Legislative bodies such as relevant Senate and House of Reps Committees as well as international human rights and media investigative bodies to take up the aspect of civil enquiries into the dastardly act.

Signed:

For: International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law-INTERSOCIETY


Emeka Umeagbalasi (Criminologist & Graduate of Security Studies), Board Chair


Lawyer Chidimma Udegbunam, Head, Campaign and Publicity Department


Lawyer Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Head, Civil Liberties and Rule of Law Department


Comrade Chibueze Nwajiaku, Deputy Head, Policing and Law Enforcement Department

Contacts: Mobile Phone/WhatsApp: +2348174090052, Email: info@intersociety-ng.org, Website: https://intersociety-ng.org

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