-Commissioner For Commerce accused of shielding suspects

Following the attempted kidnap of Chief Valentino Ibenye Ugballa at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Okporo, few months ago, a chieftain of Imo State Amalgamated Market Traders Association, (ISAMATA) was on Monday, March 22, arranged at Magistrate Court 9 Owerri and subsequently remanded in prison custody.

The charge sheet No: OW/147/C/2021, Commissioner of Police V Emmanuel Odidika “m” 45 years reads, that you, “Emmanuel Odidika, Kelechi Irobin “m”, Jude Iroka “m”, Okwukchukw Opiri “m”, Anayo Amaeze “m” Engene Onuoha “m”, Adaeze Akwaja “f” and Onyekachi Jinelo “m”, all at large on the 3rd day of January, 2021 at about 10:55am at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Okporo in Orlu L.G.A. of Imo State within the Imo State Magisterial district, did conspire among yourselves to commit felony to wit armed robbery, an offence punishable under section 516 of the Criminal Code Cap “C38” Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 as applicable to Imo State”.

In the second of the six count charge, the kidnap suspects were accused of arming themselves with guns, cutlasses, rods and sticks and jointly robbed one Chief Valentino Ugballa “m” of One million, one hundred and fifty thousand naira N1,150,000, Itel phone valued at five thousand naira (N5,000). A Samsung Galaxy phone x220 valued at N175,00, Gucci gold wrist, watch valued at one million eight hundred and five thousand naira, eight hundred and fifty united states dollars, ($850) gold necklace valued at one million, sixty five thousand naira, all with a total value of six million, five hundred thousand naira”.

Recall, that Chief Valentino Ibenye Ugballa KSM, a philanthropist and illustrious son of the area and Italy based business mogul was attacked right inside St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Okporo where he went on five different invitations, comprising that, by the parish priest, Rev. Fr. Kenneth, for church harvest, for child dedication, memorial service of his friend’s late father, special thanksgiving of a family friend and the 50th wedding anniversary of Chief Linus Igwe.

Commenting on the incident, then, Valentino, said, “when I refused to follow them from the car park where they ambushed me, they pounced on me, tore my clothes, heat the gun repeatedly on my head, collected my two phones, wrist watch, necklace and cash of N1.50m eight hundred and fifty dollars ($850). After much beating, I managed to enter the church and they followed me for more than one hour. When the church called the police, they all ran away, leaving behind one of their motorcycles”.

It would also be recalled that Emmanuel Odidika, Anayo Amaeze and others had been involved in legal battle over issues arising from the control of Orie Okporo market for which the court had severally given judgment in favour of Valentino that Odidika and his group often violated and disregarded.

There are reports that since the arrest and detention of Emmanuel Odidika and his group for their alleged complicity in the attempted kidnap of Valentino Ibenye Ugballa, some top government appointees including the commissioner for commerce and Industry, Mr Simon Ibegbulem and other highly placed individuals have been calling, pressing buttons and making frantic efforts to effect his release, “to the extent of attempting to compromise law enforcement agents. This gives credence to speculations that the attempted kidnap may have been politically motivated”.

Effort to reach Mr Ibegbulem for reaction proved abortive as he did not pick  calls put across to him or return same.