The family members of a medical doctor in the Ogwashi-Uku General Hospital, Delta State, Dr Victor Ugbomah, have described the police’s account of the circumstances surrounding the killing of the 49-year-old man as questionable.
The siblings of the deceased alleged that he was assassinated contrary to the police’s claim that the medical doctor was killed by some kidnappers suspected to be Fulani herdsmen.
They accused the police of getting cold feet in investigating the incident, claiming that an influential politician in the state was behind the killing.
Ugbomah’s family members added that their breadwinner, who was also a politician, was assassinated for supporting a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, aspiring to become a member of the Delta State House of Assembly in 2019.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that Ugbomah, who hailed from the Ndokwa East Local Government Area, was in the front passenger seat of a car driven by his friend, Jerry Omei, when he was shot dead at close range on August 25, 2018, along Obomkpa Road.
It was claimed that Omei and a friend, identified simply as Emma, who was in the back of the vehicle, were kidnapped and released after a ransom was paid. But the family refuted the claim, saying that the scenario was stage-managed.
One of the younger brothers of the deceased, Nduka, alleged that the police were being influenced to limit their investigation to a case of kidnap rather than unravelling the mystery surrounding the assassination of the medical doctor.
Nduka said a picture taken at the scene of the attack revealed that his brother was still held by his seat belt while the car window had been wound down.
He said, “My elder brother was shot by some people we did not know at close range. However, they are claiming that kidnappers, who are herdsmen, killed him. From all indications, his killing has a political undertone and the family believes that he was assassinated. I travelled from Lagos, where I live, to Delta State and made enquiries from people.
“I met with the Divisional Police Officer of the Issele-uku Police Station, which responded when the incident occurred. He said it was a kidnap case which made the two others in the car to be victims too. But two policemen confided in me that it was a clear case of assassination. One of them, a senior officer, said there was a directive to treat the matter as a case of kidnap. It has been transferred to the anti-kidnapping unit of the state police command headquarters in Asaba.
“I don’t think anybody will see a terrorist and not undo their seat belt; he was sitting comfortably. So, it was like a conspiracy. I have been to the mortuary to see his corpse; he was shot directly in the head. Any kidnapper will want to negotiate first with the family of the victim.”
Nduka told our correspondent that he and some family members went to see the officer in charge of the anti-kidnapping unit for update on the investigation but that he declined to give them any information.
“I was very angry. I was asked to write a statement but I said I was not in a rush to do so,” Nduka added.
Explaining the chain of events leading to the killing of his brother, Nduka said the deceased had a political meeting to attend in a hotel at Asaba on the day he was killed, but that he was persuaded by his friend, Omei, to go for the burial of the late reggae musician, Ras Kimono, at Onicha Olona.
He said, “Jerry (Omei) picked him up at the hotel in the evening. We learnt that they were going for Ras Kimono’s burial. But the route along which the attack happened was not the route to the venue of the burial. Jerry and Emma claimed they were kidnapped and a ransom was paid.
“It was a game plan. and I suspect a popular politician who had a disagreement with my brother. Apart from being a medical doctor, my brother was the backbone of the PDP in our local government area and he was in support of an aspirant seeking to become a member of the state House of Assembly.”
Another sibling of the late doctor, Charles, said none of Ugbomah’s political associates had paid condolence visits to the family, adding that he received strange calls while he was in the village after the incident.
“Similarly, the two persons who were with him in the car, have not come to sympathise with the family since the incident happened, which makes it more suspicious. They are well known acquaintances of my brother. The question is, will a kidnapper kill a victim worth millions of naira without getting a ransom? He was not kidnapped. We believe that the people in the car know about his assassination.
“While we were in the village, we received calls from people we did not know and all they asked us was ‘Where are you?’ Everything was just suspicious. When I sent a message to one of his political associates to tell him that my brother was dead, what he said was, “I know about the incident; where are you?”
However, Omei denied the allegation that he and Emma conspired with politicians to kill Ugbomah, insisting that they were attacked by herdsmen.
He stated that Ugbomah had wanted to visit an unnamed person at a neighouring community, after they left the venue of Ras Kimono’s burial, adding that they were on their way when the gunmen ambushed them.
He said, “The truth is that we were ambushed by Fulani herdsmen numbering about seven. They were shooting indiscriminately. While we were trying to manouevre, they blocked the road. We could not go forward or reverse. They shot at me and the car somersaulted. It was in the process that my friend was shot. The car was bullet-ridden. I was unconscious. The kidnappers dragged me out of the vehicle. They took me and Emma into the bush.”
Omei said the kidnappers initially demanded N9m ransom, but later reduced it to N2.5m after negotiations. He stated that the ransom was paid by a senator from the state; however, he said he did not have the senator’s phone number when our correspondent demanded to speak to him.
“We were held in the bush for three days. The incident was not what you would wish for your enemy. The car is mine. I would not want to lose it or my best friend, Ugbomah. I still feel the pain. I have been going to the hospital. I was traumatised.
“Ugbomah was a man that believed so much in me. He was like a brother to me. He was even the one who bought N3,000 fuel that was put in my car that day. That was not the first time we would travel together. I did not have a hand in his death and I was not aware he had any disagreement with any politician,” he added.
Efforts to speak to Emma proved abortive as Omei said he had yet to retrieve the line in which he saved Emma’s phone number.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Delta State Police Command, DSP Andrew Aniamaka, said he could not speak much on the matter as it was under investigation, noting that the perpetrators would be brought to book.
He said, “A case as serious as murder is treated with utmost discretion. While the case is being investigated, I cannot engage the press. When we speak, we should speak with facts and not emotions. The police will ensure that there is no travesty of justice. What we saw was a case of kidnap, but like I said, the case is under investigation and the perpetrators will be brought to book. The OC anti-kidnapping cannot be nonchalant. At the end of the day, we will speak on our findings.”