By NGOZI UWUJARE
A POPULAR Nigerian parlance, ‘many days for the thief, one day for the owner of the house,’ has come true for 30-year-old Onyedika Ebeh, a native of Isu-Uzo Local Government Area, Enugu State, who allegedly masqueraded as a lawyer until the bubble burst and he was arrested by the police.
Ebeh’s cookie, as Sunday Sun learnt from the Commissioner of Police, Enugu State Police Command, Mr. Nwodibo Ekechukwu, began to crumble when he defrauded Miss Nkechi Onoh, whose brother, Ndubuisi Onoh, was arrested by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in August 2015, for unlawful possession of arms and ammunition and consequently detained at its headquarters.
Ebeh was alleged to have fraudulently obtained the sum of N380,000 from her family in December 2015, to help spring Ndubuisi from prison custody, where he was remanded by the court after being arraigned by the police.
Prior to the incident, Ebeh had allegedly made a career of falsely presenting himself as a lawyer to unwary individuals who had various police cases at SARS, the Anti-Kidnapping Squad and at all police divisions in the state. His primary ‘brief’ as their ‘lawyer’ was to assist in securing bail for them for a fee. Once that was done, he would sign off because he never showed up in court to defend them if the matter eventually became a court case.
At the headquarters of the police command where he spoke with Sunday Sun reporter, Ebeh, who studied Estate Management at the Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra State, where he obtained an Ordinary National Diploma in 2011, recounted how he got himself equipped to function as a ‘lawyer’ for his clients.
He said: “I bought the lawyers’ outfit at the premises of the Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal. In 2014, I started to practice as a lawyer, focusing on charge and bail cases at police stations. I have never appeared in any Magistrate Court, High Court, Appeal Court or even the Supreme Court. I only parade myself within the offices of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Anti-Kidnapping Squad and all the police divisions in Enugu State arranging bail for accused persons arrested by the police. I don’t have chambers; I only operate from my house.”
As the Bible says, Ebeh’s alleged sin found him out when he could not fulfill the promise made to Nkechi Onoh to secure the release of Ndubuisi without court processes.
He had promised the family that he would give Ndubuisi a charm that would make him vanish from the prison and re-surface in the family compound. They apparently believed it and gave him the money.
To actualize the plan, Ebeh told Sunday Sun that he travelled to Kwara State, where he met a native doctor, who allegedly prepared the charm.
His words: “I travelled to Ilorin in Kwara State to meet a native doctor and collected a charm in November 2015; I gave the charm to Nkechi to plant in their compound where Ndubuisi would land after disappearing from the prison yard. I went to Enugu prison yard and gave another part of the charm to Ndubuisi to enable him disappear from the Enugu prison yard.”
All set, the family waited expectantly to see Ndubuisi ‘land’ at the specified spot within their compound. But the charm failed to work. Ebeh was said to have gone back to them to ask for additional N100,000, which he said he needed to pay to the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), to effect the release of Ndubuisi. Nkechi immediately perceived the odorous smell of a rat.She promptly headed to the Central Police Station, Enugu, where she filed a complaint against Ebeh. The police wasted no minute in arresting him on February 4, 2016.
Today, Nkechi’s mouth is filled with ash following the unsavory experience, but her primary concern now is how to recover the money paid Ebeh, saying that she had no suspicion at the beginning that he was a fake lawyer.
“I never knew that he was a fake lawyer. I met him at the office of SARS when my brother was arrested in 2015. He said then that he could help us to secure his release without going to court. He asked for N380,000. Later he brought the charm and told us what to do. We paid him. But when the charm failed, he asked us for N100,000 to pay to the Attorney General and DPP. I became suspicious and reported him at Central Police Station. It was when he was arrested that he confessed that he was a fake lawyer. We didn’t know. Now we are looking for how to collect our money. My brother is still in prison custody and awaiting trial,” Nkechi said.
The police boss told Sunday Sun that a mild drama played out on the day that Ebeh was arrested and was being transported in a patrol van to the police headquarters. He jumped out of the vehicle and wanted to escape before he was re-arrested by the policemen. He gave assurance that Ebeh would soon be charged to court for impersonation and fraud.