George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
The kidnap and murder of 76-year-old wife of the monarch of the Ihitteoha Uratta community in Owerri North Council, Ugoeze Comfort Okoro, was apparently more than the people of the community could stomach. Expressing their anger, youths of the community demolished three buildings belonging to the suspected kidnap kingpin, Okechukwu Uche, from Owaelu Uratta, who was said to be serving a prison term, while his wife continued with the nefarious kidnapping business.
When Ugoeze Okoro was kidnapped, her family actually paid an undisclosed amount running into millions as ransom but her corpse was eventually found in Akabor community, Oguta, Imo State. The monarch’s wife’s abduction was alleged to have been masterminded by Uche, a notorious criminal in the area, from prison.
At first, the enraged youths tried setting the house on fire but that failed; it was then that they decided to demolish his three buildings.
It is a law in Imo State that any premises used for housing kidnap victims or belonging to anyone involved in kidnapping would be demolished with immediate effect.
In this case, indigenes of Ihitteoha Uratta took it upon themselves to carry out that law and brought down three houses in the premises, which shared a fence with that of the monarch.
Daily Sun gathered that Uche’s wife had harboured her husband’s notorious gang who allegedly continued with their criminal acts, using the place as a safe haven.
An indigene of the community who simply identified himself as Okwuchukwu, said residents would not condone any kidnapper in their community: “We cannot accommodate kidnappers in this community because it will not do the community any good, and that was why when it was learnt that those who kidnapped the wife of Eze Emmanuel Okoro were living in the house of Okechukwu Uche, who is the mastermind even while still serving prison sentence in Owerri Correctional Centre for his nefarious activities, the youths demolished three houses belonging to him because we also discovered that his wife was part of the business. This is a signal to all other criminals that Ihitteoha Uratta community will not tolerate criminals of any hue.”
Another indigene, Ibeabuchi Okoro, who also supported the action taken by the youths, indicated that Uche’s wife alleged to have been in partnership with her husband could not return to the village.
Paul Okoro, younger brother of Eze Dr. Emmanuel Okoro, the Oha I of Ihitteoha Uratta, described the incident as sad, saying that the Ugoeze’s death came after the family had paid the ransom demanded by her abductors.
Narrating the incident, he said, “On Sunday, January 26, 2020, a group of boys stormed the palace and gathered the guards and all around at gunpoint and met the Eze and wife upstairs around 8:30pm.
“They collected everybody’s phone, including that of the Eze. They took Ugoeze away. It was after they left that one of the servants came to me to call the president-general of the community that the unthinkable had happened.
“We waited for a call from them. But none came until three days later when they called his daughter, who is the wife of the member representing Owerri Federal Constituency, Ikenna Elezianya, demanding a ransom.
“Her corpse was recovered at Akabor Oguta LGA, where it was dumped.”
Police authorities said Uche masterminded the kidnap of the wife of the traditional ruler from jail.
However, Imo State Police Command’s spokesman, Orlando Ikeokwu, said that the police were not responsible for the demolition of the mansion of the lead suspect.
Ikeokwu said the police rounded up other suspects, while they wanted to collect the second tranche of the ransom.
He said the suspects confessed that Uche, who was in jail for another crime he committed, was their ring leader.
Ikeokwu said police ambushed the suspects. He disclosed that two police rifles snatched last year were recovered from the suspects.
“Police did not demolish the house of the lead suspect but other suspects who were arrested by the police confessed that the person in prison custody is their ring leader.
“We recovered two of our rifles that were snatched last time from the suspects. Part of the ransom the suspects received from the victim’s family has been recovered by the police. We will go to court to ask for Okechukwu Uche to be reproduced for re-arraignment,” the command’s spokesman said.