…Fish out killers, MD charges police, as staff, friends, others mourn The Sun slain salesman
From Jeff Amechi Agbodo and Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
For the management and staff of The Sun Publishing Limited, Monday, October 2 was a painful day. It was a day of sorrow and tears, a day of agony and anger.
It was the day the company’s sales representative in Onitsha, Anambra State, Mr Fabian Obi, was shot dead by three armed robbers.
After the attack on The Sun office by the criminals, the usually busy old Market Road close to the Nigeria Post Office was deserted.
The people in the area were seized by grief. Some were too shocked to speak, while others gathered in small groups to discuss what happened.
The three gunmen, who came on a motorcycle, had invaded The Sun Onitsha office that morning and robbed Obi of the day’s proceeds from returns by vendors. And as they made their way out of the office, they shot the young man dead.
An eyewitness and office assistant to Obi, Mr Christopher Uche, said the slain salesman had handed over the money demanded by the robbers to them, but they turned back to shoot at him three times on his left shoulder before they escaped.
He informed that the gunmen, who were clad in black attire with fez caps, had rounded up those in the office at the time, including the deceased and two vendors.
His words: “We were in the office with the deceased when the two tall young gunmen came upstairs while the other one was standing by on a motorcycle at the front of the office. So, immediately they came in, they went straight to the sales representative and shouted, where is the money? They saw money on the table because Mr. Obi was collecting money from the vendors who were retuning money and unsold papers.
“The man handed over the money to them and stood up and was following them out of the office, maybe to run away or to close the door. Then the gunmen turned back and shouted at him to go back and sit down. And the next thing we heard was gunshots on the late Obi. They shot him three times on his left shoulder and on his back and he fell by the door.
“So, immediately one of the gunmen shot him, they quickly went down to their waiting motorcycle and zoomed off. I had to run out shouting for help before some people came and we carried him to the vehicle. He was breathing a little, and we took him first to New Hope Hospital at Modebe Street, Onitsha. He was immediately referred to St. Charles Boromeo Hospital. But before we got to the hospital, he was dead.
“We took him to the emergency ward where he was confirmed dead by the doctor on duty. He told us to take his body to the morgue where his body was deposited,” Uche narrated.
As the news of Obi’s death broke, many people gathered at the front of the The Sun office, weeping and pouring curses on the killers.
Among those who sympathized with The Sun and immediate family of the late Obi was the Chairman of the Onitsha Newspapers Distributor Directors Association (ONDDA), Elder Emmanuel Uwakwe.
He described the late Obi as an easy-going person who did his job with calmness and fear of God.
“I am still in shock; I believed the story because I saw his corpse at the morgue. He is like a brother to all of us; he is a core Christian and a Catholic who didn’t play with going to mass and praying with his rosary. We never had any problem with him; he only talked tough when you refused to remit your money from the newspaper sales on time. He played with everybody and that was why everybody knows him around this place,” Uwakwe said.
The deceased’s bosses at the headquarters and in the South East are also in shock. Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, The Sun Publishing Limited, Mr. Eric Osagie said Obi’s death was distressing.
“It’s saddening that a Nigerian going about his legitimate business would be killed while on duty inside the office. The disrespect for the sanctity of human life in the country rankles. We enjoin the Anambra State police command to do everything possible to fish out those behind the murder of Fabian Obi. His murder should not be added to the long list of those whose deaths are unresolved.
“I can’t imagine why such a dedicated, hardworking and diligent staff should die in such a cruel manner. He was an enterprising salesman whose contributions made The Sun a choice newspaper in Onitsha and environs, where he covered. May his soul rest in the bosom of the Lord. Amen.”
Mr. Damola Olajumoke, General Manager, Operations, was no less devastated by the incident. He recalled that Obi had served the company dutifully over the last 10 years.
“Mr. Fabian Obi joined the services of the Sales and Distribution Department of The Sun on March 1, 2007. He has served in many stations in Lagos as sales executive. His dedication to duty and prompt remittance of sales proceeds earned him the consideration for transfer to Onitsha, which is one of the company’s sales hubs, where he worked until his sudden death.
“He was an outstanding person when it comes to the discharge of his duties. His maturity and peaceful approach to matters earned him a nickname in the department. We called him Elder. It is sad to lose such a dependable, honest, indefatigable and team-spirited staff. His exit has created a vacuum that will be very difficult to fill.
Since it is the will of God to call him at this time, we pray that He will grant Fabian peaceful repose in His bosom. We also pray that God would grant his family and friends the fortitude to bear the loss. Adieu, Fabian Obi. Adieu, Elder.”
The Sun Copy Sales Manager, Mrs. Sylvia Esajere still finds it hard coming to terms with Obi’s death.
She said: “He called me on Friday, September 30 to inform me that he was on his way to Lagos to see his family, having been told of his wife’s encounter with some ‘one-chance’ robbers. By 9pm on Sunday October 1, when I called him to find out if his wife was fine, he was back in Onitsha to prepare for work the next day. I asked why he couldn’t stay with his family till Monday, and his response was that he had to go back to collect the company’s sales proceeds. That’s the kind of person he was – dedicated, diligent, reliable and hardworking. He never joked with his responsibilities. He was one of our best in the Sales and Distribution Department.
“We surely will miss him. I pray the Lord God in His mercies will comfort and console his family. Adieu.”
Also speaking, The Sun’s Operations Manager, Aba Plant, Elder Harrison Uduma noted: “It was the least of the bad news I expected to hear that my colleague and friend, Mr Fabian Obi, was shot dead on Monday morning. Two armed robbers attacked him, collected all proceeds that came over the weekend and still shot him. The shock put my senses off balance. I did not recover quickly enough till in the evening before alerting my general manager in charge of operations for guidance. God will bring to judgment the perpetrators of this wicked act. May his soul be received by our Lord.”
The Assistant Editor/Head, South East Bureau of The Sun, Mr Chidi Nnadi, who was still in shock, called on the police in Anambra State to fish out the killers of Obi.
Nnadi wondered why armed robbers should make newspapers houses known as the conscience and defenders of the common people their target.
He noted that if the police and other security agencies worked hard, they would apprehend the killers of Obi. He insisted that the fact that they came on a motorbike suggested that the robbers operated from within.
The landlord of The Sun office in Onitsha, Chief Eustace Ojekwe Ekwerekwu (Akunnaya), who felt very bad about the killing, described the deceased as a nice man who played with everybody in the building and who was dedicated to his duty.
“This type of thing has never happened before in my house. I know that robbers shot one person years back, but they did not kill him. This one yesterday, something is wrong somewhere and we are going to checkmate the activities of people in this area,” she said.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), South East Zone, in a statement signed by the Vice President Zone C, Mr Chris Isiguzo and Secretary, Ken Ofoma, also commiserated with the management of The Sun Publishing Limited and the family of the deceased.
“This is indeed very tragic. For such to happen at a time the military operation code-named Python Dance 11 aimed at checking the rising wave of armed robberies, kidnapping and other forms of crimes is still on, with soldiers virtually at every nook and cranny of the five South East states, made it more troubling.
“We, therefore, call on the security agencies to immediately swing into action and fish out those behind this dastardly act, as we are not ready to allow this to go the way of other similar unresolved cases in the past.
“We also want to remind the Anambra State government that the primary responsibility of a responsible government is the protection of lives and property. Let the needful be done as quickly as possible because a stitch in time saves nine,” they said.
Chairman, Correspondents Chapel, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Emma Ndukuba, while commiserating with The Sun family described Obi’s death as a sad loss to the newspaper distribution chain, which includes the journalists.
He said that it was unfortunate that Mr Obi should die just like that even as the killers walked away.
He appealed to the management of The Sun Publishing Limited not to abandon the family so that they would not suffer the biting circumstances of losing their breadwinner.
“Those who killed Fabian cannot go unpunished. We shouldn’t be talking of this kind of death when the Anambra State government is also talking of all their achievements security-wise. The gruesome murder of this young man is unfortunate, but I know that God will expose the killers and justice must prevail. It is painful and I’m very sad even as I speak to you now. The state government should support the family too and also ensure that all the necessary security apparatus is deployed so that his killers would be apprehended,” he said.
Financial Secretary, Onitsha Newspaper Distributors Directors Association, (ONDDA) Okechukwu Titus made frantic efforts to save Mr Obi’s life. He volunteered his vehicle and rushed the deceased to the hospital before doctors pronounced him dead at New Hope Hospital, Onitsha.
Okechukwu, who said he was devastated by Obi’s death, noted that he was still confused on how to describe the deceased Fabian in the past tense. He described the deceased as a personal friend who carried on his duties with a cheerful mind-set, making more friends instead of foes.
“I was the one who distributed the newspapers for him last Friday, Saturday and Sunday because he travelled to see his family in Lagos. It was around 4:00p.m on Sunday that he called me that he had returned from the trip. I was in my own stand that Monday morning when I got a frantic call from one of us that Fabian had been shot.
“I rushed there in that panicky state only to meet more confusion around the area. I managed to bring my car, but I was praying silently in my heart as he was being conveyed to the hospital, because he wasn’t breathing in a normal way again. I drove like a madman to the hospital. But my worst fear was confirmed when doctors called me inside few minutes later and told me that he was gone. He was a nice man and I’ve not seen any sales representative in Onitsha like him,” he said.
Okechukwu also raised several issues about the security and welfare of journalists, newspaper distributors and vendors.
He said there was need for management and publishers to fashion out ways of providing more security for distributors and agents, especially on collection days.
He also advocated that companies should urge the vendors to resort to making payments through the banks and handing the tellers to the sales representatives instead of cash transaction.
He said the new suggested banking transaction could only be possible if the companies would increase the percentage commission being paid to distributors and vendors so that it would compensate for the bank transaction.
Okechukwu also advised companies to stop putting undue pressure on their sales representatives who might end up having several problems.
A newspaper vendor based at Upper Iweka, Ogechukwu Ezeatum, while lamenting the tragic death of Mr Obi, described him as one who was always humane in his approach to vendors.
She said the deceased was a man who inspired his customers to take the business of selling The Sun newspaper as a family affair.
Also Vice Chairman, ONDDA, Chidubem Nnadi who was also an eyewitness, said that the gunmen who shot Mr Obi also collected about N10,000 that he was supposed to remit to the deceased, being proceeds of his sales for the weekend.
He said about four other people inside the office had a harrowing experience within the few minutes the gunmen operated in the office.
The Area Commander in charge of Onitsha, Mr Abubukar Yahaya, an assistant commissioner of Police (ACP) and Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Central Police Station Onitsha, Mr Ikechukwu Egbochukwu, a superintendent of police, visited the scene of the incident and the hospital before Obi was deposited at the morgue.
The police immediately dispatched a team of policemen from Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to the scene while another team and vigilante group raided some areas along old Market road, where some people were arrested and interrogated as the police launched a manhunt for the robbers.
…We’ll soon arrest killers, Anambra police boss pledges
From Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
Commissioner of Police in Anambra State, Mr. Garba Baba Umar yesterday said his command had got some clues on the possible killers of Mr. Fabian Obi, the sales representative of The Sun that was killed on Monday.
The police boss said the police in Anambra State were on the trail of the killers.
Obi was shot and killed by three armed men in his office in Onitsha.
Umar, who spoke with journalists, expressed sadness over the incident and said it was not just against the media but also against the Nigerian police.
He said: “That incident is a personal attack. The attack is not only on the press but also on the Nigeria Police because of our relationship. The media has been at the forefront in fighting crime and criminality in the state, and touching one of them is touching the Nigeria Police.
“It was a sad incident. It was an avoidable incident which is being investigated and as of now, I assure you we have intelligence, we have information which we may not disclose.
“We know who we suspect, the persons that must have committed this act and we are after them and I assure you very soon we will get to them just like any other crime like that. You know I have been assuring you whenever there is a crime, murder, robbery I always brought the suspect to book and this one is not an exception. I assure you they will be brought to book.”
He further said: “At this juncture, I want to assure members of the public that the command under my watch is on top of every security situation in the state. My men are ever ready to deal with any criminal element in the state in our bid to maintain, secure and protect the lives and property of the good people of Anambra State.
Meanwhile, the police boss has warned political parties against the use of thugs for the November 18 governorship election.
Umar said: “I want to caution all aspirants who plan to use political thugs in order to disrupt the election to have a rethink and desist forthwith, as the command has intelligence in that regard and would deal decisively with any misguided elements that would truncate the ongoing peace in the state.
“Similarly, all hoteliers are advised to monitor and profile their guests and as well forward their manifest daily through the appropriate channels. Fa lure to adhere strictly to the above advice would attract severe legal consequences, which will include closure of such hotel till further notice.
“Let me also use this opportunity, to appeal to the public now that the gubernatorial campaigns have commenced for the November 18th Anambra State Gubernatorial Elections, that they should feel free and come up with any vital information that will be of great assistance to the command in the fight against crime and criminality in the state.”