■Prime suspect at large, declared wanted by police
BY PATIENCE EGWUWA
Exactly one year ago, 34-year old Enero Ukonga was abducted from his Opebi home in Lagos by his father’s client. His whereabouts eluded not just his parents, but the police as well. After 10 long months of heartache and uncertainties, it was revealed to the parents that their son had been killed and buried in a shallow grave.
Expectedly, their hearts were shattered. The pain of losing a full-grown son in such mysterious circumstance has been quite unbearable for the family.
Enero, a Business Administration graduate of the University of Benin had just returned home from Turkey where he had gone for his Master’s degree in the same course. According to the family, he was billed to travel to the United States of America to begin work on his doctoral thesis.
“I don’t understand why my son should die in the hands of a criminal for something he knew nothing about,” his mother, still battling with grief, told our reporter. “What happened is still a mystery to me.”
The whole incident began on July 19, 2014, when a man later identified as Osaretin Enabulele came to their home in Opebi, Lagos, asking for Enero. What followed was beyond comprehension. Osaretin and a group of four other young men swooped on Enero, bundled him into their car and drove off with him.
A member of the family who witnessed the abduction explained to Sunday Sun how the whole incident happened. “The man said that he was the owner of a container sent from Italy; that Enero knew that he was coming to the house. I told them that Enero was not at home. Then he insisted that Enero knew that he was coming and that he already spoke with him on phone. So, I told him that if that was the case, then he should wait for him.
“Instead of waiting, they entered the compound and started making trouble. Osaretin came with four other young men. He claimed that I was hiding Enero. I told him that if Enero was in the house, I would have called him because I didn’t know anything about the container he was talking about. With that, I even called my neighbour to confirm to them that Enero was not in the house, which she did.
“From there, the woman now asked him what was going on. He replied that he sent a container from Italy and that he had paid N1m to our father and he had not seen the container; that it was like they were playing games with him. The boys that came with him were shouting; saying that they needed the money back. The neighbour then asked them to calm down; that she had been in that house for a while and that no issue like that had come up about the man’s business.
“Not quite long, Enero came back and then everybody entered the sitting room. Then one of them was now asking about the container. Enero explained that everything was in order, but that they should wait till Monday (the visit by the alleged abductors was on a Saturday) so that they could all go to the father’s office at Apapa and see the manager and finalize everything.
“At that point, Osaretin now said that there was another fee the firm asked him to pay and that he did not have the money. He said he did not want the container to enter demurrage. Enero was still pleading with them to wait till Monday for them to go to the office and confirm the status of the container. Meanwhile, the other boys that came with him were shouting and demanding for the N1 million they had already paid.
“I was pleading with them to try and see reason with Enero as Monday was not too far. I even said that if they had doubts, they should get a paper and we would write an undertaking for them and sign it. Osaretin agreed that it was a good idea and then said, ‘Enero, let’s go outside and talk.’ As we were going out, Enero asked me to lock the door and bring the keys to him. By the time I went out, I did not see any of them outside. I ran down to the junction to see if he crossed over to the other side of the street, but I did not see him. I ran back to the house, took my phone and called our father and told him what had happened. I started calling Enero, but he was not picking. I did not have Osaretin’s phone number. Later, my father sent me the number, but he was not picking as well.
“Then I ran to Area F police station, but they said that he was an adult and that we should wait till the next day to report the case if he did not come back. That was how the case began to drag. We went to SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) and they could not do anything. Then we went to Benin and arrested some relatives of the boy and the person who introduced Osaretin to our father. They were all brought to Lagos, to help trace anybody that knew Osaretin, but there was no headway.”
Determined to unearth the mystery surrounding his son’s disappearance, Enero’s father, Mr. Benjamin Ukonga, a retired customs officer, who is now into freight forwarding, then petitioned the Department of State Services (DSS).
This action paid off, as one of the men, Elisha Jonah, who reportedly came with Osaretin to abduct Enero that fateful day was arrested in mid-January 2015, six months after the incident.
Sunday Sun gathered that Jonah was arrested through Enero’s Blackberry phone, which was taken from him by the abductors. The phone was reportedly traced to a user in Ikeja. By the time the user was arrested, he told the DSS operatives that he bought it from a friend. And that was how the phone was traced to Jonah. From his confessions, another suspect, one Kasim Ibrahim, was also arrested on March 17, 2015. After that, the matter was transferred to the Force Criminal Investigations Department (Annex), Alagbon Close, Lagos, from where the suspects took policemen to the supposed site where they had buried the victim.
Continuing his narrative, the family member said: “It was from Alagbon that the boys now took us to the site where they buried the body of Enero. The first time they went there, they could not locate the burial site. It was the second time that they saw the body. It was then exhumed and because it has decomposed, it was not possible to identify it. So, they are running a DNA test to determine whether the body was actually that of Enero.
“It was in May, almost 10 months after his disappearance, that the body was found. They buried him at Abesan Estate in the Iyana-Ipaja area of Lagos. The place was close to a canal and bushy. After the body was exhumed, the pathologist said there was need to run a DNA test and carry out an autopsy. We are still waiting for the results.”
On how Enero died, the family member told Sunday Sun: “The abductors arrested by the police claimed that they did not even touch him; that he tried to run away when they went outside the house. They pursued and caught him and forced him into the car. They claimed that he was gasping for breath and that before they could get to a hospital, he died.”
Asked if the deceased had any health problem that could have predisposed him to such situation, the man said it was not possible. “No, he was a very strong and healthy person. He played football every weekend. I was surprised when I heard that they said he was panting after running. They said they were scared of informing the police and that was why they had to bury him like that. That is what they told the police during interrogation.
“We are just praying that wherever Osaretin is, God should bring him out to face justice. The case has really put too much psychological pain on the family. It is only God that can really help us now to get justice. Enero was someone that could not hurt a fly; a very straightforward person and easy to deal with. He was not working with our father; he was just at home waiting to go for further studies when this tragic, heartbreaking story happened. According to what the manager said, when Osaretin called him that he had the original bill of laden and the balance of the payment and the manager was not in Lagos, he asked him to come to our father’s house and drop it. That was how Osaretin found his way to our house. How I wished that the manager was in town. They wouldn’t have had access to Enero. He did not collect any money from them; in fact, he was not even involved in the business. It was our father and the manager that were dealing with him, but unfortunately, he became the victim of Osaretin’s evil intent.
“Enero was a very nice person. He could be in the house and you would never know that he was there. The most painful aspect is that they cut off his dreams just like that. Every day, I still think that I am in a dream and that this terrible thing would go away when I open my eyes, because I never believed that Enero would just go like that. (At this juncture, the mother broke down and wept). Every time I see her, she is always crying. I just pray that God should give her strength to overcome this.”
The mother of the deceased, tried very hard to hold back tears, as she spoke with our reporter, her voice laden with sorrow.
Her words: “I don’t understand why my son should die in the hands of a criminal for something he knew nothing about. While waiting to go for further studies, I used to tell him to join the father in the business, but he would tell me that he didn’t like the business. He was not a troublesome person at all. If people were quarreling now and he came in, he would quickly leave. So, what happened to him is still a mystery to me. I am convinced that Osaretin left Benin for this act. He planned it all along. The original document, which he claimed he was bringing, had not even come at the time they came to the house. That is the point. And that simply means that he had a hidden agenda when he was coming to Lagos.
“That is why we want Osaretin to come out and tell us what happened because no one knows what really happened. It was after they had taken my son that the paper came from Italy; all the while the paper was not ready. That is the painful thing because he didn’t leave Benin with the original and he told my husband he was coming with the original document. Where was he taking my son to? I think it is all for something else. That is why I am just begging him to come out and explain things.
“The police have been doing their best. I think it is even God that made it possible for us to know what happened to my son. According to the boys that were arrested, Osaretin even dropped my son’s phone inside the grave where they buried him. It was one of the boys that went back to pick it. There is no way we could have traced him without that phone. So, we just thank God for that. But I want justice to be done.
“After he was abducted, I was hoping that one day he would come back home. It never really occurred to me that they would kill my son just like that,” she said with a heavy heart.