Missing NELAN engineers in Ebonyi State
The federal government is duty-bound to unravel the whereabouts of the missing five engineers handling the rehabilitation of the Ring Road in Ebonyi State as consultants of the $150 million African Development Bank (AfDB) project. To be modest, the heart is bleeding on the presumption of their deaths having been missing since 3rd November, 2021. These hardworking professionals, who went for a legitimate job for economic growth of the state, cannot end their lives in such a tragic manner. Reports from diverse quarters accused the state government of being hostile to the consultants prior to their abduction for reasons best known to the actors. Nigeria is not an abattoir where animals are recklessly killed without explanations.
Section 14(b) of the 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended protects all citizens from brutality. It provides “…the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. These consultants namely: Engr. Nelson Onyemeh (lead consultant/ Chief Executive Officer of NELAN Engineering Ltd) from Ihiala in Anambra State; Engr. Ernest Edeani from Nkanu in Enugu State; Ikechukwu Ejiofor from Umunya in Oyi LGA of Anambra State; Engr. Samuel Aneke from Nkanu in Enugu-East LGA of Enugu State and Engr. Stanley Nwazulum from Amawbia in Awka-South LGA of Anambra State; all from the South-East as citizens are supposedly protected by this provision.
But shockingly, during a security meeting in Ebonyi on November 30, 2021, Governor Dave Umahi, reportedly disclosed that the abducted five engineers were killed and buried in the state by the Ezza Warriors. The saddest in the episodes is that none of the abducted consultants hailed from Ebonyi State, and therefore raises a serious question why their bodies were buried in Ebonyi as stated by the governor considering that Igbos by tradition rarely yield to interment in foreign land. If they were truly killed as Umahi announced, this is madness of the highest degree. To worsen it, a source alleged that the consultants were burnt like criminals perhaps as a cover up, their burnt corpses were hurriedly, secretly buried in Ebonyi thereby depriving their families access to even see their bodies. Their families shouldn’t be left in unending trauma. Till date, they still pray, fast and hope for the return of their loved ones not knowing their true situation. What an unending trauma!
This ugly and barbaric incident can trigger communal crises if not diligently handled. Thus, President Muhammadu Buhari pursuant to his statutory duty to protect lives and property in the Constitution must ensure that justice is done to these citizens. No amount of concealment will succeed. The defence that security operatives were attacked on their way to locate the locus is flimsy and fallacious. If sustained, it then suggests that the felons have taken full control of an area statutorily designated as part of the federation. So, the government should address the predicaments in the area.
A source had revealed, “Specifically, those close to the murdered civil engineer who spoke to the television’s reporter, insisted that the relationship between Governor Umahi and NELAN had remained very frosty to a point that some of the vehicles assigned to them for the execution of the project were allegedly withdrawn, leaving them with only one Toyota Hilux for their routine operations”.
Furthermore, in Daily Sun of December 21, 2021, their colleague that luckily escaped also narrated; “We are saying that it was a planned thing; it wasn’t a spontaneous issue because they have been going to that community. One thing we understand is that that community doesn’t hurt foreigners.… There is a foul play, but we can’t place our finger on it …. In fact, the Toyota Hilux with registration number, ERR-001-EB they traveled in also disappeared with them till this moment”.
These disclosures are weighty. As alleged, many investors that showed up in the state couldn’t stay due to overbearingness. The AfDB project is targeted for development but rather than embrace the revolution, non-indigenous contractors are being murdered like animals. The Ebonyi incident is nearly what transpired recently in Imo state where the Police recklessly acted as thugs and kidnappers, and put the vulnerable masses including elderly people and children during a church service into severe fear in the façade of arrest of Uche Nwosu, former candidate of Action Alliance (AA) in Imo governorship election. These are uncivilised acts.
The cruelty against the five NELAN consultants is very disgusting. The question for these groups of lopsided, myopic actors and wannabes that don’t think of repercussions over actions is the impact they target with these irascibilities in the name of supremacy battle. Ridiculously, this is a time people earnestly yearn for foreign investors to stimulate the economy, yet, mindless people kept unleashing terror on key actors and stakeholders. It was during the military era that such barbaric acts thrived. This particular episode has blacklisted the administration the most and portrayed the governor as insensitive for not even considering it vital to show the family where their breadwinners were hacked to death and buried. The Ihiala Progressive Union (IPU), has demanded for the whereabouts of Engr. Nelson Onyemeh and his associate engineers from the Umahi-led government.
Commendably, the Association of Ebonyi State Indigenes in Diaspora (AESID) has lent its voice calling for a thorough investigation on the disappearance of the five engineers working for the economic development of the state. Similarly, the House of Representatives has also mandated IGP Usman Baba Alkali to urgently, thoroughly investigate the matter as moved by Hon Ifeanyi Momah representing Ihiala federal Constituency in the lower chamber. To sum up, the alleged coldblooded killing of these innocent professionals without any sensible cause is agonizing, traumatic and the height of stupidity in recent times, and portrays the masterminds as irrational beings. Thus, the culprits must be brought to book straightaway. The Police must ensure that the needful is done and not swept under the carpet.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and social advocate.