A former member of the House of Representatives, Ned Nwoko, has accused his kinsmen in Idumuje-Ugboko, Delta State, of plotting to kill him over his acquisition of land to build a private university in the community.
Mr Nwoko raised the alarm at a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the billionaire, in 2015 grabbed 90 hectares of land in Idumuje-Ugboko and used security agents to intimidate members of the community who challenged his acquisition of the land.
In the two-part investigation published in December 2020, this newspaper uncovered how he dislodged many poor farmers from the land.
Mr Nwoko’s land grab later led to violence, kingship tussle and rights violations when some members of the community, led by his kinsmen from the royal family, kicked against his acquisition of the land.
While lawsuits were pending, challenging its acquisition, Mr Nwoko started building the proposed STARS University on the land.
On Thursday, he said the university has reached 95 per cent completion and he has completed an Olympic standard sports facilities in it.
On May 23, 2017, about 30 hoodlums disrupted a meeting convened by community leaders to address the crisis over the land.
But the youth of the community repelled the thugs, the exchanges leaving many injured and one Cyprian Koumaru, a motorcyclist from Benue State, suspected dead after going missing since the incident.
The police later arrested some persons over the violence, including the monarch of the community, his uncles and supporters.
Some were illegally detained before being charged to court while nine were taken into custody in Abuja on charges of terrorism.
The next hearing in the trial of the nine at the Federal High Court in Abuja, is on February 19.
At his Thursday’s press conference, Mr Nwoko said the alleged plot to assassinate him was exposed on social media by an inmate in Kuje Prison, who overheard two fellow inmates discussing the plot.
He said the matter had been reported to the police.
Mr Nwoko said the inmate, who exposed the plot, died three weeks ago after being inundated with threat messages since his release from the prison.
He said an autopsy was being carried out to determine the cause of his death. He said the family of the deceased informant would have been at this conference but for fear for their lives.
He said the inmate “was able to get the information on social media and the attention of my wife, Regina, was drawn to it. I then reported the matter to the police and Department of State Security (DSS) and they went and interviewed the inmates involved. The inmates mentioned the name of one businessman who deals in the oil and gas sector as the mastermind.
“I was reliably Informed by my wife, Regina Daniels, who was also Informed by one Mr. Wale Jana, that the suspects, who were arrested and remanded at the Kuje Correctional Centre in connection with the murder case in my village, are plotting to cause me harm and possibly kill me.”
According to the petition he wrote to the police last year, Mr Nwoko said the plot for his life was being sponsored by the Chairman of Rain Oil, Gabriel Ogbechie.
“I came to this conclusion because, according to the report sent to my wife by Wale Jana; it said an inmate in the same room with the suspects at the correctional facility, who pretended to be sleeping, heard them plotting to harm me by conspiring with others outside the prison yard.
“From what he heard, the sponsor of the planned attack owns a filling station and is in the business of oil and gas and hails from the community around. As far as I know, the only person that fits that description is one Chlef Gabriel Ogbechie,” the copy obtained read.
Attached to the petition was the receipt of an undated chat, wherein one Ossy Bosah was alerting someone close to Mr Nwoko about an assassination plot.
“There is something I want to tell u. This is quite personal. I don’t know how best u will deliver the message to the person to be careful. I was in prison in a room with some ibo guys. They are planning to hurt someone badly that I know and you know. His name is Ned Nwoko, Regina Daniels’ husband. He put them in prison. They are from his village. I heard a lot they will think am sleeping but talking among themselves,” Mr Bosah wrote in the chat.
PREMIUM TIMES could not independently verify the identity of the owner of the social media account as it contained sketchy details.
Sequel to the petition, the police invited Mr Ogbechie, who honoured the invitation on December 4.
Documents made available to PREMIUM TIMES showed that Mr Ogbechie was granted an administrative bail upon his promise to be available for interrogation whenever the need arose.
But speaking on the police invitation and allegations, Mr Ogbechie accused Mr Nwoko of mischief.
“The random prisoner, who is apparently an acquaintance of Ned Nwoko’s family, only alleged that he heard them mention an oil magnate. Therefore, the assertion that the oil magnate is ‘Chief Gabriel Ogbechie’ is entirely that of Ned Nwoko.
‘I left the police station within an hour of my arrival. And I had barely arrived my house in Abuja when the WhatsApp message went out that I had been arrested. It was obviously prepared even before my decision to honour the police invitation, all in a bid to embarrass and tarnish my reputation,” he said.
Mr Ogbechie’s lawyer, Ayodeji Ademola, refused to speak on the recent press conference addressed by Mr Nwoko when PREMIUM TIMES called him.
Also, the spokesperson of the police, Frank Mba, declined to give updates on the investigation.
“I can’t speak to you, I want to board a flight,” he said via telephone.