By EMEKA ANOKWURU
• Abandons pregnant wife with 2 kids
• Man’s family fights over property
Eleven months after a promising businessman, Mr Emmanuel Uchenna Okoye left his Lagos home, no one seems to know whether he is dead or alive. While the family believes that Okoye, who until his disappearance, shuttled between Nigeria and Spain as well as China from where he imported spare parts must have died, security agents, especially the Department of State Security, DSS, argue that they have evidence the businessman is still alive.
The confusion has turned out to be the mystery which no one has been able to fully unravel. And no one seems to have better details of the incident or even feel the pinch more than 27-year-old Mrs. Grace Obayuzo Okoye who is yet to accept the reality of what might have befallen her husband since he left their Iyana Isashi, Lagos home since May 23, 2013.
Saturday Sun gathered that Okoye left home that hot afternoon, with a promise to return but 11 months after, he is yet to fulfill the promise while the whereabouts of the 35 year-old has remained a mystery.
To compound the wife’s anguish, the Ebira woman from Kogi State, said she was two months pregnant when her husband vanished. She was delivered of a baby girl on December 23 last year while the baby died three weeks ago. As the stress of searching for her husband is already taking its toll on Grace, she is faced on another front by in-laws the battle to dispossess her of her husband’s property.
In the beginning
Narrating how she began her life journey with her missing husband,Grace told Saturday Sun that all was well until the fateful day. “I got married to Emmanuel Uchenna Okoye from Ojoto, Idemmili South LGA of Anambra State in November 2011. I had my first son, and then I was pregnant when I did my traditional wedding.” She said her marital bliss of about two years crumbled in just one day. “Everything started last year, May 23, 2013. My husband left the house about 3.40pm that he was coming. Before he left, he gave me money to cook soup for him, that I should pay NEPA bill that was due. That he was coming back soon. Since then I’ve been trying his phone number, till now. No information about him.”
Before his sudden disappearance, she said Okoye had just returned to Nigeria from his overseas trips in February 2013. “He went to Spain and came back. He stayed almost nine months in Spain. He came back in December 2012, but he didn’t stay long and went back. He went from Spain to China and back to Nigeria. That was how he came. That was in February 2012. Before he returned last year”, Grace stated.
Giving further clues into her husband’s area of business, she said: “He’s someone that used to import spare parts, he deals mainly in batteries. He sells men’s shoes. That’s what I know he does. He has a shop at the Trade Fair, Abia Plaza.”
Clues on disappearance
Providing what may be useful clues in the search for Okoye, Grace told Saturday Sun: “His business was going on fine before he started having problem with his business associate, one of his cousins that was staying with him before. He had problem with him, since then his business started going down. That his cousin, Oluchukwu, died about three years ago. They said he died around Festac, I don’t know what caused his death. They even accused my husband of his death. My husband said he didn’t know anything about his death. My husband was in China when it happened.”
On the day of his disappearance, she also said: “He just walked out. He didn’t go in his car. He said he was going out, he didn’t tell me the particular place. He doesn’t tell me where he goes, he will just say am coming and that’s how he left that day. After waiting for him till the next day, I thought he travelled and maybe had a problem on the way because he was supposed to travel out of the country on 25th, but he left the house on 23rd, so I waited till the next day. I was at home. He left with his passport, that’s the only thing he left with. No travelling bag. I was even arranging his bag for his journey on 25th but he left on 23rd. After I waited for a week I started calling all his friends and family and asking, if they have heard from Emma?”
In what appears to be a reinforcement of claims by security agents that the missing businessman may still be alive, Grace said she used to get strange text messages on her phone from some foreign numbers which would not accept calls. According to her: “I went to Iyana Isashi Police Station to make a report, with his brother, Ebuka living with us. From that day till now, still nothing. All I get is strange international numbers sending me messages. But If I call them back, it’s not going. The person will be sending me message as if I’m his wife. Kind of ‘Good morning dear, how are you doing?’, ‘Err, baby I can’t talk to you now’, ‘I will like to talk to you, call me now.’ This has been going on since September last year. I even sent some of the messages to my husband’s lawyer, Mr. Uduak. He said he would go and find out the country it’s coming from. That’s what he told me. As am here, another message came to me last Sunday, saying: ‘If loneliness kills you.’ I don’ know who is sending these messages. I don’t know the person.”
Search by security agents
The troubled woman said no word has come from the police where she first lodged a complaint. Instead, they have asked her to bring money to help in the search for the missing businessman. She added that only the DSS has come forth with a claim that her husband is not dead.
“I’ve not heard from them (police). Instead they were telling me I should bring N15,000, to go to MTN and get his call log. His lawyer said he knew someone at the DSS Ikoyi that we should go there and hear what they would say. We were there; me, Ebuka, my husband’s younger brother, and the lawyer. Later, they said I should go out, so I left them and they were discussing. Later, they called me. The man said my husband was alive and that they would start their investigation. They later called me again that my husband made contact with somebody in July, they didn’t tell me the day, and he left the house in May. So, I was thinking, who would he have contacted without contacting me in the house. They said he called one Obiora. Did I know any Obiora? I said no. They told me Obiora was in detention here. I told them I don’t know anyone called Obiora. The man said Obiora is Ebuka’s friend. So, I said I don’t know. They said how come Obiora and my husband have been interacting? I said I don’t know him. They said it’s because of accommodation. Since that day they have not called me. Ebuka, who is my husband’s brother came one day and said he wants to go to DSS. Then my second son was very sick. I said I would have loved to follow him but I was heavy and my son was very ill. I was scared. I told him to go. That I was taking my son to the hospital. He said when he got there, they told him to give them some time that they were still investigating. Since then, no call, nothing from them. The police at Iyana Isashi directed us to Ijanikin. One of our neighbours connected us to one Inspector at Ijanikin. We went to Ijanikin, still no information. It was at the DSS that they told us that the message I sent to my husband was received but he did not reply. He has been gone for 10 months plus now.”
She said their search for her husband also took them to some morgues in Lagos without any trace of him. “Abuchi and Ebuka went to the mortuary to check. I don’t know the particular one they went. They said they did not find anybody like him”, she added.
Battle over property
As if her missing husband and breadwinner is not enough woe for a lady of her age, Grace said some of her in-laws who would not wait to know whether her husband is confirmed dead or still alive have been demanding the documents of his property. “Most of them have been there for me. But his younger brother has been asking for land documents, and even bringing somebody to come and live as a tenant here. I refused and told them we are still searching for my husband and until we find him or get evidence of what has happened, every other thing should wait”, she added.