Standing at the Ellan Star Marine Jetty, one of the Jetties along the Okpoka River in Woji community of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area, Rivers State on a sunny Friday, Donald Okon Obot could hardly control his tears. The mangled body of his older brother, Kingsley, had allegedly washed up from the River headless and he was called to identify it. The body was also bathed with an unspecified chemical, apparently to fasten its decomposition. The date was 29th May 2020, 24 days after communication ceased between Kingsley and his family.
It all began on March 7th, 2020 when Mr Kingsley, a 39-year old Chief Mate of Ellan Star Marine was called by one Mr Joseph Kawaja, also a staff of the company to meet him up in Calabar, the Cross River capital for the documentation of a vessel they were expecting which had arrived in Calabar for onward movement to Rivers State.
Kingsley agreed to the plan and subsequently informed his brother and the other members of his family about his itinerary. Initially, he was communicating with the members of his family who were also sending upkeep money to him through his colleague, one EYO ITA BOCO until May 5th when he was last heard of. The last phone call the father of two girls had was with his pregnant wife on the said date.
The family made frantic efforts to reach him but all proved abortive. They were in distress. His disappearance coincidentally happened in the heat of the covid-19 lockdown where movements were restricted. With no idea of how else to reach him as the family had no way of communicating with the company that employed him, they sent a family friend to the company, but the attempt did not yield any meaningful outcome.
After the lockdown was eased, ensuring movement, Donald and a relative, Mr Idongesit went to the company to make enquire on his brother’s whereabouts but met the biggest shock of their lives.
“We met with the company’s personnel outside including the Managing Director/CEO, Mr Nsa Ekpeyong, who is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Cross River State and also a special adviser to governor Ben Ayade on foreign affairs.
“They said that he went out to drink but never came back, then later told us that he entered the river and never came back. They said that they reported the situation to the Woji police station as a case of a missing person. I then left to report the situation to a family friend who is a senior police officer in Port Harcourt.
“In less than an hour, Mr EYO ITA BOCO, my brother’s colleague at Ellan Star called me and said that the water wave had brought out a corpse to the company’s jetty, that we should come and confirm if it was my brother’s remains. We hurriedly moved with the police officer who was accompanied by his team and to the company.
“The staff of the company wasn’t expecting us to show up with the policemen so they refused to open the gate until the officer started scolding them before we were allowed entrance to get in. I recognized the remains of my brother even though he was beheaded and a chemical substance poured on his body for speedy decomposition. The police personnel then took me to Woji police station where the company claimed to have reported the case.
“The Woji police station moved to the company’s premises and arrested the staff of the company, and also instructed that they should locate the missing head and attach it to the body. After getting the head, the police officers at Woji police station accompanied me and the staff of Ellan Star Marine to the morgue where his body was deposited. I immediately noticed that officers from Woji began to compromise by asking me to accept the company’s monetary settlement and not bother about autopsy or investigations.
“The following day, the staff of the company who were previously arrested were released. We then contacted the law firm of Paulinus James Idio & Co who insisted that the police and the company should comply by doing all that is necessary to ascertain the cause of the murder, after which he petitioned the commissioner of police, where the matter was transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department of the state’s Police headquarters, Moscow Road, Port Harcourt for proper investigations” he said.
When contacted, a representative of Ellan Star Marine refused to comment after learning he was talking to a journalist.
Spokesman of the Rivers State Police Command, Nnamdi Omoni did not immediately respond to inquiries for comments while the law firm, Paulinus James Idio & Co refused to discuss the alleged inability of the police to properly investigate the matter over the phone.
But Donald said: “Obviously, we expected that the law would have its full course in this case, but for over a month, no autopsy has been carried out, nobody has been arrested. Rather, the police are telling us to still accept the monetary settlement and not bother about investigations.
Explaining further the inability of the police to arrest the killers of his brother, he said: “They said that they are helpless and can’t arrest the MD/CEO. There have been no explanations to what led to his murder and the perpetrators of the dastardly wicked act are still walking free. Instead, information reaching us is that Mr Nsa Ekpenyong went to the police at zone six (6) and reported the same issue there so he could bribe his way through since it’s a Known terrain for him.
“A police officer informed us that the case is still at the state CID Rivers State and that they just want to keep gambling with the case to suppress the investigations. The company is obviously using their resources to suppress the investigations since I don’t have money to give the policemen too.
“Recently, I had a voice record of one Mr Emmanuel who claims to know how my brother was killed and that the whole evil transpired through Captain Joseph Kawaja in collaboration with Ellan Star Marine personnel. Mr Emmanuel was the deceased friend who apparently knew about the day my brother would be killed. Another source in the company who pleaded anonymity reported that the same Captain Kawaja has been told to abscond so as to evade investigation and interrogations”.