15th January 2019
by Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State, Senator Sonni Ogbuoji, has sympathised with the Catholic Bishop of Abakaliki Diocese, Bishop Nnachi Okoro and the Ebonyi Catholic community over the alleged brutality and assault on one of their own.
The clergy, Rev. Fr. Matthew Orie, was on Monday evening beaten to a coma at Abakaliki Rice Mill located along Ogoja Road in the state capital by a young man said to be a revenue collector for the state government.
The priest said to be the Director of Girls’ Technical School, Agba in Ishielu Local Government Area of the state, according to eyewitnesses, was accosted by the said revenue collector and asked to pay the sum of N500 after he had earlier settled his colleagues.
Argument that followed the interference resulted to the cleric being beaten up. He was swiftly rushed to the Accident and Emergency Unit of the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki where he was revived.
In a sympathy message, Senator Ogbuoji, through the Director of Media and Communications of his campaign office, Mr Ikenna Emewu, accused the state government of engaging thugs who lacked respect for the law, human rights or personalities.
The statement partly ready: “The shoddy and shameful ways climaxed on Monday evening at the Rice Mill, Abakaliki when the revenue enforcer who knows no rules or was educated on the rights of citizens of this country descended on the priest and without regard for his status as a spiritual leader of repute rained blows on him to a point he relapsed into coma and was taken to the hospital unconscious.
“I sympathise with you and express my regrets over the incident and a situation in the state where apart from outrageous taxation and suffocating revenue drive that brooks no regards for the law, citizens have become experimental objects in the hands of the government officials for brutality,” he said.
Ogbuoji also accused the state government of engaging agents who have allegedly been tearing his campaign bill boards and posters.
“I recall that last week Thursday, my campaign billboard on Waterworks Road was brutally taken down and an agent of the state boasted that he was the one that did it and that nothing would happen.
“All persuasions from my campaign office that more civilised options existed rather than vandalism as law enforcement tool received no remorse by the callous groups that act more like thugs than government officials, whose actions should be within the ambit of the law.
“I have on record, complaints before the police that officials or better put, thugs of the government, have been junketing all over the city removing campaign posters of the opposition and some of our party members brutalised the same way as the priest.
“It is lamentable that if dignified citizens as the priest can’t enjoy his rights from torture, that signifies that we have actually descended into a terrible state of anarchy in Ebonyi under the present government,” he said.
But in a swift reaction, the state governor, Chief David Umahi, through his Chief Press Secretary, Emmanuel Uzor, dismissed Ogbuoji’s statmets, saying that he was not being truthful.
He denied that the state government engaged the services of revenue collectors saying that the government had long stopped all forms of taxation and revenue collection in the state.
“We don’t have revenue collectors in the state again,” he said.
He also denied that the agents of the state were tearing the APC campaign billboards, saying on the contrary, the APC governorship hopeful was backing thugs to destabilise the state.
“I think the governor is the first victim of this thing and we know those who are doing it. They are the same people. They will raise the alarm that their campaign posters were being torn when they are the ones tearing campaign posters,” said Uzor.