By Amos Aar
A RETIRED Superintendent of Police (SP), Mr Frederick Udoh, on Saturday threatened to deal with Benue State Correspondent of Abuja-based National Record Newspaper, Mr Amos Aar, over his efforts to get Udoh’s comments on alleged harassment, illegal detention and torture of leaders of Ogene Youth Association.
Ogene is a rural settlement in Amejo Council Ward of Okpokwu LGA of Benue State. Retired SP Udoh also hails from Ogene Community.
Encounter Between Udoh and Reporter
In his effort to follow-up on the alleged harassment, illegal arrest, detention and torture of the youths from Ogene on July 3, 2023 under alleged connivance between retired SP Udoh with some police officers serving with the Otukpa Area Command in Ogbadibo LGA of Benue State, this reporter called retired SP Udoh on phone to get his side of what transpired on August 11, 2023 when he (Udoh) met with the youths at the Area Command in Otukpa.
The reporter had barely introduced himself when retired SP Udo took umbrage on why he (reporter) was calling him again, and in the process threatened the reporter that barely if he was going to reverse his decision to accept the much argued earlier agreement to in order to give peace a chance Ogene community, the retired SP rather vented his anger on the reporter, threatening to take the matter up with him.
Below is the conversation between the reporter and SP Frederick Udoh (rtd) presented verbatim:
Reporter: Hello, good evening sir.
Udoh: Good evening. Who is there?
Reporter: I’m Amos Aar from National Record.
Udoh: Amos Who?
Reporter: Amos Aar, from National Record. That journalist who spoke with you some time ago…
Udoh (…cuts in): Why do you call me again today?
Reporter: The case is still on and we have to hear from you because you went to the Area Command yesterday…
Udoh (…cuts in again): Why, why, why are you calling me today?
Reporter: I don’t think we…
Udoh: (…cuts in again) Come to the village and hear from me, I have told you before. Look, let me tell you, I will take this matter up with you o!
Reporter: How sir?
Udoh: You are looking for problem from me!
Reporter: I don’t understand, is it an offence to speak with you on phone?
Udoh: I will take this matter up with you; You were writing something on me; you have been deriding me; I’m not a DSP, I told you the other day. What is your problem with me? Go and talk with the person that is reporting to you naa!
Reporter: Okay, you want to sue me for addressing you as DSP or for trying to speak with you over the matter sir? Which one is my offence?
Udoh: Are you out of your senses, I told you not to call me again, why are you still calling me today?
Reporter: Okay, is that my offence…?
Udoh then ended the call obviously fuming.
Matter still pending at Area Command
Meanwhile, National Record had reported how retired SP Udoh had on July 3, 2023, allegedly connived with some policemen serving with the Otukpa Area Command to arrest and detain some persons, mainly leaders of Ogene Youth Association – Daniel Ameh, the incumbent president, Francis Ekoja, ex-president and Felix Ali Odumegwu, speaker – along with two others – Benedict Ogwuche and Elder Ejembi Abah.
The arrests were sequel to a protest and mob action by women in the community against alleged brutal beating and harassment of Ogwuche by policemen at the instance of Mr Udoh.
Udoh and Ogwuche are first cousins and are also currently enmeshed in a land dispute that has been taken to court by Mr Udoh before the current police matter which incidentally is also about the same land dispute.
RELATED NEWS: Benue Community Accuses Police Of Harassment, Unlawful Arrest, Detention After Women Protest Against Brutality
Also detained after the protests was Mrs Aladi Ogwuche-Ejeikwu, the elder sister of Ogwuche, but she was released the following day along with Elder Ejembi Abah.
Our reporter had traveled from Makurdi to the Otukpa Area Command on July 18, 2023 for enquiries on why the youth leaders were detained for complete five days without being charged to court. There were also complaints why the matter was reported and being handled at the Otukpa Area Command instead of the Divisional Police Office at Ugbokolo, which has direct jurisdiction over Ogene Community.
Mr Udoh was said to have traveled to Abuja when this reporter travelled down to Otukpa to interact with officers at the Area Command, and to Ogene Village to speak with the parties – Udoh and the detainees – who had then been released same day, but were still under police monitoring as they were instructed to continue reporting at the Area Command at stated dates for briefing on the progress of an out-of-police settlement between them and Udoh.
The detainees had told National Record that Udoh was insisting that he be paid the sum of N1.7 million for him to use to repair the broken window glasses of his house and that of one rear window glass of his car which were allegedly damaged during the women’s protest and mob action that ensued when Benedict Ogwuche was allegedly being beaten and tortured by the police brought to the community by retired SP Udoh.
Following the visit and his absence, this reporter contacted Udoh on phone on July 24, 2023, but he declined comment, insisting that the reporter must travel back to his village, Ogene, to speak with him as he said he was in Abuja.
Udoh had then told the reporter that he was not a retired Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) although he refused to say the proper rank he retired with until impeccable sources later confirmed that Udoh retired as a Superintendent of Police.
No progress on settlement
Although the police had given the parties time to resolve the matter outside the police station so that the matter will not be forwarded to court, but there is little or no progress the settlement discussions between the youth’s association and SP Udoh (rtd), National Record findings show.
Our correspondent gathered that at the meeting on August 11, 2023, at the Area Command in Otukpa, Mr Udo was said to have reneged on an earlier understanding that in the interest of peace in the community, the youth association was to replace the house’s broken window glass and a rear car window glass damaged during the crisis.
The youth association president, Daniel Ameh, told National Record via phone interview on August 12, 2023 that though the Area Command disposed towards amicable settlement of the matter by fixing the broken glasses, Udoh is however said to be insisting on the payment of N1.7 million.
According to Ameh, Udoh’s position is completely contrary to the initial verbal agreement they had with him, which was to repair the damages properties and not to pay the huge sum of money.
“The Area Commander told us that when such damages occur, the only thing that can bring peace is just to replace the damaged items. He also told us to go back and bargain and we agreed.
“But when we met with Fred Udoh and sought his permission so that we would start replacing the glasses, he told us that anything we wanted to do about the broken glasses and some other damages, we should do it on the table of the police. He said we should be depositing money at the police station. If we have it all, we should pay at once but if we don’t have it all, we will keep on paying until he is satisfied and said it’s okay, we should not pay again,” Ameh said.
Ameh expressed shock that Udoh is now denying reaching that initial agreement with them to replace damaged glasses.
“He denied that he never told us that we should replace those glasses of which he told us initially, very plainly, that we had two options either to replace or pay for all those things so that he will replace them himself,” Ameh added.
The youth president also told National Record that the youth’s association and the entire Ogene Community maintain the option of fixing the damaged glasses since they have professionals to handle the task perfectly.
According to Ameh, the matter has become more complicated now because Udoh has allegedly replaced the broken glasses without recourse to them for mutual and independent professional assessment.
“Before, he (Udoh) was using sliding windows (for the house) which some of our professionals said cost N25,000. But after the incident, he just came back from Abuja last Monday and he brought casement windows to replace the sliding windows. Each casement window costs about N45,000 now and he bought up to three to replace for now. You can imagine the difference between N25,000 and N45,000,” Ameh noted.
Although further meeting on the settlement was fixed to hold at the Otukpa Area Command on August 21, 2023, it is still uncertain what the outcome will be.
A source at the Area Command hinted National Record that the matter might be heading to the court if Udoh continues to insist on N1.7 million. Similarly, another source within the community confided in our correspondent that the youth’s association, particularly its president, might as well opt for litigation if Udoh persists in his demands.
According to the source, the youths were not personally liable to the damages but only mediating for the sake of peace in the community.