The Police in Abia State has embarked on a manhunt for a gang of kidnappers and rapists led by one Okpan Agwu Okpan of Akanu-Ohafia in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State.
The Police are searching for members of the gang over allegations that they kidnapped and raped a 16-year-old girl at Akanu-Ohafia last March.
The Police action is a sequel to a complaint lodged at Ohafia Police Station by the victims father, Mr. Onwunta Uma.
The Abia State Coordinator of the National Human Rights Commission Mrs. Uche Nwokocha also petitioned the State Commissioner of Police Mrs. Janet Agbede over the rape allegation. In the petition dated April 13, 2022, Nwokocha urged the State Police boss to arrest Okpan and his gang over the rape incident.
In the petition, Mrs. Nwokocha alleged that the said Okpan had in the company of others kidnapped and gang-raped the victim along Isiugwu Road, Akanu-Ohafia between March 6 and 10, 2022.
According to the petition: “On Sunday, March 6, 2022, 16-year-old victim (name withheld) attended a child dedication ceremony with her friend. On their way home in the evening, they met Okpan Agwu Okpan. Okpan gave his niece N1,000 and began to drag the victim. The victim opened her mouth to shout but lost consciousness. She could not remember whether she walked or was carried by Okpan. She regained consciousness the following day and discovered she was stark naked, blindfolded with her hands and legs tied together inside an uncompleted building.”
According to Nwokocha: “Okpan and others whom the victim believed to be his friends serially raped her daily from Sunday to Thursday. Each time they wanted to rape her, they would untie her hands and legs. When they were through, they would re-tie her hands and legs while still keeping her blindfolded.”
She further stated, “During this period, Okpan threatened to kill the victim and her entire family if she ever revealed that he (Okpan) was responsible for her kidnap and serial rape. Okpan further told the victim that if she was asked who kidnapped and raped her, she should say it was one Kalu from Ebem-Ohafia.”
Speaking to NOHR about the case recently, Onwunta Uma said: “Okpan was subsequently invited for questioning and he admitted committing the crime with his friends. He was eventually subjected to traditional punishment during which he danced around the community alongside some women and youths and was flogged.”
Onwunta further stated that: “When I was asked why I did not promptly report the matter to the Police, I said I was afraid of the likely negative reaction of Mba Odo Okereke and his vigilante group to which Okpan belonged to”.
Onwunta further stated that: “Members of the group had boasted that reporting the case to the Police would achieve nothing as the Police would not take any action against Okereke since he was above the law.”
He continued: “After I eventually reported the case to the Police Station at Ebem-Ohafia, the Divisional Police Officer asked a Vigilante operative called Jeko Kalu to bring Okpan to the Police Station. The vigilante operative charged N20,000 as his fee for carrying out the assignment and I paid him.”
According to Onwunta: “ The victim was later visited by members of a group known as ‘Human Rights’ who pleaded with her not to report the case to the Police. The group also pledged that they would pay her registration fees for the West African Examination Council Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination and University Matriculation Examination on the condition that she doesn’t report the case to the Police.”
Onwunta also stated that his daughter wasn’t the first rape victim in Akanu-Ohafia in recent times.
Responding to a question concerning the whereabouts of Okpan he said: “Okpan is presently on the run. Even though I don’t know his hiding place, he told some people who saw him some time ago, a cock and bull story about my daughter. He claimed he had married my daughter but I refused to hand her over to him.”
Mrs. Nwokocha buttressed the claim made by Onwunta over the activities of the Vigilante group in the community. The Abia NHRC boss in the petition alleged that: “Okpan and others who belonged to the Vigilante group led by Okereke had on several occasions in the past kidnapped and raped young girls from poor families. Members of the group are Okpan Agwu Okpan, Uma Kalu Uyo, Udo Aforji and Nkwobia Mong Ijekpa. Others include Okpan Orji Olugu, Amechi Ulu-Uduma, Francis Uduma Ochea, Kalu Ukpai Maduka (Lazarus), Ibe Bassey Ibe, and Kalu Oge Emele.”
She further alleged that these men were occupying an uncompleted building where they usually perpetrated their nefarious activities.
Mrs. Nwokocha further alleged that the gang later set up a smaller group whose responsibility was to cover up the atrocities carried out by the Vigilante Group by ensuring they were never reported to the Police while urging the Police to investigate the kidnap and rape allegations against the gang and prosecute all those involved if found culpable.