Four unidentified soldiers have created confusion on Ikot-Ekpene Road, Umuahia, Abia State, after they allegedly brutalised a mechanic, Maduabuchi Onyemaeze, for damaging a vehicle put in his custody for sale.
The 32-year-old was said to have sustained injuries and was rushed to a medical facility in the area.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the case was reported at the CPS Police Station in Umuahia.
Onyemaeze, who spoke with our correspondent on Wednesday, shortly after he was discharged from the hospital, alleged that the military men were sent by a customer, identified simply as Jephat.
He explained that Jephat, who deals in electrical products, had contracted him to sell vehicle, a Murano Jeep, sometime in December 2016.
He said, “The car had been abandoned in a mechanic workshop for more than one year. He begged me to help him sell it. I discovered that the car’s engine was faulty and the steering was also bad. He said I should sell it for N1m and I could remove the cost of repairs after selling it.
“While driving the car to my workshop, I discovered that the alternator was bad. I told him I would replace only the alternator because I didn’t have enough money and he agreed.
“I bought the alternator for N13,000 and when people started coming for the car, I went to his shop to ask for the vehicle documents. He said he had misplaced them and I should give him some time. After going several times, I became tired and gave up.”
The father of one said sometime last week, Jephat suddenly showed up at his workshop to inspect the car and discovered a scratch.
He added that Jephat later sent him a message, demanding that the car be returned.
He said, “I removed the alternator that I bought and took the Jeep back last Saturday. He was not around, but I dropped the car key with one of his female workers.
“I was in my shop on Monday when I saw four soldiers. They put me inside their car and took me to the back of the man’s shop. They tortured me until there was no strength in me.
“After they were done, the man gave me the car key and said I should take the car back to my workshop, fix it and return it by Friday. I was able to call some of my friends who took me to the police station from where I was taken to a hospital.”
Our correspondent learnt that the police arrested Jephat, but released him on bail on self recognition.
When PUNCH Metro called him on Wednesday, he denied the allegation, saying the mechanic was not tortured, but “flogged.”
He added that a military officer, who had indicated interest in the Jeep, sent the four soldiers to Onyemaeze’s workshop.
He said, “From the first day that I bought the Jeep, it had developed a fault and I spent a lot of money on it without any result. So, I decided to park it in my garage as a monument.
“He (Onyemaeze) saw the vehicle and said he could sell it after fixing the fault. We agreed that after selling it, he would take his repairs’ fee and commission from the money. That was sometime in November 2016.
“Two people I had told about the vehicle and directed to his workshop came back and said they didn’t see the vehicle. I assumed that they didn’t get the location right.
“When another prospective buyer made a similar observation, I decided to check his shop myself. I discovered that he had gone out with the Jeep. When he brought it back, I observed that it had been damaged.”
He said a few weeks afterwards, a friend told him that someone had been having sex in the vehicle. He said he was angry and went back to the mechanic workshop.
“When I got there, I saw that the four doors were open. Loud music was blaring everywhere. One of his apprentices was sleeping at the back. I queried him for sleeping in the car. He told me that his boss asked him to wash the Jeep for a function the following day.
“While waiting for him at the workshop, I decided to open the Jeep’s glove compartment and saw a heap of CDs and two unused condoms,” he added.
He added that when he asked Onyemaeze about some scratches on the Jeep, the mechanic said they were done by some children in the place where he parked the car.
He said he sent a message to Onyemaeze, telling him that he had been using the Jeep for his selfish end against their agreement.
The businessman added that the mechanic threatened that if he didn’t pick the car in two days, he would damage it further.
He said, “Coincidentally, a commander, who had indicated interest in buying the car called me and asked about the car. I told him all that transpired and he was angry that the vehicle was being used in such a manner.
“After some time, I saw some soldiers in my workshop; they brought the mechanic. They accused him of having sex with women in the vehicle and maligning me. They asked him to kneel down and raise his hands.
“They used a fallen mango branch to flog him. After a while, they drove off. To my surprise, he called a pastor and they started a drama. He rolled on the floor while the pastor took his pictures.
“Two policemen later came to arrest me and I followed them to the station. Because of my health condition, I was released on bail on self recognition.”
The Police Public Relations Officer, Nta Ogbonnaya, could not be reached on the telephone as of the time of filing this report.
However, a police source, who confirmed the incident, said the police were still investigating the matter.
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