Wife of one of the missing engineers, Patricia Onyemeh, 58, and her children spent the holidays indoors, praying and hoping for the return of the head of the family, 64-year-old Nelson Onyemeh.
For them, there was nothing to celebrate as nothing could fill the vacuum created by his disappearance.
On November 2, Patricia was with her husband, a Director at NELAN Consultants, in their Enugu house when he called four engineers to join him at a location in Ebonyi State the following day for supervision of the second phase of the Abakaliki Ring Road project.
“He asked them to get ready the next day as they would be travelling with him to Abakaliki for their routine supervision of the Ring Road project,” she said.
The project, which is in Effium, Ohaukwu Local government Area of Ebonyi State, is funded through a repayable loan from African Development Bank, AFDB, and meant to contribute to socio-economic development, poverty reduction through improved road transport infrastructure, reduced road maintenance costs and vehicle operating cost and travel time.
On November 3, the five engineers, Nelson Onyemeh, Ernest Edeani, Ikechukwu Ejiofor, Samuel Aneke and Stanley Nwazulum, travelled from Enugu to Ebonyi.
Part of what they had planned to do that day in Abakaliki was to check out an accommodation a certain man identified as Ken Okeh was helping them to find as they were supposed to be resident within the location of the road project.
They had scheduled a meeting with Okeh at 3.00 pm that day after visiting the road construction site. They travelled to the location in Effium with the project vehicle, a Toyota Hilux and arrived at about 2.00 pm ahead of the scheduled meeting.
It was gathered that on arrival, the team allegedly called Okeh and announced their arrival at the site. But that was the last time anyone would hear from them as they were subsequently reported missing in a suspected case of kidnaping from the project site in Ohaukwu as they supervised the road project.
On Tuesday, 30th November, 27 days after the incident, during a security meeting organized by the state’s elder statesmen led by former governor, Martin Elechi, the Christian Association of Nigeria among others, the Governor of Ebonyi State Dave Umahi, was quoted as saying that the suspect arrested in connection with the abduction confessed that the engineers had been “killed and buried”.
This came six days after the governor held a meeting with the wives and other family members of the missing engineers.Umahi however, did not inform the abducted men’s family of their “death and burial” and they received the devastating news through the media.
“It has been a home for us two and life without him is meaningless,” said Patricia.
When she read the story that her husband, alongside other engineers, had been killed and buried, Patricia became depressed.
She told The ICIR that people started coming to her house to console her and the children.
As several thoughts and questions raced through her mind, she again summoned courage on December 1, 2021 to write the governor, demanding to know if indeed her husband had been killed and buried as reported in the news.
This is sequel to the letters she wrote earlier dated November 11 and 23, where she explained her ordeal and thanked him for inviting the families of the missing engineers for a briefing at the government house.
Patricia said she received a response from the Governor telling her that he was working to confirm the true position and that he had sent security operatives to the location where the said kidnap occurred. and they were attacked and four of them were killed.
“More security is coming from Abuja with trackers. I need proper information before I can say something to you. I am doing everything possible including suspending all civil servants and political office holders from there. I know how you feel but give us more time,” Umahi was quoted as saying in his response.
On December 4, Patricia sent another message to the governor suggesting an open communication with any identified contacts of the abductors and suggesting the release of suspects detained over this matter, if it became a consideration to accepting the option of ransom and the application of effective peace-making mechanisms to ensure the abductees are returned alive.
Again, in his response, the governor allegedly assured her that he was “working all options”.
Before December 25, 2021, travelling home had become a ritual for Onyemeh and his family, not only because it is a time when he gets to make merry with his family but also because it is that period of the year when he extends his hands of fellowship to members of his community who would always besiege his village home to receive gifts.
“A lot of people depend on my husband because he never stops giving. If anything happens to my husband, it is going to be a huge loss to many families, most of whom had called after we did not return for Christmas last year, “she said.
It is well over two months since she last saw her husband, Patricia fears for what her husband is passing through.