Thirty-seven-year-old Christian Udochukwu Ukandu had no inkling of the ugly fate that awaited him when he visited Ikola Street, Meiran, Lagos to honour an invitation for a naming ceremony on December 19. Unfortunately, he became a victim of some assassins that had positioned themselves to wreak havoc in the area.
Ukandu, whose former neighbours described as sociable and loving, was shot three times in the head. He was also macheted by the gunmen who stormed Ehis Hotel in Commando style that Monday night in search of the wife of Gerry Ovbiolokun, the deceased 67-year-old owner whose burial held between December 15 and 17.
Ukandu, according to residents, was at the venue of the reception when someone told him that Mrs. Ovbiolokun and her children were around. He decided to seize the opportunity to commiserate with them on the death of the deceased, who neighbours said he was close to.
But shortly after entering the hotel’s premises, which also houses a residential apartment where the bereaved family stayed upon their return from the United Kingdom, the gunmen, it was learnt, drove into the street, parked their vehicle, entered the hotel and unleashed terror.
Before the rain of bullets, the assailants were said to have surrounded the hotel’s premises while one of them went to Mrs. Ovbiolokun’s wing and allegedly dispossessed her of the property’s documents, the owner’s death certificate, jewellery, mobile phone, international passport and other valuables.
The Nation gathered that the gunman who went for the aforementioned items had asked all the people in the sitting room, including a man who had visited with two of his children, the receptionist identified as Ruth, a childhood friend of the family, Ukandu and the Manager, to lie down.
The gunman was said to have subsequently made a phone call to one “MOPOL”, announcing that the mission had been accomplished, following which the voice at the other end allegedly told to “do what needs to be done” and he shot Ruth in the head and also fired at Ukandu three times.
Another account claimed that Ukandu was not in the sitting room but within the hotel’s premises with a Police Inspector said to be the woman’s relation when the gunmen started shooting.
He was said to have been shot at three times just as the assailants also used machete on him. They also allegedly shot the policeman and the manager in the legs while other guards on duty at the premises were said to have fled when the shooting began.
Besides the loss of lives, the conflicting narratives, the seeming unwillingness by the police to investigate and the bitter experiences they encountered in public hospitals that night have left members of Ukandu family devastated.
Narrating how they learnt about the incident, the deceased’s sister, Felicity Ukandu, said she received a call from her brother’s phone around 11pm on that fateful day and the caller told her he was involved in an accident.
Felicity said: “It was my brother’s phone but the caller was not my brother. It was someone from my state who was alerted by one of the guards that my brother had been shot. He told me my brother was involved in an accident and had been rushed to Ile-Epo General Hospital.
“I immediately woke my sister and we drove out at that time to the hospital. When we got there, my brother was lying on a stretcher with his head bandaged. He was still alive but was breathing really hard and had lost a lot of blood.
“I spoke with the doctor and he told me my brother was hit by a stray bullet in the head. He gave us a letter and said he didn’t have the necessary facilities to keep him and that we should take him to LASUTH.
“I was told that the police were contacted immediately the shooting occurred. The DPO herself led police operatives to the hotel that night, but they left my brother to die.”
According to her, all through the time they were running round to save Christian, their father was being updated on the situation. She said they still were not aware of what truly happened until the hospital requested for police report before his body could be released and they had to go to Meiran Police Station.
“My dad, sister and cousins went to the Police Station to write their statement while I went home. Before then, we were hearing rumours that there was a naming ceremony happening at Ehis Hotel and people came in and started shooting. Another person called that a fight broke out at the hotel and all these were hearsays.
“It was when my dad and siblings got to the station, they heard it was actually assassins who did it and that they came to collect property documents from the two men.
“We heard they are British citizens. After the burial, I heard that the man had other landed properties and there is a family feud going on his properties so they sent assassins to his wife to get the documents of these properties.
“She said in her presence, the man made a call and said, “MOPOL, mission accomplished”. Then he called back and the woman said she heard the other person said something like “no problem, go ahead and do what you need to do”, and the assassin left her and that was when they started shooting at people in the compound.
“Then her brother, the Inspector, claimed that my brother was behind him and they were walking into the gate after going to on the generator when the gunmen started shooting. He claimed he didn’t know how my brother who was behind suddenly came to his front and that was how he got hit by bullets.
“What I do not understand yet is why the family decided to hide certain information from the police. Why did they not tell the police of all the witnesses that were in the premises that day? Why did they say that the hotel’s security were not on duty? Why did they not produce the man who was inside the sitting room with his children to state what he saw?
“Why has the manager not been invited by the police as an eyewitness? Why have they been trying to push a narrative that the attackers were armed robbers? What are they trying to hide?
“These are some of the questions I have asked repeatedly. I think all witnesses should have been invited by the police so that from there the police can have possible leads in unraveling this situation.”
While Ukandu was buried in his home town on December 31 after the police gave the family clearance, there appears to have been no headway in the investigations to unravel what truly happened that night.
She said: “We are concerned that this looks like an inside job. The family members of this woman have been the ones trying to bury this case and to negotiate with my father. Two people died that night, my brother and the receptionist.
“The receptionist, we learnt, has been a family friend to them since childhood. Could it be that she saw the faces of the assassins or know something they want hidden?
“The Inspector who was shot is the brother to the woman. He came to the station with the woman’s sister during a meeting last week. Another Superintendent who said he was related to the family also came with them.
“My dad said they kept contradicting themselves at the meeting when the IPO was asking them questions. What or who are they trying to cover?
“While he was in the village to bury my brother, the woman’s sister kept calling that she wanted to visit us to condole with the family. My dad refused to give her our house address and asked that they should meet at the SCID, Panti which they did last week and the family offered N500, 000 to cushion burial expenses but he didn’t collect it.
“My question is: What is N500,000 compared to human life? Why are they in a hurry to manipulate my septuagenarian father to collect money instead of putting heads together to fish out the culprits?
“All I want is justice for my brother. My mother and siblings are with me on this. We want justice. We want his killers to be fished out and dealt with.”
Findings made by The Nation revealed that Mrs. Ovbiolokun returned to the UK without notifying the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) at the State Criminal Investigations Department (SCID), Panti, where the case was transferred to. It was also discovered that her family did not reveal to the police, the true picture of those that were present that night.
It was learnt that investigators have not been able to make any headway in the case due to lack of cooperation from the family of the woman.
A source who spoke in confidence told our correspondent that it was surprising that the woman who reported at the station that she was robbed of her British passport, her husband’s death certificate, property documents and other valuables left the country without informing the authorities and the only witness on record that was reachable on phone was the Inspector of Police.
“There are things that are not clear. The family is not coming forward. What they fail to understand is that there was double murder in that premises. The IPO contacted the Police Inspector who is a relative of the woman and was also shot. He is the only witness whose number went through.
“Although he was receiving treatment, he came to the SCID and promised to get across to the woman, which he did, because the woman later called the IPO.
“She called with a foreign number and said that she was taken out of the country by the UK government after she alerted the Embassy that her life was in danger. She said she had been hospitalised since her return.
“The IPO asked her for details of the stolen phones for investigation purposes, she said she was going to send it once she left the hospital, but till date, she has not.
“‘She told the IPO that day that she didn’t have a phone yet and that the phone she was calling from could not be reached while dialed. That she is the only one who can reach the IPO and that’s when she recharged the line.
“She was asked if she had issues with anyone or suspected anyone and she said no. She said she didn’t have any problems with her in-laws and that they left the following day after her husband was buried.
“Then her sister who came to the station to meet with the father of Christian Ukandu said she had already returned to Benin City when the incident occurred and that she had to come back to Lagos in the hope of visiting the bereaved family.
“She claimed she was not at the scene. Each time the police ask of the manager, they will tell us he is in Abuja receiving treatment or tell another story. The manager has not yet come forward to be interviewed.
“So, how are the police expected to crack this case? Who are we supposed to arrest? The family that claimed gunmen attacked their property should ordinarily be cooperating with the police and providing possible leads but they are not.
“If the residents can come forward and volunteer useful information or names of witnesses that were there that day to the police, we will be happy to investigate these leads,” he said.
Our correspondent contacted Mrs. Ovbiolokun’s sister, Mrs. Osasere for comments but she said she was not in the country at the time of the incident and so was not a witness.
In his reaction, the Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Police Command, SP Benjamin Hundeyin, said that investigation was ongoing.
He confirmed that two persons died in the incident, adding that no suspect had been arrested yet.
“We have concluded autopsy on one of the victims. The other is still on. No suspect has been arrested. Investigation is ongoing.
“At the moment, we cannot say whether it was armed robbery, assassination or any other crime. We are not closing the options as only investigation will unravel what truly happened.”