To be accused of masterminding a kidnap operation is to be tried, convicted and sentenced, all without the benefit of having your day in court. And even if such allegations are dismissed or unfounded, the stain remains for a long time if not forever.
Such is the case with Pharm. Emeka Godson Egbulugha, who was until 12th May, 2017, the superintendent pharmacist working for Maydon Pharmaceuticals Limited, based in Ilupeju area of Lagos. He also doubled as a sales representative for the company.
On that fateful day, Emeka was arrested by a team from the Nigeria Police Force on allegation of masterminding the kidnap of his boss, Mr. Donatus Dunu, on the 14th of February, 2017 by unknown gunmen.
Mr. Dunu according to reports had alleged that while in captivity he overheard the voice of Emeka discussing with his abductors and asking them if they had contacted his family. He also alleged that a few days before his escape, Emeka came and reassured his abductors that he had signed all the documents for the release of goods worth about N7 million from his warehouse and also came back to boldly question why they had not killed him as agreed.
Upon Emeka’s arrest and subsequent detention, the Police swung into full scale investigation. The Police read out Emeka’s allegations and he reportedly denied it. It was also gathered that the Police took him to his house and his boss’s warehouse before parading him and two of his colleagues before the kidnap gang nabbed in connection with the kidnapping of his boss. According to statements credited to Emeka, both the leader of the kidnap gang and his cohorts denied knowing him or his colleagues. Eventually, the matter was charged to court.
On the 14th of July, 2017, during the resumed hearing of the matter the Police it was gathered, apparently relying on the strength of their investigations, asked the court to strike out the case for lack of evidence thereby giving Emeka and his colleagues freedom.
The almost unimaginable nightmare is over for Emeka, but he also feels that irreversible damage has been done. The dismissal of the matter by the court does not erase the months of suffering Emeka and his family have endured.
In a sense, a frivolous or groundless case might not make it to court, but the mere filing of a claim makes an allegation a matter of public record.
And when the allegation borders on facilitating a kidnap operation, the accused faces instant repercussions. Friendships and family relationships can be damaged or destroyed; reputations and careers can be ruined, the absence of evidence notwithstanding.
Though the allegation has been quashed by a high court, recent moves by Emeka indicate that he wants his image redeemed. In a petition to the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, a copy of which was obtained by PhamaTimes, Emeka is asking PCN to intervene by meting out appropriate punishment and sanctions to Mr. Donatus Dunu and his companies to serve as deterrent to other employers of labour.
Emeka’s position is that the allegation has not only tarnished his reputation and integrity but also that of the profession. Similarly, he has asked his lawyers to sue a national daily and a health publication for defamation if they fail to retract their stories as it concerns him on the matter.
There is no doubt allegation bordering on kidnapping is weighty by all standards. In Lagos where the crime is committed, jail sentence awaits a convict if a life was not lost, but if the contrary is the case, the convict faces a stiffer penalty including death sentence.
And for a member of a noble profession, Emeka would have been severely sanctioned by the PCN if the case went to the contrary at the court. In fact his license would have been withdrawn thereby ending his career and future as a pharmacist.
We believe that Emeka reserves the right to seek redress for the alleged damage done to his integrity and reputation, but that must be done within the ambit of the law. Those who are at the centre of Emeka’s grouse – Mr. Dunu and the media houses do also have a right to defend themselves.
But one thing is certain, Emeka’s integrity has been stained as a consequence of the allegations, and before it endures, we suggest that Mr. Donatus Dunu and the media houses tender unreserved apologies to the young pharmacist.