He could easily pass for someone who was tired of everything around him, not even with the way he carried himself, but beyond his gloomy demeanour, he is truly hurting, angry and deeply frustrated, all at once, though he tried to hide it with some fake smiles.
Iduh Lucky, as he introduced himself to our correspondent when he came to share his story with Saturday PUNCH at the PUNCH headquarters recently, is not only sad about the unemployment crisis in the country, but more so because he has been duped of thousands of naira by a senior immigration officer who offered to help him secure a job and is now nowhere to be found.
The way Lucky strapped his brown envelope to his armpit as he entered the waiting room at PUNCH PLACE gave a clear impression that he had ground-shaking documents in the weather-beaten pack. He left no one in doubt about this as he held on to it tightly until it was time to unveil the content, which he later did, carefully.
Lucky said he met the officer, Ekon Godwin Obeye, a Superintendent of Immigration, through his childhood friend shortly before the ill-fated 2014 recruitment exercise and that he paid a total of N625,000 to the officer.
Pushed to the wall by the frustrations that could only accompany seven years of joblessness, Lucky was open to anything that could fetch him a job. Thus, when a childhood and trusted friend of his, identified simply as Godwin, who was also looking for job, told him he knew someone in Immigration that could help them get a job, he jumped at the offer and they both hoped for the best.
Based on the assurance from his friend, he said he was optimistic the man would help.
Lucky recalled that shortly after that, his friend got a job and he had to relate with Obeye directly.
“He invited me to his office, Immigration office, Alagbon Close, Ikoyi, Lagos, on September 23, 2013. I met with his colleagues and he later took me to his house at Lewis Street. I met his wife and children, and all those erased my doubts.”
Lucky said he met other guys in the house, most of whom gave money to him while he handed them mouth-watering promises of their “employment letter coming soon,” which he said gave him an indication that he was not alone.
He said, “His wife was also there. When those people left, he told me that the deal would cost me N250,000 but I told him I didn’t have that kind of money, so he said I should pay half and pay the remaining when I got my appointment letter. I agreed.
“Right there, I called my dad to send me N100,000, which he sent to my account that same day. Obeye wanted the money in cash but I insisted on paying it into his account so I could have the record. I paid the money into his account that day.”
Lucky, who graduated in 2008 and had remained unemployed since then, kept warming up for the job that was to come, but when it was taking forever, he started disturbing Obeye, who kept reassuring him and stressed the need for him to be patient.
He explained, “He kept promising, but in December, he said I should send him another money because he would need to settle the personal assistant to the minister. All these happened before the test. And there were times he would tell me to send him credit and transport fare to Abuja. On his request, I paid him another N25,000 on December 15, 2013, making it N125,000.”
Soon after the test, which was later cancelled owing to the tragedy that characterised it, Lucky said he started getting worried and had to tell Obeye to refund his money.
He explained, “I kept going to his house, but when he wasn’t forthcoming. When I went with my younger brother to his house in June 2014, he asked for two weeks, saying he had a Qatar visa programme he wanted to introduce to me. I declined, but my brother showed interest in it. It even caused fight between my brother and I.
“He said the programme would cost N500,000, covering ticket, visa and other things. He said someone would be there waiting to receive him and give him a job. While we were there, other persons came to his house for the visa and that convinced my brother.”
“His wife managed to convince my brother and father when they spoke on the phone, but I had my reservations. She assured my father that the visa would be ready in three weeks. On July 11, 2014, my father sent the money and we paid it.”
On the date Obeye gave Lucky that his brother would travel, he said they packed his brother’s bags and left for the airport but that they had to go back home in shame when they couldn’t reach Obeye again. He said they even met some of the people they had met in Obeye’s house before but they all had to go back home. After several calls to Obeye, which were not successful, it finally dawned on Lucky that he had been swindled twice by the same officer.
He said, “I visited his house many times but I didn’t meet him. I went to his office but I learnt he travelled to Abuja on an assignment. My father even came and he met the wife but she kept pleading for more time. When we couldn’t get him, we had to report the case at the Lion Building police station.”
Lucky explained that Obeye’s neighbour paid him N150,000 in October last year, part of which he said he had spent to “mobilise” the policemen on their request. He added, “I’ve not seen this man since then. I went to his house but there was nobody there. The last time I called him, he threatened to deal with me if I called him again. The police said I should call them anytime I lay my hands on him.”
According to the documents Lucky made available to Saturday PUNCH, Obeye had written several undertakings to pay back the money but he had yet to do so. The letter written by Lucky’s lawyer showed that the case had been properly documented with the Area ‘A’ Command Headquarters at Lion Building and the Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department at Yaba.
At the moment, Lucky’s hope of being employed with the NIS has since taken a nosedive for the worst, but not without taking his well being along. “I’m sure there are other people whom he has duped, but my worry is that he might soon retire because he is an old man, and if he does, how do I get the remaining N475,000 back,” he said.
When our correspondent called Obeye’s three phone numbers, none was available, and a visit to his office at Alagbon Close, Ikoyi, did not produce any result as he was nowhere to be found. Some officers who confided in our correspondent said nobody knew where he was. They added that there had been series of cases against him but nobody could find him.
“I can tell you that nobody knows where he is and I don’t think he is still with us. He has some questions to answer with us too, but we can’t find him,” one of them said.
The Spokesperson for Lagos State Police Command, Joe Offor, had yet to respond to an enquiry by our correspondent while that of Immigration was not available as of press time.
The amazing news, however, is that Obeye is still in the service of the Nigeria Immigration Service but currently at large.