….How Chinemelum died
On Monday, March 22, 2021, a multitude of boys too many to be contained by the police and soldiers, acting on the rumour that Mr Fidelis killed his apprentice over N10,000, stormed the ASPAMDA section of the Trade Fair Complex, Lagos, broke into his shops, brought out his goods and safes containing his money, and set everything on fire. They threatened to visit his residence to also set it on fire and kill him and his family members. But Mr Fidelis has explained what transpired between him and his apprentice Chinemelum, and how he died. Below is his speech:
Good day, my people. I am Fidelis, who has been accused by rumour mongers of killing his apprentice (nwa boi) Chinemelum. But that is completely false.
Let me give you the background about my relationship with Chinemelum. Chinemelum lived with my father until he completed his secondary school education. After that, I took him as my apprentice, having known him in our house as part of our family since his infancy. He was like a brother to me. Any time I travelled home from Lagos, my father would ask after him before asking about my children or wife. Because he was like family, I gave him the type of trust I never gave any of my apprentices. I gave him my warehouse keys. He was in charge of the warehouse, and I told him that if anything got missing there, he was the person I would hold responsible. He was the only apprentice that could go into my bedroom and wife’s bedroom.
But somehow he began to change. I continued to correct him as my son. However, things began to go out of hand. What led to this crisis was that recently we closed for the day and I discovered that N10,000 was missing. I asked him where it was, and he said it was at home. I asked him how N10,000 that was missing from the day’s sales would be at home. When we got home, I told him to show me where he kept it, but we did not see the N10,000. In search of that N10,000, we saw a strange package. We opened it and saw mystic oils, something that looked like a talisman or charm, and roots. I asked what it was and he said it was olive oil for prayers. I asked him what type of olive oil that was red and also black and things that looked like roots? He said it was his mother that sent it to him from family prayers. The name of the oil was Rose Musc. I called his mother and she said that it was from her, that she sent it through a public bus. I asked her how she had something like prayer items to send to her son but she did not give them to me during one of my regular trips home. I told her that I had never seen prayer items that looked like those. The father told me that there were no family prayers that were conducted in their house, that his wife and son were concocting stories.
It was after I found that oil and removed it that a kind of spell on me over the boy was removed. That was when I began to check what was happening in my business. I began to see traces that money was leaving my business. First I saw an invoice of N340,000, 200 units of 2TR fuel pump he sold to someone. The person had called me and I told him the price. Chinemelum then went to the warehouse to release the goods to the man. He tore off an invoice that had no duplicate. The person told me he paid for the goods in two tranches. The first day he gave my boy N250,000. The next day, Chinemeulum went to him and collected the balance.
I asked him where the money was, and he said his father had a surgery and he sent N280,000 to him. He said that he would return the money. I called his father and asked him about his health. The father said he had recovered, that it was just his blood pressure or sugar level that went up. I asked him if my boy sent him some money, and he said no. I asked the boy again, and he said he gave it to his girlfriend who had gone to Abuja with the money.
My investigation into my business showed that my business had been bleeding. There was missing N200,000. I asked the person to pay the debt and he said he had paid my boy. There was missing N84,000: I asked the person involved, and he said he had paid my boy. He said he wanted to transfer the money but my boy asked him for cash because I told him that I needed cash urgently. He sensed something but gave Chinemelum cash of N84,000 and told him that he would pay the balance later. It was not recorded anywhere in our books.
I checked my stock. I checked the system with which I manage the stock in my warehouse. I checked the warehouse and saw that many of my goods were gone but the system showed that the goods were in the warehouse. Over 30 million naira worth of goods was missing. On fuel pumps alone, I found out that over N14.5 million was missing. On spark plugs, only one item had 6,000 units missing. Other items were missing to the tune of over N15,000. I sell brake rubber which is a tiny car part. It is hard to check them. Only God knows how many of them were missing. But I wanted to take my time to check them to avoid accusing anyone wrongly. I asked him where these goods were or their money, since he was the only one that had the keys to the warehouse, and he said he didn’t know.
I was surprised about this development. We were still trying to unravel the missing money, when he ran away from my house. I reported to the FESTAC and Trade Fair Complex police stations as well as to Nnewi police station.
After 11 days, he surfaced and his father took him to my father in Nnewi. They told my father some cock-and-bull story about the missing money. My father told them that it was better he went back to Lagos to explain to me what happened to the money. My father added a cousin of mine to them and told them to come to Lagos to explain the matter to me. I paid their transport fare from Nnewi, and they came back on Friday, March 19, 2021. His father had told me that he did not want it to be a police case, but I told him that the only way it would not be a police case is If the boy told the truth about the whereabouts of my goods or money.
We questioned him repeatedly, but got nothing concrete from him. He eventually told us that it was a fraudster that he was sending the money to, that the man would call him on phone and he would go to the front of Exodus Plaza inside the Trade Fair Complex, Lagos and give him the money. I asked him for the phone number of the man and he said he had deleted it from his phone.
I asked him if he had a bank account number where he was paying the money into, and he said no. I asked him who he was sending the goods to, and he said nobody. I got tired of the fruitless questioning. So I invited the Trade Fair Complex police station. I begged him to speak out, so that we could find a way to retrieve even some of the money from whoever was collecting the money from him. He did not disclose anything.
When we got to the police station, I made a statement. He made his own statement. His father made his own statement. I drove his father back. On Saturday, I took his father to him and begged him to question him to know if he could give us some clue. That day I went to take stock and then returned to the police station. That was the day he gave an idea of what happened to the money. He said he gave the N340,000 to a wayo person or fraudster. He said he spent the N200,000. He said he used the N84,000 to play a lottery whose winning prize was N15 million. All these were in the statement he wrote that day. His father was a witness. My other apprentices and salesgirl were witnesses. I told him that if it was these three amounts of money, it would not make me to come to the police station with him. I asked him to disclose to me what happened to the spark plugs and fuel pumps worth over N30 million. He kept quiet. He was taken back to the cell and we left.
On Sunday (March 21), the police called me to say that the boy had made confessional statement. I was happy, for I believed that such amount of money was too huge for him alone to take; some people would have been involved in it. I went with my lawyer, so that whatever he said would be recorded. His father was there too. Later we were taken upstairs to the DPO’s office. The area commander of FESTAC was there. The next thing they told us was that they were sorry: that the boy committed suicide the previous night inside the cell; that he was alone in his cell. They brought out a phone and showed us photos of his death. They said he tied his shirt round his neck and committed suicide, and that his body had been deposited in the mortuary for further investigation. I was shocked and dumbfounded.
This was not why I took the case to the police or what I wished the boy. This is a boy I had known right from his infancy. How could I wish him death? His being alive was beneficial to me, because he could one day give me a clue to what happened to my goods and how I could recover some money. His death is not of any use or advantage to me. So I cannot wish him dead at all.
I have no hand in his death and never even contemplated that. I did not even give money to the police to torture him so as to get information from him. The female IPO that was in charge of the case was petting him to speak out. If they beat him in my absence, I am not aware of that. But when we saw him last Saturday, there was no sign that he was beaten or man-handled.
To the best of my knowledge, I followed the right channel prescribed by the law on the matter. I did not take the laws into my hands. I took him to the police to know if I could recover my money, for it is huge. This missing money is not even my money. It is the money of my foreign business partners; the credit facility they extended to me on trust, based on years of transparent and reliable business relations. Whether good or bad, I am the one who will pay for that debt.
In his confessional statement, he said that any time he wanted to go to the warehouse to take goods, he would switch off the CCTV. He confessed before his father that he switched it off six good times to go into the warehouse. He also said that any time he wanted to take goods from the warehouse, he would take the key of the warehouse from the bunch of keys the previous day, so as to go very early to the warehouse to take whatever he wanted.
Evidences of all that transpired are with me.