The Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (ENSUBEB) was on the boil today as thugs allegedly brought in by the chairman of the board accosted and brutalised the Permanent Secretary, stripping him in the process.
The incident occurred at about 7:40 a.m. inside the board’s Independence layout premises in the full glare of the state’s Deputy Governor, Cecilia Ezeilo, Chief of Staff, Festus Uzor, the Secretary to State Government, Gabriel Ajah, and Head of Service, Chidi Ezema, who were invited to the scene by workers of the agency while the show of shame lasted.
It was gathered that the Permanent Secretary, Mr Onaga Ogbodo, and Mr Ikeje Asogwa, a former state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and now chairman of the ENSUBEB board, had enjoyed a frosty relationship that arose over the running of the agency. Asogwa. Matters came to a head when Asogwa allegedly mobilised three thugs and four armed policemen to assault, batter and brutalise the Permanent Secretary.
Trouble was said to have started when Ogbodo arrived the office at about 7:40 a.m. and apparently unaware of what awaited him, attempted to move to the second floor of the building housing his office but was blocked by the chairman and his thugs.
“Ikeje slapped him severally and ripped his shirt and afterwards his inner wear while his (Ikeje) police orderly by name Henshaw tore his trousers to smithereens, exposing the Permanent Secretary’s pants even when his torso was bare.
“Because as a top civil servant, he was aware of the consequences of fighting in the public service rules, the Permanent Secretary did not lift a finger to defend himself all through the period of incarceration till he was overpowered,” a source said
The source continued: “They had on noticing the arrival of the Permanent Secretary locked up the gate and after battering him, they forcefully took the keys of his official vehicle, opened it and threw away all his personal effects on the ground, scattering them around the premises.
“It was the staff who were helpless while watching the show of shame were frantically making phone calls for help to come and one of them must have reached His Excellency as the Deputy Governor, Chief of Staff, Secretary to State Government and Head of Service promptly arrived the scene even as the incident was playing out.”
It was gathered that the penalty for fighting in the public service is dismissal, while for political appointee is disengagement.
Contacted, the Permanent Secretary, who refused to give details of the misunderstanding between him and his boss that led to the humiliation, simply said: “I am not allowed to talk to the press. I’m that kind of civil servant who protects the rules. There are eyewitnesses who were there and witnessed the scenario; please find out from them what happened.”
Efforts to get the comments of Asogwa on the development proved abortive as he neither picked his calls nor responded to the text message to his mobile phone line.
The text message to the chairman had read: “Chairman, Sir; please there are allegations that you hired thugs to beat up and strip your Permanent Secretary inside the premises of ENSUBEB. Please, may we know reactions to enable us balance our story before going to press.”
Also contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the agency, Mrs Nkiru Onuorah, promised to get back to the reporter on the issue but never responded to phone calls and text messages on her mobile line afterwards.
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Information, Ogbuagu Anikwe, said he was not aware of the incident but would find out from other government officials.
On his part, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Uwakwe Abugu, simply asked the News Express to “reach the officials involved and get their views on the development.”
Meanwhile, traditional rulers from Nkanu where the Permanent Secretary hails from who was apparently incensed by the development met and resolved to send a delegation to the governor on the issue.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was said to have summoned the two officials and asked them to maintain decorum, while promising to look into the matter.