Ifiok Umoren is the elder sister of a jobseeker, Iniubong Umoren, who was murdered last year in Akwa Ibom State. In this interview with PATRICK ODEY, Ifiok speaks about the family’s ordeal and the convict’s death sentence
Can you tell us briefly about yourself?
My name is Ifiok Umoren, sister to the late Iniubong Umoren. I am the principal complainant in the murder case. I am a graduate of Mass Communication. I completed my national youth service four years ago and I am currently unemployed.
Can you tell us about your family background?
I am from a family of four. Now we are three, since Iniubong is now late. We used to be three girls and one boy and our parents are late.
What was your sister’s growing up like?
It’s quite pathetic that after all the struggles she went through, she couldn’t eat from her labour. It wasn’t an easy journey because our parents left us at a very tender age. We were struggling on our own. Iniubong happened to grow under the care of our aunty until she got admission to a tertiary institution.
At that time, I had finished school and I had a little job, a private job, which was keeping us going. It was what I earned from the private job that I was doing catering for her needs in school. After the incident, being the principal complainant in the case, I had to let the work go.
For the past year, I have not been working. Besides, my boss was saying I should not continue because of the tension. People were saying that I was going to be killed at my place of work. My boss was saying, “I don’t want any casualties in my place of work.”
Before your sister was invited to the job scam, what was her last word to you?
We stayed together, so when she informed me she was going for that job, I was at my place of work. At my place of work, we don’t normally receive telephone calls. So she sent a text message to me, “I am going for a job interview. This is the number of the person that is calling me. The place is along Airport Road.”
She was not really precise about the exact location, but she had shared the person’s number with me.
You followed the proceedings of the court before the final judgment was delivered last week, August 4, 2022. Are you satisfied with the judgment?
I must tell you, I really commend the judge and the prosecuting lawyer.
You witnessed the manner in which the convict attempted to escape from the court. What can you deduce from his behaviour?
I really thank God because the way God works is always wonderful. God wanted to prove to people that I never lied against Uduak Akpan that he was indeed a murderer, because he was trying to strangle his first lawyer.
So, he wanted to prove to the world that he truly was a murderer. If he had the opportunity, he would have strangled his first lawyer. All thanks go to the custodial officers, who intervened and made a quick response to take him out of the court.
How do you feel about losing your sister in that manner?
Each time I am asked this question, I feel like crying. I feel so emotional that she shouldn’t have died that way. Even if she was to die, she shouldn’t have died at that point. She didn’t do anything; she was just going out there to be a better person. She knew that we had tried for her as a family. And I still remember those words.
She used to tell me, “Sister, you have really tried for me. I will be mobilised for the NYSC any time soon. Let me go out there. I have not got anything for the NYSC. Let me go out there and get a job. Even if it is for two months, the salary I am going to get will be able to do one or two things for me plus the support you will give me.”
These were her words, and each time these words keep coming and I remember that she only wanted to be a better person for herself and society, I feel bad that I lost her. The punishment meted out to Uduak Akpan is still not enough.
Given the situation in which your sister was murdered, would you say that she was one of the victims of societal ills?
Yes, she was. In Nigeria, we have millions of unemployed people. They want to be better people. We struggle to go to school, and we come back, with our certificates, yet we don’t have jobs! I wouldn’t say my sister was not careful enough. No, when she wanted to go out that fateful day, she told me the person she was going to meet and even shared the person’s contact. She even went ahead and told one of her friends. She was very careful. If there was anything she could have done to save her life, she would have done it. I believe that at that point she couldn’t do anything.
What do you think the Federal Government or the Akwa Ibom State Government should do to address the ills plaguing the country?
My take on this is that I know they are trying. I quite appreciate the Akwa Ibom State Government and the Ati Annang socio-cultural group, where I come from. They did a perfect job. They witnessed everything from the first day of proceedings to the end, so I will not fail to appreciate their efforts.
The Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Justice and every other Nigerian did a good job. The social media, the newsmen, you people really did the best for me, which I wouldn’t want to take for granted. But certain things still need to be done; we need to remedy mass unemployment. Nothing is too small for me. As a graduate, I went out and sought a private job. Luckily for me, I didn’t die because it was a genuine job. So if the government too tries to provide small jobs for every unemployed person, it will be better, and nobody will take advantage of the mass unemployment. This is an appeal; they should help.
The state government did promise to provide jobs for some members of the family. Has that promise been fulfilled?
If it has been fulfilled, definitely it will be on social media, but I really hope that they are working on something, and I believe they will.
Your elder brother has commended the state government for the support it has rendered already. What kind of support was he referring to?
Of course, it is a great support, especially for the ministry of justice. It is not easy for the state Attorney general, the solicitor general, the director, and principal directors to come every day to court whenever there is a sitting, so it is a very big favour. I know it’s their duty, but some people will be lackadaisical about it, but they took it upon themselves and did it as their own personal thing.
How did other members of your family receive the judgment?
Most of them were in court, and those that were there saw how the turnout was. Everybody, not just my family members alone, the whole world was expecting it.
In fact, the whole world had become my family because, after my immediate family, the world became my second family and the love they showed me was very massive. Everyone was happy that, at last, the murderer had been sentenced, and I’m hoping and believing that our governor will sign his death warrant.
I appreciate the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, and his wife, Dr Martha Emmanuel. She is such a nice woman because when she heard about it, she felt bad and did everything humanly possible, as a woman; she is a woman of virtues. I also want to tell the general public that money is not everything, because at that point, they were saying that I had collected money and allowed my sister’s case to be swept under the carpet. I asked myself, the sister that I sponsored through school to go and die, and after dying, I will now turn around and collect money for the case to be swept under the carpet. It is not done.