About a month ago, 21-year-old Chizoba Ayogu left his home town in Alor-Uno, in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State, to work as an apprentice for one Mr Chimezie Eze, who owns a chemist shop in Agasha, Benue State.
He had a dream of opening his own chemist shop upon completion of his apprenticeship. But his hope was dashed last Friday, as he narrowly escaped death, after he was allegedly beaten to a state of coma by his boss.
His offence? He stated that he used N50 airtime on his boss’ business line to call another apprentice and that he sold a pack of paracetamol for N50, instead of N200.
Ayogu, who had visible marks of violence on his back and other parts of his body to show for the alleged torture, has been sent back home to his parents.
Speaking with Crime Guard, his mother, Mrs Chinyere Ayogu, lamented that her son could barely walk when he returned home until he was treated.
She recalled how she had wanted her son to learn a skill but was discouraged by a friend she confided in, who suggested that Chizoba would do better in business.
She added that her friend promised to link up with Chimezie, who owns a chemist shop in Benue State.
According to her: “She later told me that Chimezie had approved of my son joining him in his business but said we should keep it secret. Chimezie came to pick my son at about 7.30pm last month.
Barely had my son settled down when he returned home, accompanied by someone last week, as he couldn’t walk.
The following day, I took him to Chimezie’s father at Echezema, Ibagwa Aka in Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area of Enugu State. I am speaking out because I don’t want Chimezie to carry out his threat to my son’s life “ she narrated.
My ordeal— Chizoba
Narrating his experience in Benue state, the victim said : “A day before this incident, I was accused of wooing girls. The trouble started when my boss gave me a phone to reach him on, whenever a customer requested to see him.
“When I complained that I didn’t have airtime in the mobile handset he became furious and asked what I used the airtime he saw in the phone the previous day for.
“I told him it was used to call my fellow apprentice to direct customers to my shop, if they didn’t have the medicines buyers were looking for. I told him that the airtime was not enough to complete the call and that I had to borrow N50 from the service provider.
“He gave me N500 to buy airtime and threatened to deal with me if he discovered any surcharge from the service provider.
“After loading the N500, the service provider deducted the N50 I had borrowed earlier. My boss got angry when he discovered it and ordered me to go to our apartment and wait for him.
“When he returned home, he asked me to kneel down and started flogging me with koboko (horsewhip) in the presence of his wife.
“I pleaded for mercy but he didn’t stop. I made an effort to break free from him through the exit door but he blocked me. At that point, he said I wanted to fight him. He threw away the koboko and started raining blows on me until I fainted.
“The last thing I remembered was when he tried to strangle me. He said he would behead me and take my corpse to my parents, boasting that nothing would happen. My cry for help could have alerted neighbors.
“I was told they came and stopped him, while I laid in the pool of my blood unconscious. The following day, he sent me back to my parents, boasting that he would make me pick pieces of paper on the streets and market places”, he said amidst tears.
However, when contacted, his boss, Chimezie, denied threatening to kill his apprentice.
According to him, “when I gave him a phone for our business calls, I didn’t recharge the line. I just wanted him to be receiving calls with it.
“I was surprised when he called me with the line and when I checked the airtime, I discovered he had N96 balance. But when I asked him to call me with that line the next day, he claimed he had no airtime on the phone, that he had used it for business calls.
“We recharged the line with N200 airtime but when we checked the balance, it was N76. I then concluded that he lied to me and sent him back to my apartment.
“Yes, I gave him two strokes of koboko when I returned in the evening, in a bid to discipline him. But as the third stroke was about landing on him, he stood up from his kneeling position and grabbed my hand.
“I gave him headbutt twice, to break free from him. He fought with me.
“I threatened to make him mad if he stole from me, but I never said I would shoot him.”