Murder in Uyo: Who Killed Hiny Umoren?
On Friday April 29, a 26 year-old lady set out around 1PM to attend a job interview in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. Having recently completed her university program despite losing both parents, she was looking for a way to support herself before being called up for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program.
Instead of a job interview and hope for the future however, what she would actually encounter on that day would become one of the most shocking stories to ever emerge from Nigeria.
Iniobong “Hiny” Umoren became the subject of a desperate nationwide search led by Nigerian Twitter users after her friend Umoh Uduak put out an urgent appeal. She was eventually found, but unfortunately the worst had already happened. The police would later confirm that she was found dead, having been raped, murdered and then buried in a shallow grave.
In the wake of a crowdsourced social media sleuthing campaign which uncovered his identity, a primary suspect Frank Uduak Ezekiel Akpan was also arrested.
In a manner completely uncharacteristic of Nigeria’s elephant-paced justice system, the Akwa Ibom State Police Command rapidly announced that it had extracted a confession from Akpan, and even identified his motive – he was a serial rapist and serial killer acting alone. End of story and job done.
Naturally, this neat explanation did not satisfy many, who felt that Akpan could not have acted alone, and that the police might be involved in some kind of a cover up to protect powerful people potentially implicated. Rumours also began swirling about Hiny’s family receiving death threats, and the suspect allegedly boasting about being well-connected.
Beyond the whispers however, there has been precious little to substantiate the idea that stringing up Frank Akpan alone would not represent any kind of justice for Hiny Umoren. Sources willing to speak up and provide information about this case have generally not been forthcoming.
Game Changing Information
Every telephone conversation made via a GSM telephone line has a permanent record with the mobile service provider, which by law cannot be tampered with or erased. The information captured can vary, but it always includes the following elements: the date and time the interaction was initiated; the type of interaction (voice or SMS); the length of the interaction; the number initiating the interaction; the number receiving the interaction and the location of the closest cell towers to both parties.
Some networks also record the actual conversation (voice note), and depending on the type of signal band and mobile device, it is even possible to capture the exact location of both parties, accurate to within a few metres. Anyone who can get their hands on the call data from Frank Akpan’s line would very quickly be able to establish whether he was in fact acting alone – which is where my source came in handy.
Understandably, this information is meant to be impossible to access without law enforcement authorisation. With this in mind, I have taken the extra precaution of reproducing it manually via a spreadsheet, so as to protect my source by removing all possible identifying information. Over the course of several hours last week, I pored over several days worth of leaked call data from Frank Akpan’s mobile provider to make sense of the situation.
What will be presented in this story is the closest thing that exists to objective evidence that:
1.) Frank Akpan is being used to take the fall for much bigger fish involved in Hiny Umoren’s murder; and
2.) While Frank Akpan is certainly the primary suspect and was directly involved in the murder, there are other participants in the murder still walking free, while the Akwa Ibom Police Command intentionally bungles what should be an open and shut investigation.
Who is Frank Akpan?
Apart from a few tidbits pieced together from social media accounts about him, very little is known about Frank Akpan the primary suspect. The timeline to his arrest begins late in the afternoon on April 29, when Umoh puts out Hiny’s number hoping someone will be able to track down her friend’s location.
The mention of “Frank Akpan” as a central figure in this story begins with this tweet from Umoh which identifies the owner of the Airtel number +2348127530092 as the person who invited Hiny for the supposed interview.
A quick check with Truecaller brings up the name “Ezekiel Akpan.” Curiously, the occupation tag on this person’s Truecaller profile reads “Political.” It is important to bear in mind that Truecaller fills an individual’s ‘name’ and ‘occupation’ fields by pulling high quality data from several sources including Facebook profile information and analysis of the individual’s Facebook friend networks – so this tiny detail will become significant later on.
Shortly after finding himself under instant national scrutiny following Umoh’s tweet, Akpan then attempts to throw the public off the scent with the Facebook post below. In so doing, he inadvertently confirms that the telephone number in question is actually his, thereby proving that “Uduak Frank Akpan” and “Ezekiel Akpan” are the same person.
Shortly thereafter, he deactivates his Facebook profile and seemingly goes silent until the Akwa Ibom State Police Command issues a statement 3 days later, confirming his arrest and effectively pronouncing him guilty of the crime as a sole suspect.
So far, based on the version of the story that is in official circulation, there is only Frank Akpan and the unfortunate Hiny Umoren. The police have declared him a serial rapist – and hence a single actor. Officially, the issue is over and there is nothing more to see here. It was just a horrible monster and a woman who unfortunately fell victim under the most heartbreaking circumstances.
The only counter-story so far boils down to a few unsubstantiated social media rumours that cannot stand in court, plus what would otherwise be compelling evidence from Akpan’s crime scene, which unfortunately has now been contaminated and rendered all but useless for the purpose of a criminal investigation.
By deliberate malfeasance or by incompetence, the Akwa Ibom State Police Command has allowed key evidence from Akpan’s hideout potentially pointing to a larger conspiracy, to be trampled underfoot by hundreds of curious onlookers and social media content creators. In so doing, the evidence to build a case for anything other than a standalone Frank Akpan conviction has been destroyed or rendered inadmissible.
There is however, one type of evidence that cannot be physically destroyed or tampered with in any way. This evidence has a permanent digital record which sits in cloud storage away from the incompetence or malfeasance of the Nigeria Police Force, and what it shows without a shadow of doubt is that Frank Akpan did not act alone.
Leaked Network Records: The Smoking Gun
To properly understand and contextualise the data that you are about to see below, a little explainer is in order. As mentioned earlier, the 6 categories of telephone interaction data always recorded by service providers are call date and time, originating number, receiving number, type of interaction (call or SMS), length of interaction (in seconds) and the originating/receiving cell tower.
Every cell tower on earth has a unique location code written in this format: MCC (Mobile Country Code)-MNC (Mobile Network Code)-LAC (Location Area Code)-CellID. Nigeria’s mobile country code is 621, and its 4 largest network providers MTN, Glo, Airtel and 9Mobile have the respective MNCs 30, 50, 20 and 60. Using this information alongside the LAC and CellID provided in the call records below, you can pinpoint the exact cell tower closest to where the call in question was made or received.
For example, if the given MCC is 621, the MNC is 20 (Airtel), the LAC is 00784, and the CellID is 20565, you can put this information into free public access cell site locators like cell2gps.com and the result will be a cell tower site in Uyo at the junction of Ikot-Ekpene road and Ikpa Road.
That being said, it is time to examine the leaked call record data and draw our conclusions. First, here is data I extracted from what my source provided, showing the significant parts of Frank Akpan’s call and SMS history on the day Hiny Umoren was murdered.
Around 1.17PM on April 29, Frank Akpan placed a call to Hiny Umoren, which lasted for 124 seconds. It is fair to extrapolate that this was a call where he gave directions to her regarding where she should go for the purported interview. At 1.21PM, he then placed a call to a Blessing Godwin, which lasted 147 seconds. Was he chatting up another potential victim of the same job interview snare? It is impossible to say for now.
At 3:38PM, Hiny Umoren then placed a call to Frank Akpan lasting for 106 seconds. If you compare the cell tower data here to that of his previous phone calls, it is clear that he was already at the supposed venue waiting for her because the tower location does not change. It is safe to assume that she was calling to tell him that she had arrived for her interview. Save for a 2-second WhatsApp voice note which Hiny later managed to send to Umoh, this call was probably the last time anyone ever heard Hiny Umoren alive again.
Around 6.15PM, almost 3 hours after Hiny Umoren arrived at his lair, Frank Akpan then placed a call to an unknown number. The call records clearly show +2348127530092 – Frank Akpan’s known public number – making repeated contact between 6.15PM and 6.50PM with +2348122386922, an unknown number which brings up no details on Truecaller or Facebook. For reference, if a mobile number pulls up no Truecaller, Facebook or social media results whatsoever, this could either mean that it is used on a non-internet-enabled feature phone (a so-called ‘burner’ phone), or that the owner is extremely intentional about having no digital footprint linked to that number.
Incidentally, this was also around the time when the Twitter hashtag #FindHinyUmoren had already led Twitter sleuths to uncover Frank Akpan’s identity, leading to his amateur attempt at misdirection referenced earlier. In the middle of a clear and obvious crisis moment, why was Frank Akpan repeatedly trying to establish contact with this unknown number with no digital footprint? The answer could lie in some data I extracted from a different set of call records showing Frank Akpan’s contact with this number in the days and weeks before Hiny Umoren was murdered.
Was this a regular buyer or facilitator of whatever gruesome trade Frank Akpan was involved in? Was Frank calling him for help after an unexpected social media campaign suddenly exposed him and put their entire business operation at risk? Why was this the first number that Frank called immediately after raping and murdering a young woman? We do not know the answers to these questions, but there is at least one person other than Frank Akpan himself who can probably tell us.
The “Senior Forestry Officer”
It is April 30, 2021, and Frank Akpan has become a nationwide hate figure on social media. His involvement in Hiny Umoren’s disappearance is public knowledge at this point, and time is running out for him. He needs friends and allies to protect him – and fast. His name and picture are doing the rounds on social media, and in a city like Uyo, it will not be long before someone recognises him and he finds himself subjected to Nigerian street justice.
Between 10.27Am and 10.44AM, he places 3 phone calls to a Francisca Bassey Akpan – Francisca is in Calabar when she receives the calls, and she is using a smartphone in a location with high network capacity, which means the network is able to record her location while receiving Frank’s calls to within a few metres of accuracy.
At 10.55AM, Francisca calls Frank back. Only they and the mobile network know what is said during this 51-second conversation. My source balked at the idea of obtaining customer voice notes because that would simply be a bridge too far, even for the sake of solving a brutal murder. Just getting this much information to me is already breaking multiple in-house rules and NCC codes, so they understandably did not want to push their luck.
At 4.32PM on April 30, Frank then makes one of the most most interesting phone calls in this entire story. Truecaller pulls up the details of the recipient of the phone call with the number +23480*****326 – one “Kufre Effiong.” Unlike the other people Frank has been known to associate with, Kufre Effiong appears to be from a different world. He is significantly older than Frank and as his location details show, he lives in the swanky part of town. Who is this guy?
Their conversation lasts for just 31 seconds and presumably ends with Kufre hanging up. Frank’s phone rings almost immediately at 4.34PM. The caller is +234803*****19 and this conversation lasts decidedly longer than the last one – almost 4 minutes. Who is the owner of this number that has so much to talk about with someone who is probably Nigeria’s most wanted man at the moment? Truecaller answers once again.
Kufre Effiong is an older, wealthier looking man who apparently spends his time in the upscale Ewet Estate while Frank Akpan rapes and murders young women in uncompleted buildings somewhere across town.
What could these two possibly have in common that brings them together? Interestingly, if you compare the location data from both calls, it is clear that both men have in fact met physically at a certain 58G, Ewet Housing Estate in Uyo. Frank is probably outside the building talking to this older, wiser man on the phone and hoping to get some help from him.
More on 58G, Ewet Housing Estate later.
Who exactly is Kufre Effiong? I eventually found the answer after scrolling through dozens, maybe hundreds of social media profiles with that exact name. Mr Effiong as it turns out, is something of a big fish in Niger Delta civil service circles.
Now back to the address where both men met. Plot 58, G Unit, Ewet Housing Estate is home to the Uyo branch office of a medical NGO called the Center for Clinical Care and Research (CCCR Nigeria).
Founded in 2010 by an all-star list of accomplished Nigerian-American doctors, CCCR carries out medical outreach programs in underserved areas of Nigeria and promotes medical best practices using a fusion of global best practices and local healthcare delivery models. Or at least it used to, because as far as it is possible to tell, its social media pages have had no activity whatsoever since 2017. A scan of news stories since 2017 using the keywords “CCCR Nigeria” and “Center for Clinical Care and Research Nigeria” turns up nothing.
And yet, at least if Google is to be believed, its Uyo branch office at 58, G Unit, Ewet Housing Estate still opens at 8.30AM everyday and closes at 5PM. This exact address also happens to be where Kufre Effiong made and received calls from Frank Akpan, who also physically met him there 24 hours after raping and murdering Hiny Umoren.
Due to the convoluted house numbering system in Uyo, the property labeled as 58, G Unit, Ewet Housing Estate is also recognised on most digital maps as Plot S.9, Unit G, Ewet Housing Estate. That address is also home to Davok Suites, which is a popular upmarket hotel in Uyo favoured by high profile guests including the Cameroon national team.
This would be the ideal location for a trusted associate of a politician – say, a senior civil servant – to lay his head while running a clandestine errand for his boss.
An errand such as sourcing human parts for use in a ritual sacrifice ahead of the upcoming election season, for example. Whatever it is that happened or is happening at 58, G Unit, Ewet Housing Estate – and for whose benefit – is a question only Kufre Effiong can answer. Cavernous as this story has become, there is still one more twist.
Hiny Umoren’s Murder – A Police Cover Up In Progress
At the outset, I referenced a press release from the Akwa Ibom State Command on May 2 patting themselves on the back for arresting Frank Akpan and solving a huge criminal conspiracy in 5 minutes by pinning everything on him. One of the names singled out for praise in the press release for his alleged role in apprehending Frank Akpan was a certain SP Samuel Ezeugo.
On April 30, at 4.40PM, Frank Akpan placed a call to someone with the number +2348034386086.
At this point, I trust it will not shock you to know that when I ran this number through Truecaller, the name that came up was none other than…
In other words, while the Akwa Ibom Police Command is releasing statements claiming to be solving a crime by arresting a suspect, the suspect was actually making telephone calls to one of the police officers who would later “arrest” him, and speaking to him for a minute and a half. What were they talking about? Perhaps Frank Akpan – who was still at large at the time – was giving SP Ezeugo instructions for how to apprehend him nicely?
Even more conveniently, Akpan placed the call to SP Ezeugo less than a minute after receiving a text message from Kufre Effiong. While still physically located at 58, G Unit, Ewet Housing Estate.
In other words, the senior civil servant working at the Niger Delta Ministry probably sent SP Ezeugo’s phone number to Akpan via SMS, with instructions to call him and let him “handle” it.
And most tellingly of all, SP Ezeugo’s cell tower location data indicates that while all this was happening, he was in close range of a cell tower near the entrance of Ewet Housing Estate. Presumably, on his way to meet oga.
So putting the entire picture together, we have what appears to be a well-connected criminal gang in Akwa Ibom with links to the police and the Federal Ministry of the Niger Delta, which probably specialises in sourcing human organs either for the purpose of selling to the international black market or to service local politicians who believe in ritual human sacrifice.
By the accident of targeting someone with significant social media capital, the existence of this organisation is threatened, and so the Akwa Ibom Police Command is allegedly being used to actively bungle and mishandle the case.
Finding the individual who owns the telephone number
+2348*******22 is central to unraveling the mystery of why Iniobong Umoren had to die, how many more like her have died in the past, and most importantly, who are the big fish behind the entire operation. Exactly what is going on at 58, G Unit, Ewet Housing Estate is another key question that must be answered.
If Frank Akpan won’t talk, maybe Kufre Effiong can tell us.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated in view of fresh facts.
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