By Justin Akpovi-Esade

The nation’s movie industry was thrown into momentary shock as the rumour that one of its notable stars, comedy actor Nkem Owoh is dead, made the round.

The shock was made graver when the rumour mill spurned a wild tale of how the star, current winner of the prestigious African Movie Award Academy, AMAA, Best Male Actor, died as a result of complications resulting from the rupture of hard drugs he allegedly ingested in an attempt to traffic them out of the country.

It was even claimed that a radio station in Lagos had confirmed the news and announced the day his ‘body’ would be flown back to the country for ‘burial’.

So many versions, some very fantastic of Owoh’s alleged involvement in drugs trafficking that eventually led to his death were told. At O’jez, a top celebrity hangout in Lagos, all the stars present when the rumour hit were seen in a pensive mood, discussing the issue in a hushed tone. To make matters worse, the ones brave enough to call Owoh’s mobile telephone became more afraid when it rang out several times without anybody picking it. The award-winning actor did not help matters by not coming out to debunk the allegation. So the rumour continued, unabated.

However, while the rumour was still raging, Owoh popularly called Osuofia, reacted and spoke to Mr. Ejike Asiegbu, president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria. This doused the tension a bit. In a statement issued by AGN on the matter, Asiegbu described the rumour as not only “malicious but criminal and an attempt to bring down a good and honest citizen who has contributed immensely to the growth of Nollywood.”

The AGN president said he never had any doubt about the character of Owoh. “This is a man I have known for so long, a respected member of AGN and I make bold to say that Nkem Owoh is not dead, Nkem Owoh is not involved in drugs trafficking, will never be involved in drugs trafficking. He is very much alive.”

Later, Asiegbu was on telephone with Nkem Owoh. All attempts by The Guardian to speak with him proved abortive. He did not even reply an SMS message asking him to react to the recent development.

His publicist Stanley Okereke said Owoh is not ready to brief the media on the issue. “He is very well, he did not travel out of the country, so there is no way some drugs erupted in his stomach in a place that exist only in the imagination of the people who started the story. He is in Abuja, I spoke with him some minutes ago,” he said, showing The Guardian the time and date of the call he purportedly made to Owoh.

The actor gained more popularity when he played the lead in a movie entitled Osuofia In London. He is one of the biggest stars in Nollywood. Sometime last year, he had a running battle with The Netherlands police when his live show in Holland was stopped midway and he allegedly brutalized. Owoh had claimed he was being harassed because of a song he did entitled I Go Chop Your Dollar, which was widely viewed as a song glorifying advance fee fraud otherwise called 419. He however debunked the claim that his song glorifies 419, rather the song he said, condemns it.