Cover Story

Perpetrators vowed to kill more people – witness

ODU

By Phil Okose, Onitsha

As the trial of the sus­pects of the August 6 massacre of scores of parishioners of St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Amakwa, Ozubulu in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, commenced last Friday at Nnewi High Court No. 3, pre­sided over by Justice F. I. Ani­ukwu, perpetrators of the das­tardly act have threatened to kill more people if the case was not settled immediately.

Four suspects were ar­raigned in the court which tri­al kicked off with the immedi­ate past President-General of Ozubulu Development Union (ODU), Dr. Ernest Chukwuka testifying as the first Prosecu­tion Witness, PW1, followed by the second prosecution wit­ness, PW2, Chukwujekwu Eze and their cross-examination by both the prosecution and de­fence counsels.

The suspects included, Great Chinedu Akpunonu, 44; Vincent Ike, 57; Chukwu­di Ugwu, 30, and Onyebuchi Mbanefo, 46.

Testifying before the court, Chukwuka, the PW1 noted that few weeks after the incident, the President of ODU in South Africa Quintus Onyebinamma (aka Obasanjo) returned home with a message from South Africa in connection with the church killings and consequent­ly invited himself as the PG then, his executive members, the traditional ruler of Ozubulu, Igwe Nnamdi Oruche and Obis of four Ozubulu quarters.

Chukwuka disclosed that Quintus mentioned the names of those who claimed respon­sibility for the shootings in the message.

According to him (Quintus), those who claimed responsi­bility said they have unfinished business with Chief Aloysius Ikegwuonu (aka Bishop) and that more heads will roll if the matter is not settled as soon as possible.

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The PW2, told the court in his evidence that one of the suspects who was declared wanted by the police had ap­proached him sometime in July, offering him the job of a hit man so that he could join other hit men to invade Ikegwuonu’s residence and deal with him for owing him a whooping one million South African Rand, adding that when he rejected the offer, he later heard of the killings in August.

When cross-examined by one of the defence counsel on why his evidence did not cor­respond with his statement to the police, the PW2 stated that the police recorded his state­ment up to three times, adding that he did not know whether it was the first, second or the third statement that they gave him to sign which he signed at a very late hour when both himself and the police officers were in a hurry to go.

After the cross-examinations of the two witnesses, coun­sel for the defendants, Festus Keyamo, tendered a written application for their bail, cit­ing health condition and mere suspicion as reason for the bail application.

Keyamo contended that the defendants are still presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, adding that it would be unfair and unjust for them to be languishing inside the prison custody while the trial lasted assuming they were innocent.

Praying the court to grant the application for their bail, Keya­mo stated that as breadwin­ners of their respective fami­lies, it would not augur well for them to remain in prison custo­dy suffering, while their family members are starving and pos­sibly drop out of schools

However, the prosecution counsel opposed the motion on the ground that the defendants could jump bail while the pro­ceedings lasted, stressing that such a high-profile case should not be toyed with because what happened at Ozubulu on that day had never taken place since after the civil war.

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According to him, instead of granting them bail, the court could go for accelerated hear­ing for quicker dispensation of justice in the matter, pointing out that the prosecution was contemplating involving IN­TERPOL in the matter for fur­ther investigations and grant­ing them bail could jeopardize INTERPOL investigations.

At this stage, Justice Aniuk­wu deferred ruling on the bail application and continuation of hearing to February 23 and March 2 this year.

Reacting to the arraignment of the accused, the state Chair­man of the Civil Liberties Or­ganisation (CLO), Comrade Vincent Ezekwueme, urged the judiciary to ensure justice is done to the case considering the magnitude of the offence committed. He described the massacre as an abomination, adding that it is all about hu­man life.

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