Law & Human Rights

April 21, 2018

Ozubulu Killing: Heightened tension forces court to relocate


St. Philip Catholic Church, Umuezekwe Ofufe, Amakwa Ozubulu, attacked by gunmen, yesterday. Right: Blood stains after the killings in the church.

as star witness narrates how his wife was murdered in South Africa

By Vincent Ujumadu
Awka – THE trial of suspected masterminds of the August 6, 2017 massacre at St Phillip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu in Anambra State has been shifted to Awka following what was regarded as the heightening tension during sittings at the Nnewi High Court and threats to the witnesses.

St Philip Catholic Church Ozubulu, where the lone wolf struck this morning.

Since the trial of the four suspects began at Court 3, Nnewi, it was a common feature for thousands of people from Ozubulu community to besiege the court premises where they argue loudly while the sitting was going on, with some of them threatening each other.

It was apparently to forestall breakdown of law and order that informed the decision to shift the sitting to Awka where movement of people into the High Court complex could easily be controlled.

At yesterday’s sitting, which was the first in the Anambra State capital, a star witness, Chief Nkwado Onyeka narrated how his wife was murdered few hours after dropping him at the South African airport for a flight to New York.

He told the court: “The former president of Anambra State Association in the United State of America, ASA –USA, Dr. Nwaxhukwu Anakwenze came to South Africa and had an accident and he was taken to the USA for treatment. He was the chairman during my inauguration as the President of Ozubulu Development Union in South Africa.

“As a result, I decided to travel to USA to see him. My wife and last son dropped me at the Tabo Mbeki Airport. It was a 17-hour journey and when we landed in New York and I switched on my telephone, the first message I received was that my wife, who dropped me few hours earlier, had been murdered. Rather than continuing the journey, I returned immediately to South Africa and it had been a terrible experience.

“Shortly after the murder of my wife, Nonso Ikedinobi and Izuamaka Dunu were also murdered in South Africa. In May 2016, Ozubulu lost six prominent people in South Africa and Gozila and Afam who are currently in prison claimed that they were responsible for the killings.

“Within a short time, one man Obinna Obijeme who gave witness against Akpunonu at Igwe’s palace in Ozubulu during a peace meeting, was shot dead in South Africa. When we heard this we called meeting and invited Chinedu Akpunonu, Aloysius Ikegwuonu (Bishop, who was the main target in the Ozubulu church attack) and 20 others.

“After the burial of my wife another Ozubulu prominent son, Nnoso Ikedinobi was murdered, another person Udoamaka was also murdered and by May 2016 Ozubulu people lost six persons in South Africa and Afam and Dozila claimed responsibility. All of them were respectively brought home and buried and funeral held for them but Chinedu Akpunonu did not attend any of the funerals though I saw him in Ozubulu in different functions.

“In the meeting, I pleaded with Chinedu Akpunonu to forget the past because his gang members in prison had claimed that they killed Obinna. We concluded that Chief Aloysius Ikegwuonu, Emeka Obi, Chinedu Akpunonu, Fidelis Nwanya and our patron will go to prison to see Afam and Dozila to know how to stop the killing.

“All Ozubulu people were calling me to sympathize with me over the death of my wife, but Chinedu Akpunonu did not. Our people were worried and were asking what to do next and I said they should go ahead with our earlier plan to visit Afam and Dozila in prison. I however said that I will not go with them. They went to the prison to see them and reported that Dozila and Afam swore that they would continue to kill Ozubulu people except they were given $1 million. That it was Ozubulu people that put them in prison.

He told the court that after the death of his wife, Akpunonu allegedly called one of the prominent people in South Africa, Chief Bontus Onyebinama and told him that he had dealt a big blow to him (Onyeka).

Led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Jay Jay Ezeuko, SAN, Onyeka told the court that the suspects, who were responsible for the killing of many Ozubulu indigenes in South Africa, demanded the sum of $1 million from Ozubulu people in South Africa for them to stop further killings.

According to him, the two persons, Gozila and Afam, currently serving prison terms in South Africa and who claimed responsibility for the Ozubulu church massacre, demanded the amount as part of their conditions to stop further killings of Ozubulu people..

During cross examination by defence counsel to Akpunonu, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, the witness said he was not aware if any court, both in Nigeria and South Africa, had convicted Akpunonu for murder, just as he said he had never written any petition to security agencies on the alleged murder cases he accused Akpunonu of.

After the cross examination by the defense counsel, the presiding Judge, Justice F.I. Aniukwu, adjourned the matter to May 4, 11 and 25 for continuation of hearing.