By Vincent Ujumadu
AN Anambra State High Court handling the case of the killings at St Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu in August last year during early morning service was told yesterday that those behind the mayhem in which 13 people were gunned down, had issued death threats to some persons living in Brazil and South Africa.
A witness from Johannesburg, South Africa, Mr. Chukwuemeka Obi, who testified yesterday alleged that the suspected killers had threatened to kill his father in Ozubulu, attack four families in Ozubulu; kill his younger brother living in Brazil and himself living in South Africa.
Led in evidence by his lawyer, Mr. Jay Jay Ezeuko, SAN, Obi said: “They are demanding one million dollars from us or they will wipe out all of us. We have also been receiving strange phone calls from these people.
“They accused me of betrayal because on one occasion, I travelled with Bishop (Aloysius Ikegwuonu) from South Africa to Nigeria and rode in his (Bishop’s) car from Lagos to Ozubulu.”
He alleged that one of the suspects, Chinedu Akpunonu, standing trial in the case, was working with two persons he called Gozila and Afam, who are in jail in South African prison to terrorize the people of Ozubulu at home and abroad.
Another witness from South Africa, Mr. Emeka Nzelu told the court that another suspect standing trial in the case, Onyebuchi Mbanefo called him on phone and threatened to deal with “Bishop” for abandoning him at a point in need.
Nzelu said: “Mbanefo told me that he would now join forces with Akpunonu to deal with Bishop for failing to assist him to foot his bill for bullet wound surgery, despite the fact that it was because of Bishop that he sustained the wound. He refused to accept all appeals I made to him to forgive Bishop.”
Asked during cross examination by the defence counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, whether he reported such threat to the police in South Africa or Nigeria, Nzelu answered in the negative, saying that he rather reported the matter to the chairman of Ozubulu Development Union in South Africa. Meanwhile, the presiding judge, Justice F.I. Aniukwu had refused bail application for the four suspects standing trial in the August 6 killings.
The Judge in his ruling said the risk of releasing the suspects outweighed their freedom, adding that the suspects did not prove exceptional circumstance to warrant their bail. The suspects in their application for bail stated that they were innocent of what they were charged with, stressing that before the law they remained innocent and were entitled to bail.
They also stated that they had health conditions that the prison health facilities could not handle.
The judge who agreed that ill health was a ground to grant suspects bail in criminal matters, said in his thinking since the prosecution was handling the matter expeditiously, it was better to keep the suspects intact to face their trial than taking the risk of granting them bail where they might abandon the case or jump bail.
He said that besides, he was not persuaded by their applications that there were any exceptional circumstance about their ill health. The Judge, however, asked the prison authorities to ensure that the suspects were given proper medical treatment. The counsel to the applicants, Mr Festus Keyamo has said he would file an interlocutory appeal on the ruling. The matter was adjourned to May 16th and 25th; June 8th and 22nd; and July 6 for continuation of trial.