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Court discharges Ozubulu church massacre suspects

By Vincent Ujumadu

Awka—AN Anambra High Court sitting in Awka has discharged and acquitted the two remaining suspects standing trial for the attack on worshipers at St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State in which 13 people lost their lives.

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

Recall that unknown gunmen had on August 6, 2017, invaded the church in a commando style and shot sporadically, killing many worshippers and wounding others in the process.

Four persons were later arraigned in court after the massacre and two had earlier been discharged.

The four suspects- Great Chinedu Akpunonu, 44; Vincent Ike, 57; Chukwudi Ugwu, 30 and Onyebuchi Mbanefo, 46, were arraigned on a 24-count charge in Suit No: HN/36C/2017 bordering on conspiracy and murder, while others allegedly involved in the attack were at large and could not appear in court.

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Most of the people involved in the case were indigenes of Ozubulu residing in South Africa, who carried their battle for supremacy in that country to their home town, Ozubulu. Among the victims of the Ozubulu massacre were the parents of Chief Aloysius Ikgwuonu, a prominent indigene of Ozubulu living in South Africa, who was allegedly the target of the attack.

In a judgment that lasted about three hours, the presiding judge, Justice Fidelis Aniukwu ruled that the prosecution counsel was unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt, the allegations leveled against the two defendants, Chinedu Akpunonu and Onyebuchi Mbanefo.

The Judge had in December 2018, also discharged two of the four persons charged with attack one year after the commencement of the trial, for lack of proper evidence.

According to Justice Aniukwu, the prosecution witnesses could not provide convincing evidence linking the defendants with the murder as alleged and discharged them accordingly.

Vanguard also recalled that although the high profile trial began at Nnewi High Court, the Judge decided to relocate to Awka due to the tension at the court premises whenever the case came up.

The court premises was usually filled to capacity while the trial lasted and it was discovered that most of the people who came to witness the court proceedings were Ozubulu indigenes based in South Africa.

Speaking after the ruling, one of the defendants, Mr. Chinedu Akpunonu said God had vindicated him from an attempt by some persons to smear his reputation.

He, however, said he had forgiven his accusers and appealed to them to join hands to ensure that peace reigns in Ozubulu community.

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