By Evelyn Usman
As she walked into the conference room in Ikeja, where a meeting was scheduled with her, it was obvious that all was not well with Miss Stella Anickukweugbo, as she was later identified. She looked bereft, forsaken and forlorn of hope.
Seated next to her was a Catholic Priest, Rev. Father Hyacinth Ibeh , who tried not to betray his emotion.
Their gloomy expressions were caused by the the demise of 33-year-old Chukwuemeka Anichukwuegbo, whom the Priest adopted alongside his two siblings including Stella.
His death left unsettled dust for his two sisters and the Priest, as they claimed he was killed under a yet-to-be ascertained circumstance in Ijebu –Ode, Ogun State.
The Imo State-born deceased was posted to the Ogun state branch of Diversey West Africa Limited, in November 2019. While expecting a call from him announcing his successful one year stay in Ogun State, a call from his landlord to Stella, informed that he was missing on November 28, 2020.
Death too many
According to information at Crime Guard’s disposal, Emeka, as he was fondly called, lost his father in 1996, a tragedy that saddled his mother with an added responsibility, of taking care of him and his two older sisters.
At a point, his older sisters had to forgo their opportunities of furthering their University education, for him, being the only son, owing to their struggling mother’s inability to cater for his education alone, talk more of his siblings. Unfortunately, death came calling again, in 2006.
This time around, it stung their struggling mother, thereby throwing the children in the cold.
While contemplating on the next move in life, destiny caused the paths of the orphans and Rev Ibeh to cross, who adopted them and sponsored Emeka’s university education.
He graduated from the Department of Industrial Physics at the Ebonyi State University and thereafter, was employed by the company he worked for until his demise.
He was said to have catered for the university education of his older siblings. Unfortunately, only Stella had concluded her study, with the other sister still in school, when the unexpected occurred!
Narrating how news of Emeka’s death reached them, Rev. Father Ibeh said in an emotion-laden tone: “His sister, Stella (pointing at her ) called me to inform that Emeka’s landlord called her on Sunday, November 28, 2020, to inform that Emeka had not been seen since the previous day.
She rushed down to Ijebu-Ode, where she saw that Emeka’s door was locked and the key was left on the window, which naturally he would not do. If he was going out, he would lock the door and put the key in his pocket. One of the screws on the door handle looked like it was tampered with.
They inspected the house and found his wallet in the bedroom, indicating that he didn’t prepare to go out, otherwise he would have gone with his wallet.
“When they checked his wallet, it had his ATM cards and the money inside was intact. They observed that he cooked rice and stew and had just finished eating because the plate which he used to eat was still on the table where he sat and ate while the pot of rice was still on the stove.
“It looked like he was in the house when he was called outside, or someone took him away at gun point and I imagined it could have been a familiar person for him to have rushed out.
Emeka was not one who socialized, he wasn’t the drinking type and didn’t keep many friends. He only went to work, came back and went to church on Sundays.
His neighbours attested to this. They said he would always announce that he was going out and did the same announcement when he returned. They said he was a gentle fellow”.
At this point, the Priest paused, looking befuddled. A drop of pin on the floor could be heard in the silence that followed. After a while, he brazed up and continued, “We were so worried that the Police could not come to the place where he lived to ask questions from the neighbours. From what we heard, whatever happened must have taken place between 8pm and 9pm on Saturday”.
While the search for missing Emeka was ongoing, Stella received a call from a man who later identified himself as a policeman, asking her if she could recognize his brother if she saw him.
Thereafter, she was invited to a private morgue around Lagos garage area of the state where her worst fear was confirmed! Lying still was her brother’s corpse.
Killed by cultists?
On enquiry, Stella said the morgue attendant told her that her brother was shot during a shoot-out between rival cultists.
According to her: “They told me that they were invited by the Police to pick two corpses that were hit by bullets during the cult clash.
“We were surprised the Police called to pick the corpse to a private morgue without sending it to government hospital’s mortuary”.
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The priest took over at this point. He said, “We saw a stitch on the left side of his chest and when we asked if he was taken to the hospital, they said they stitched him themselves.
“We wondered what they were stitching. They showed us his clothings. But none of them was his size, there was no bloodstain on them as expected from someone who was shot.
“Again, if somebody was shot at a close range, the bullet is expected to pierce out from the back. But there was nothing like that to confirm such a claim. There were bruises on his body like someone who was dragged on the floor”.
While the Catholic Priest and siblings of the deceased were miffed at the tragic incident which they said was shrouded in untold truth,
Policemen at Igbeba division, Ijebu-Ode, where the matter was reported as gathered, made some findings that led to some arrests.
First, the deceased’s phone was traced to a middle-aged man with an undisclosed identity, who was subsequently arrested.
Before the suspect was arrested, the phone as gathered was being used by another person, who responded to a call to the phone by policemen but discarded the SIM card when he sensed trouble.
Further investigation led to the arrest of a lady last weekend, who was discovered to have been the last person the deceased spoke with before he went missing.
The lady with an undisclosed identity was said to have confessed during interrogation that she was with the deceased that night.
She said she was escorting him home, around Lagos garage area, when some persons on a motorbike approached and shot Emeka.
But the family wondered why she abandoned him on the spot, without reporting to the Police but went away as if nothing happened until she was traced through her conversation with the deceased.
While late Emeka’s surviving family members were still smarting from the rude shock of his demise, his landlord, according to Stella, called her to come and pack her brother’s property from the two-bedroom flat he occupied at Golden estate, off Ibadan road, Ijebu-Ode, that his rent had expired.
Fish out his killers
A broken-hearted Priest Ibeh who wondered why the landlord could make such call while investigation into his late adopted son was still ongoing, said, all he needed was for the perpetrators of the dastardly act to be brought to book.
He said: “I am pained. They took him away when I was just heaving a sigh of relief that he could at least foot his sisters’ university education.
“All I demand is justice for my late adopted son. I know this would not bring him back. But at least it will help forestall further killings because we heard those who killed him were hired killers who are roaming the street freely. What could he have done to warrant such cruel treatment? “
When contacted, spokesman for the Ogun State Police Command, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said 11 persons had been arrested in respect of the killing.
He stated that: “He was shot by cultists. There was a cult clash that night, around the hotel where he was with a friend. Investigation is still ongoing.
“The 11 persons arrested in connection with the killing were paraded alongside other suspects on Monday. We are still looking for others.
“No stone will be left unturned. Already, we have instructed that the corpse be moved from the private morgue where it was deposited to a government morgue”, Oyeyemi said.