Storm in Akwa Ibom over murder of UNIUYO student by pastor

…Gabriel allegedly stabbed dead with knife stolen by pastor

…Intrigues as House of Assembly tasks CP on proper investigation, prosecution

By Chioma Onuegbu

The gruesome murder of 23-year-old Gabriel Edward Bassey, a final year student of Civil Engineering, University of Uyo,  Akwa Ibom State, by a supposed pastor of a Pentecostal Church has generated uproar in the state, especially with rumoured attempts at cover-up by some persons.

NDV gathered that the deceased, native of Akai Ubium village, Nsit Ubium LGA, Akwa Ibom State, was killed in cold blood, Monday, December 21, 2020, in his room at Ifa Ikot Uboh community, Uyo LGA.

Family sources revealed that police detectives arrested the pastor after evidence they found in the course of preliminary investigation pointed to the fact that he is the prime suspect in the murder.

How the deceased was killed — Emmanuel, younger brother

The deceased’s younger brother,  Emmanuel Edward Bassey, a storekeeper at a primary school in Uyo, who spoke to NDV last Thursday, narrated: “I was living with Gabriel, my elder brother in Ifa Ikot Uboh, Ifa Ikot Okpon, Etoi in Uyo before he died. We moved into the house in July 2020. It was built by my late mother. She was supposed to use the building to run a school before she died a year ago.

“Gabriel partitioned it and we rented out the hall to a church after the senior pastor agreed to pay N150, 000 a year for the hall. Then the church assigned a pastor to the place.

“On December 18, 2020, my brother and I left for work and that was the last day I saw him. He called me on phone when I returned from work that he will be sleeping in town to complete an urgent work. And the next day, Saturday, December 19, 2020, I travelled to spend Christmas with my mother’s sister.

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“But a week after the pastor started using the place, he approached my brother to allow him keep his chairs in our apartment because of security, that he does not want the chairs to be stolen. My brother agreed without suspecting anything. And whenever they have their Sunday service, my brother will have to come back from wherever he is to open our apartment for them to remove their chairs. Because of the inconveniences, he decided to give the pastor the spare key to our apartment.

When things started disappearing

“And from the time the pastor collected the spare key, things started missing in our house. First was my modem, then my late mother’s wrappers, plates, cutlery, even food items.

“Before he was given the spare key, nothing was stolen from the house. Initially, we did not suspect the pastor, but a week after he was given the spare key, he came to tell us that the key was missing. One day, we discovered that the remaining rice in a bag had disappeared.

“My brother became convinced the pastor was the one stealing from us because the rice disappeared a few days after he took the pastor into our kitchen to give him raw rice and groundnut oil. So one day, my brother asked him to stop keeping his chairs in our apartment. And when Gabriel changed the key to our apartment, things stopped missing.

Report to senior pastor

“Then one day, he said he went to the senior pastor to report about things missing from our apartment. On Monday, December 21, I tried to contact my brother from my aunt’s place, but his mobile phone was off. When I could not contact him till Wednesday, December 23, I became worried, I decided to contact some of our neighbours who told me they have not seen him around our house, and that our gate was locked. So I thought he may have travelled because he had told me that he will be travelling during that period,” he said.

Continuing, Emmanuel said he had wondered why his brother would travel without telling him and their dad who lives elsewhere, adding that when he contacted their father, he said Gabriel also told him he would be travelling to Ogoja, Cross River State, but the father advised him not to travel during the festive period.

Emmanuel said he and the father did not know Gabriel never travelled until that Saturday, December 26, when he decided to go to their house to check, due to his brother’s long days of silence and his own inability to contact him via his mobile phone, only to find that he had been murdered.

“That Saturday, after the Police removed the body from the room, they discovered the knife his killer used, and it was my late mother’s chopping knife which was among the household items that were missing. The killer cut him on his head, shoulder and stomach which means, he suffered a very painful death. And he was buried immediately because the body has started decomposing,” he noted.

Residents also relate experience

Some residents of the community who recounted they were jolted, Monday, December 21, 2020, when they heard very loud screaming of ‘Jesus, Jesus’ from the house, said they were terrified as they had never experienced such incident in the area before.

One of them who spoke on the ground of anonymity said: “When we confronted the pastor that day, he said that he was working on the ceiling of the church hall and that he fell down and sustained an injury, that was why he was shouting ‘Jesus, Jesus.’ But when he was asked to come out from the compound so that we can help him treat his wounds, he refused. We did not doubt what he told us because he is a pastor.”

Due to the unfolding intrigues, some members of UNIUYO alerted the state House of Assembly over alleged moves to compromise the investigation, which a human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, corroborated.

Effiong noted that police at “E” Division, Shelter Afrique, had arrested and released the prime suspect until the Commissioner of Police was petitioned and he was rearrested and detained at Command headquarters.

While describing the killing as horrific and very tragic, Effiong said: “Though I have not been very pleased the way the investigation has been carried out, especially when the case was at police “E’ Division, Shelter Afrique, they basically did not do anything. The evidence I have seen, the investigation I have carried out so far clearly showed that there is a reason why the pastor is seen as a prime suspect.

“I have been doing my best to assist the police in investigating the matter, but there are pressures on them because the mother of the prime suspect is a police inspector.

“She is also running helter-skelter to shield her son. All that we want is for the police to do proper investigation and prosecute the culprit. The deceased was someone I have known since 2016. He was disciplined, always married to his books and church activities,” he said.

House of Assembly wades in

Representative of Nsit Ubium constituency, Hon. Otobong Bob, had in a motion during last Tuesday plenary, noted with serious concern that there were attempts to compromise ongoing investigations and circumvent justice for his constituent and the family, and the House accordingly, passed a resolution, directing the Commissioner of Police and State Attorney-General to ensure a thorough and swift investigation into the matter and ensure the culprit was diligently prosecuted.

Police Public Relations Officer, Akwa Ibom Police Command, Mr. Odiko MacDon, did not respond to calls and text messages sent to his phone at press time.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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