IT was a classic case of a love affair gone awry. But after it was all over, two badly burnt bodies laid stone dead in hospital mortuary. On the surface, it sounds like moonlight tale. But it is as real as reality can be. It is the story of how a 35-years-old Balyesan truck driver, and an angry lover, incinerated a pastor and one of his female members in his attempt to kill his girlfriend who he suspected of cheating on him by sleeping with the man of God.
Etifa Ibukilebu, the young man at the centre of the drama, was alleged to have suspected Innocent God-Gift, 23, said to be his girlfriend, although a blood relative, of dating Pastor Henry Afor, 40. But it is a charge which God-Gift vehemently denies. But the smoke of suspicion, jealousy and vengeance generated by the love tango did not clear until aggrieved Etifa had succeeded in burning to death with petrol fire, Pastor Afor and one of his female church members called Elvina Japheth, 25. God-Gift narrowly escaped death with minor injuries.
Police report on the tragedy
The young man now in police custody readily admits to have poured fuel on them and set them ablaze while they were deep asleep after a two-hour long church vigil. But he sounds anything but remorseful about what he did. Elvina who also slept in the Pastor’s room at the time of the incident was also burnt to death. Etifa was said to have escaped and gone into hiding thereafter. Giving an update on the matter, the Bayelsa State Commissioner of Po- lice, Mr. Mike Okoli, told Saturday Sun that it happened on October 30, 2020. He also confirmed that it was only God-Gift that escaped the raging fire to report the incident at police station.
He said: “God-Gift sustained minor injuries and quickly ran and reported the tragedy at Igbogene Police Station. Pastor Henry Afor was rushed first to Christ Clinic Igbogene, and later transferred to University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital. Rivers State. But he died on November 8, 2020. The other victim, Elvina Japheth, was also rushed to Christ Clinic, Igbogene, where the doctor confirmed her dead on November 3, 2020 owing to serious burn injuries.”
He explained that the suspect, Etifa, initially escaped to Sagbama. But he later came to Igbogene Police Station on November 5, 2020 to report and to turn himself in. The case was thereafter transferred to the homicide section of the State Criminal Investigation, Yenagoa for proper investiga-tion. Right now, he said, the suspect is in police’s custody.
Murder suspect states his case
Speaking with Saturday Sun, Etifa admitted committing the crime. “I at- tended Community Primary School, and Community Secondary School District, Igbogene all in Yenagoa Local Government Area, Bayelsa State,” he said. “I am a truck driver. I was the one who around 3 am on Oc- tober 30, 2020, took petrol in a jerry can and matches to Pastor Afor’s house. I climbed a small chair and through the window, poured fuel into the room and set the place ablaze and ran away. Before I did so, I saw Pastor Afor and my girlfriend, God-Gift, lying on the bed inside his room and decided to end their lives.
“The Pastor has been having sex with my girlfriend. I warned her to stop going to his house but she refused. I decided that the only way to end their relationship is to kill both of them so that they can go to heaven to continue their relationship there. I ran to Sagbama after carrying out the act because that’s where I work. But later I went to Igbogene Police Station to report myself.”
Etifa who hails from Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State explained further that he has been dating God-Gift since 2017 until 2020, when he started suspecting Pastor Afor of dating and sleeping with her. He explained how he knew: “Whenever it is between 9 and 10 pm, he would start chatting with her on Facebook. It has been a regular thing for both of them. I knew Pastor Afor when he used to be a member of Baptist Church, Igbogene. I am also a member. At a point, he had problem with the Bayelsa Baptist Conference and was driven away from the church. Thereafter he started his own church in his two-room apartment. He used one room for his church activities while he used the other as his bedroom. It was in September, 2020, that I started warning my girlfriend to stop going to his house. Anytime Pastor Afor started chatting with her I would not be comfortable. If I wanted to collect the phone from her she would refuse. I became suspicious.
“At a point, I started sending her younger sister, Boloere, to monitor her. That was before I went back to Sagbama. But I always come home on weekends. Whenever I came back and called my girlfriend I would al- ways find her in Pastor Afor’s house. I used to go there in the evenings and through the window I would see her lying beside him and I would leave in annoyance. I had warned her several times but she wouldn’t change. That’s why I decided to carry out the evil act. But I didn’t know that there was another lady lying down on the Pastor’s bed. Moreover, I was shocked that my girlfriend didn’t die but only Pastor Afor and the lady did.”
His girlfriend’s chilling narrative
His alleged girlfriend, God-Gift, also spoke to Saturday Sun during which time she gave a comprehensive detail of what happened. “I at- tended Community Primary School
and Community Secondary School, Igbogene,” she said. “I finished in 2015. I worked as a teacher at Batist Model School, Igbogene. I was 18-year-old when my boyfriend, Etifa, started dating me. I was staying in Port-Harcourt then. That was before I returned to Igbogene, our village during the coronavirus pandemic. I was staying with my mother and I always go to his house. It was in August 2020 that my grandmother and mother told us that we are relatives of the same family and that we should stop the relationship. They told us we cannot marry each other. My uncle also confirmed that and told my former boyfriend that we are relatives and family. He said we should stop dating each other. Whenever I was chatting with my friends on Facebook, he would beieve that I was dating them.
“Pastor Afor used to be a member of Baptist Church, Igbogene. I was also a member. But at a point he left and started his own church called Paraclete International Church. Somebody gave him two rooms. He used the parlour as the church auditorium while he used the other room as his bedroom. We were three members that started the church: myself, my late friend, Elvina and Pastor Afor. My boyfriend accused me of dating and sleeping with the Pastor. Although I am very close to him and do assist him in financial aspect and cook for him, I have never had an affair with him.
“My boyfriend had been begging me and, at a point, even knelt down to ask that I marry him. He said I should not leave him. We both agreed to have sex once so that he could leave me alone. But after that he still re-surfaced to threaten me.
He said I should leave Pastor Afor. Three weeks before the ugly incident in October, 2020, he came to his house to warn me that if I don’t leave him, he was going to deal with both of us. The reason I agreed to have sex with him once is so that he can leave me alone. Yet he keeps coming to disturb me.”
The lady who hails from Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State explained further that at a point Etifa came to her mother’s house to fight and beat her up. “I told my mother what happened. Immediately I placed a call to my Daddy over the issue. My father and my mother do not live together. He asked me to send his phone number to him. I did. Ac- cording to my daddy, he called him and warned him to leave me alone. Thereafter, I blocked his phone number. He called my younger sister and told her to monitor me and Pastor Afor. Later, I didn’t see him again. I felt he has accepted his fate and stopped coming to our house.
“On October 30, 2020, we were preparing for a vigil: my late friend, Elvina and Pastor Afor. We were sit- ting together in the room when the Pastor and Elvina saw my boyfriend peeping through the window. But when we came out, we couldn’t see him; we saw only his footprints. The landlord and landlady also came out to look for him. They couldn’t see him. It was around 12 midnight that we started our vigil and rounded it off around 2 am. Thereafter, my friend and I slept on one side of the bed while Pastor Afor slept on the other side. I fell deeply asleep. Suddenly, I heard people screaming and shouting fire. I immediately woke up. This was around 3 am. I tried to put off the fire on the bodies of Pastor Afor and my friend. They were badly burnt with injuries. We quickly rushed them to the hospital where they received treatment.
“The following morning, I went to Igbogene Police Station to report the ugly incident. I had only a small injury. I took policemen to my boyfriend’s house. He ran away but we met his younger brother at home. It was on November 8, 2020 that he came to surrender himself to the police. He was shocked to find me alive at the police station. He thought I was dead but true to my name, Innocent God-Gift, God has proved to him that I am innocent in this case and that I am a God-gift child.
“My cry and agony is that Pastor Afor was burnt beyond recognition while my only friend was burnt with high degrees of injuries. Both later died. I want to thank the NGO’s “DO Foundation” in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State and the Bayelsa State Commis- sioner of Police, Mr. Mike Okoli for arresting my boyfriend. But I want justice to be done in this case/”
The NGO intervention
The president “DO Foundation” Yenagoa, Barrister Disa Shella Ogbise added that they got to know about the case when God-Gift’s father came to the Foundation to seek their help after his daughter was detained. “We intervened and she was released. “DO Foundation” is an NGO with focus on justice, security and development in the society.” CP Okoli said that the suspect has confessed to the crime. He assured that after police investigation, he will be charged to court to face the wrath of the law.