• As court relocates sitting to Awka
Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka; Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
A star witness in the Ozubulu church massacre trial, Nkwado Onyeka, yesterday told Nnewi High Court 3 that the suspected perpetrators of the heinous crime demanded the sum of $1 million from Ozubulu people in South Africa to forestall killings in the community before the attack at St Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu.
Onyeka, who was the President of Ozubulu Development Union (ODU), South Africa branch, revealed to the court, now sitting in Awka, due to complaints of threat witnesses made by the prosecuting counsel, Jay Jay Ezeuko (SAN), that two persons, Gozila and Afam, serving prison terms in South Africa and who claimed responsibility for the church massacre had demanded the aforementioned sum as part of their conditions to stop further killings in the town.
The witness, who also claimed that the same gang, he alleged to be under the control of one of the suspects, Chinedu Akpunonu, killed his wife, Mrs. Onyeka, as well as, other six prominent people from Ozubulu in South Africa, said the gang alleged that they would continue the killing until the Ozubulu people whom they claimed were responsible for their imprisonment release them. Led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Ezeuko (SAN), Onyeka said among other things, “within a short time, one man Obinna Obijeme, who gave witness against Akpunonu at Igwe’s palace was shot dead in South Africa. When we heard this, we called meeting and invited Chinedu Akpunonu, Aloysius Ikegwuonu and 20 others.
“In the meeting, I was pleading with Chinedu Akpunonu because his gang members in prison, Dozila and Afam have claimed that they killed Obinna. We concluded that Chief Aloysius Ikegwuonu, Emeka Obi, Chinedu Akpunonu, Fidelis Nwanya and our patron would go to prison to see Afam and Dozila to know how to stop the killing. The next day, Fidelis Nwanya called me and said that Afam and Dozila said they do not want to see Chinedu Akpunonu and Aloysius Ikegwuonu, that it was only Fidelis Nwanya and I that they would want to see.
“Fidelis Nwanya made me to understand that Afam and Dozila said they would not be visiting in November, but only in December and already I had booked to travel to America to see our president, who was present at my inauguration and later had an accident on December 1, 2015. So in December I travelled to New York, my wife and son dropped me at the airport. On landing at the airport in America, I switched on my phone and the first call I got was that my wife had been shot dead in our office, which I shared with her. I joined the same flight back to South Africa.
“All Ozubulu people were calling me to sympathize with me, but Chinedu Akpunonu did not. Our people were worried and were asking what to do next and I said they should go ahead with our earlier plan to visit Afam and Dozila in prison, but that I will not go with them. They went to the prison to see them and reported that Dozila and Afam swore that they would continue to kill Ozubulu people, except they were given $1 million. That it was Ozubulu people that put them in prison.
“After the burial of my wife another Ozubulu prominent son, Nnoso Ikedinobi was murdered, another person Udoamaka was murdered and by May 2016, Ozubulu people lost six persons in South Africa and Afam and Dozila claimed responsibility. All of them were respectively brought home and buried and funeral held for them but Chinedu Akpunonu did not attend any of the funerals though I saw him in Ozubulu in different functions.
After the cross examination by the defense counsel, the presiding judge, Justice F.I. Aniukwu, adjourned the matter to May 4, 11 and 25 for continuation of hearing.