Two years after, victim’s corpse still missing
From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
Right now in his community, some of his friends and age mates are still walking about the streets, tending their farms and enjoying their old age, but his fate was different. His life was cut short two years ago when he was murdered by angry villagers who accused him of being a wizard.
Pa Simon Okoro Njoku, a 75-year-old herbalist and petty trader at Amaeze, Ishiagu, in Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, had set out from his home on his normal daily business in April 2014 without any premonition of the disaster ahead. He did not know that the day was going to be his last.
Two years after he was murdered, his family members are worried that his corpse has remained missing.
On April 30, 2014, Njoku, along with one Mrs. Grace Chukwu and some other members of the community, were accused of witchcraft and bringing misfortune to the community. Their accusers said the septuagenarian and his co-accused had, through their witchcraft, brought untold hardship, death and other evils to the community.
The mob proceeded to torture and dehumanise the septuagenarian and other accused persons. They were bound by their writs and ankles as they were forced to own up to the sundry crimes they were charged with.
Others that were tortured along with Njoku survived the attack but he did not make it, apparently as a result of his old age and health challenges. He died later from injuries that he sustained while he was being clubbed by the mob and high blood pressure.
But that was not all. Daily Sun gathered that Njoku’s corpse was taken to an unknown mortuary by some persons who claimed that the deceased was their uncle. However, his son, Chibuike Okoro, said he was not aware of the whereabouts of his father’s remains.
Two years after, the son has again raised the alarm and called for justice over the gruesome murder of his father. His cries led to the arrest of one Uchenna Anyim, the village security head, who allegedly led the torture of the old man before his demise.
The Ebonyi State Police Command also arrested two others, Paulinus and Ndubuisi, who allegedly also participated in the torture of the old man.
The first son of the deceased, Chibuike Okoro, related how he watched helplessly as the mob clubbed his father to death while stripping others arrested alongside the deceased.
He said the group had stormed his father’s compound and ransacked the entire house, including his own room, but could not find any substantive evidence of witchcraft. He said the mob dragged his father to the village square where Mrs. Grace Chukwu, who was already stripped naked, John Ossi, Boniface Uka Ogboke and others accused of similar offences had been bound and were being subjected to torture and interrogation.
Chubuike disclosed that all his pleas that they should free his father, who he said was innocent of all the allegations, fell on deaf ears. He said the group took the old man to the village square where he was tortured until he passed out.
“When they could not find any incriminating evidence against my father, they dragged him to our playground and started beating him. They also beat up a woman, Grace Chukwu, whom they also accused of witchcraft. They stripped the woman naked even while she was telling them that she was innocent,” he said.
Chibuike had to escape to the Ivo Police Division for his dear life when the mob wanted to also seize him, noting that he reported the incident to the police. He said as a police detachment was about to move to the scene, Anyim and his group showed up at the station with some of the victims still bound with big ropes but his father was missing from the group.
“I told the police that my father was not among those tied and brought to the station and they asked the group the whereabouts of my father. At that point, Anyim ordered his group to go back and bring my father to the station. Within a short period, Ndubuisi and Kenneth brought my father to the station. Kenneth was at the back, holding my father’s head, while his legs were hitting the ground as they rode to the station on their motorcycle. When they brought him, he had already given up the ghost.
“The police then asked Anyim the offence my father and others they brought to the station committed and he replied that they were evildoers in our community and agents of witchcraft. The policemen told him that he had severely tortured the suspects and that he should immediately take them to the hospital. He took them to the hospital, but the doctor was not around. He then abandoned the injured suspects and took my father’s corpse out of that hospital to an unknown hospital. He did not tell me where he took my father’s corpse.”
Chubuike said he waited almost two years, thinking that the police was handling the matter. He later discovered that the police could not handle the matter properly because of the influence that the major suspects had in the community. He told this reporter that, subsequently, through his lawyer, Emeka Uwakwe, he petitioned the Ebonyi State Commissioner of Police, who ordered the arrest of Anyim. The suspect was released two days after.
Seeking justice for his father, Chibuike later sent another petition to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 6, Calabar, but, again, the matter was also treated with kid gloves by the zonal command. Going through the motions, the suspects were arrested again but were released immediately.
Okoro maintained that he has refused to give up in his quest for justice for his murdered father. The entire family decided to report the matter to the Inspector-General of Police. The police boss, he said, ordered the arrest of Anyim and, for the third time, he was released after interrogation.
He later found out that Anyim had dumped his father’s corpse at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital mortuary, Afikpo, claiming in the hospital documents that the deceased was his uncle. Anyim was re-arrested when the police discovered that he had lied in his claims at the hospital mortuary.
Okoro said he was optimistic that he would soon get justice for his late father, noting that Anyim and two others were recently arraigned by the police before an Abakaliki Magistrate’s Court on the matter.
The reporter gathered that in charge number MAB/654C/2016, the suspects, Anyim, Paulinus and Ndubuisi, were arraigned for conspiracy and murder.
After the charges were read to their understanding, the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the offence. In her ruling, the trial magistrate, Stella Ogoke, ordered that they be remanded in prison custody.