It began much earlier, precisely in August, when the trio was accused of witchcraft and of a sinister plot to kill their father.
Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
His voice was faint as he struggled to answer questions from journalists that had swooped on Hillem Medical Centre, Igbogene, a suburb of Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State, to hear his story.
“My father and his brother took us to the forest. He brought a bottle from his pocket and gave it to Levi, and after he tied us, gave us the Sniper. I crawled to the road where I was brought to the hospital,” the victim recounted in a weak voice.
That was the grim story that came from 14-year-old Success Otazi, a spine-chilling story of how his father, Samuel Sunday Otazi and his uncle, Levi Ayah, allegedly led the boy and his two siblings into a bush along Gloryland drive road, Igbogene, where they were tied to a tree and forced to swallow insecticide in an apparent effort to kill them.
For Success and his two siblings, Miracle, 12, and Godstime, 10, (both now deceased), the fatal journey into the bush in Igbogene did not begin on the morning of December 29, 2018. It began much earlier, precisely in August, when the trio was accused of witchcraft and of a sinister plot to kill their father. This allegation turned the people of Agbobiri community, including family members, against them.
According to a relative, Preye Ayah, who led the police team to arrest Otazi in his house at Okarki, the tragedy started with Otazi’s new wife’s arrival in the village with the news of her husband’s illness and the allegation that his three children from his ex-wife were responsible for his predicament. The children, he alleged, admitted to being wizards after youths and family members beat them.
Ayah recounted: “Sometime in September 2018, the wife of my brother came to the village and told us he was seriously ill and that they had been told his three children were responsible for the sickness.
The youths of the community, after hearing the story, had brought the children out to flog them. By the time I got to the scene, I was told the children had confessed that they were wizards. I met a crowd in the house and I appealed to them to stop beating the children. I asked the children what we could do to restore their father’s health, and they requested to be locked inside a room for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, they came out and said their father would be well since they had not shared his liver yet.”
Thus began the terrible routine of the Otazi children being beaten by the youths of the community.
“The beating became a daily occurrence. Sometimes, people would go there to break the door just to gain access and beat the children. Because of this frequent beating, I advised Sunday (their father) to report at the Police station before they lose their lives, and he promised to do something about it,” Ayah said.
“On New Year day, I called my younger brother, Levi, to brief him about a problem our mum was having with my wife. He came back later to inform me that Sunday (Otazi) has killed his three children and had begged him not to tell anybody. I told my wife what Levi had just told me and vowed that if it were true, I would personally arrest Sunday and hand him over to the Police, but my wife said I should dismiss the story. I went to one of the elders in the family. I told him I had a bad dream in which I saw Sunday’s three children dead. I wanted them to direct Sunday to bring the three children he took away on December 29. We were still on that when on January 1 policemen came to my house, arrested and ordered me to take them to Sunday’s house.”
The act of murder
Findings from Saturday Sun investigation indicated that on December 29, Otazi had gone to Agbobiri and told family members, including his mother, Madam Otazi, who was the guardian of the three children, that he was taking them to a minister of God, Pastor George Odoko of Power Outreach Ministries, for deliverance. He asked Levi to accompany him to Yenagoa with the children.
On the way to Yenagoa, Otazi and Levi diverted the children into the bush and had perpetrated an act of filicide––a deliberate act of a father killing his own children. Thereafter, Otazi and Levi left the crime scene and went their separate ways.
One of the victims, miraculously, survived. “He, being the oldest of the children survived and managed to get to the roadside where he was rescued and brought to the Igbogene Police station and then taken to the hospital. When he has recovered a little, he told us that his siblings were still in the bush. By the time we got there, unfortunately, those two had already given up the ghost,” narrated Police Commissioner Mr Aminu Pai Saleh,
Dr Ugwu Moses Emeka, Medical Director, Hillem Medical Centre, told Saturday Sun it was possible Success did not ingest the insecticide like his siblings.
Dr Emeka said: “On December 31, at about 11 am, a group of men including an officer of the NDLEA came in with the boy. They said they found him by the roadside and went to inform the Police at the checkpoint. He was unconscious, naked and had wounds all over his body. His hands were swollen, indicating that he had been tied for a while.
We began to treat him and quickly ran some tests. In the evening, he regained consciousness briefly and mentioned the name of his village. When he regained full consciousness on January 1, 2019, he narrated to us what happened. He told us their father took them from the village, saying they were going to the church, but stopped the bus along the way and took them into a forest where he tied them to a tree and gave them Sniper to drink.”
‘I did not kill my children’
At the Igbogene Police Station, and later at the hospital, Otazi denied giving his children poison to drink. Even when Success pointed to him as his father and the person who gave him and his siblings the poison, Otazi vehemently denied. Instead, he shifted the blame to Levi.
He said: “Police came to my house with my brother (Preye Eyah) on January 2 morning to arrest me. What happened was that on Saturday 29, I went home to pick my three children living with my mother. I took them from the village to come for deliverance service at George Odoko Power Outreach Ministries where I worship. I was told at the church on Saturday that I should come back on Wednesday, Jan 2, which is the deliverance day. My younger brother, Levi came with me from the village. Since I was told to come back to the church, I instructed him to take the children back to the village and I gave him N1000, so I left for my home until this morning when I was told about what happened.”
In an interview with Saturday Sun, Otazi lamented that branding his children wizards has brought so much shame to him and he had severally called the Community Development Committee (CDC) and youth president to complain about the harassment his children were being subjected to daily. He accused his relatives, including Preye Ayah, of masterminding the suffering his children passed through in the village.
He claimed to have reported the incident at the Biseni Police station. Otazi swore he could not have planned the murder of his two children.
He confirmed that he was sick in August 2018. According to him: “During my sickness one of my brother, Charles introduced me to George Odoko Ministry because that it is the only place I can receive healing. God used George Odoko to heal me. During the process of my healing, the Pastor said I have three children with my former wife and that my ex-wife has bewitched the children to destroy their lives and my family”.
However, fact checks on his claims showed that he was being economical with the truth. When asked why he did not bring the children for the said deliverance service earlier, since August 2018 when he claimed he received healing, he claimed he had been very busy with his bunkering job and did not have time to take them to the church.
For someone that claimed he attends the church and has met with the presiding pastor, his claim that he was bringing the children for deliverance service on the last Saturday of the month was cockeyed, because it was boldly displayed on the church signpost that deliverance and healing service takes place every first Saturday of the month.
The church, located at Yenegwe Road, carries the bold inscription: ‘Witches Keep Off. This is a Lion’s Zone.”
The day Saturday Sun visited was counselling day. The church was supposed to be full of people that want to have a one-on-one with the presiding pastor. A lady who claimed to be the secretary (she refused to disclose her name) said the counselling session could not hold because the pastor travelled out of town.
She admitted that the church handles cases of witchcraft, she, however, could not recollect any case of Otazi and his children.
Subsequently, Apostle Odoko in a press statement he personally signed and made available to Saturday Sun, had distanced himself and his church from the “crime and calamities” of Otazi. The clergy described attempts to link him with the alleged acts of Otazi as “mischievous and devilish.”
Odoko who commiserated with the family over the death of the two children insisted that he did not reveal any prophecy to Otazi concerning his children.
“There was never a time I met with the said person and gave the prophecy in question. It is nothing but deliberate mischief to rubbish my person and ministry. God’s mission and mandate have no falsehood and I have no hand in the prophecy and I am condemning the dastardly act and heinous crime in a strong term as reported in some section of the media,” he said.
As it stands now, Levi, who is now at large, is the key suspect that can unravel what happened on that fateful day of December 29, 2018.