Posted by Ifeoma Okafor, Awka | 10 February 2018 | 2,396 times
The four suspects arrested over the August 6, 2017 massacre at St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Anambra State which left 13 people dead during a 6’Oclock mass were on Friday arraigned at the Nnewi High Court 3.
Narrating the story of how one of the suspects invited him to participate in the attack against Chief Ikegwuonu a.k.a Bishop, over alleged unpaid debt, a star witness, Mr. Chukwujekwu Eze, said he turned down the offer.
Eze, an indigene of Ugbawka, Enugu State, who was the second witness, told the court that he lived in South Africa for 11 years before he was deported, adding that he had remained unemployed since his deportation.
Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Mr. Jay Jay Ezeuko, SAN, Eze said: “There is a boy named Okpanda, who told me that they were going to the Bishop’s place at Ozubulu to execute a job. I asked him the nature of the job and he told me that they were going because Bishop was owing some people some money in South Africa. He said they wanted to go and destroy everything in Bishop’s house and shoot at every living thing.
“I asked him who was sponsoring the job and he told me it was Obrocho. Okpanda, said he would assist me if I would agree to follow in the hit job at Bishop’s place. I told him I would not get involved because I won’t want to shed any blood.
“Okpanda invited me so he could explain the whole thing to me and when I went the following day, he told me it was only if I took part in the job that he would help me to go back to South Africa. It was in Okpanda’s place that I met Dobby (Onyemaechi Mbanefo), the 4th accused, and two of them tried to convince me to join in the job but I refused to join.
“After the shooting in the church, I saw Okpanda again and he told me that they had done the job and when I asked if he could help me since they had made the money, he told me he couldn’t help me since I refused to join in the job.
“I then told him I was going to approach Bishop since I didn’t have any other person to help me. He told me not to go to Bishop because the Bishop would arrest me.
“I later decided to approach Bishop because of the level of massacre in the church in which the Bishop’s father was among those killed.”
Cross examining the witness, counsel to the first accused person, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN put it to him that it was his yearning to return to South Africa that made him to approach Bishop after the shooting, adding that Bishop may have already concluded arrangement for him to travel to South Africa.
Eze, however, denied that Bishop had made arrangement for him to travel to South Africa, saying: “I don’t even have an international passport.”
Other suspects — Great Chinedu Akpunonu, 44; Vincent Ike, 57; Chukwudi Ugwu, 30, and Onyebuchi Mbanefo, 46 — were arraigned on a 24-count charge in Suit No: HN/36C/2017 bordering on conspiracy and murder. Others allegedly involved in the shooting are said to still be at large.
The sitting drew an unprecedented crowd that filled the court premises to capacity.
The near-commotion following security efforts to prevent people from taking pictures of the suspects after the court session as well as the tension in court apparently made the presiding judge, Justice F.I. Aniukwu, to order that nobody be allowed to stand in and outside the court from the next adjourned date.
He also ordered that nobody should be allowed to enter the court with a handset on the next court sitting.
Hearing on the matter will continue on March 3, 2018 while the judge will on February 23, 2018, rule on the application for bail for the accused persons.
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