A witness in the ongoing court case over the killing of worshippers in a church in Ozubulu, Ekwusigo local government of Anambra State, Mr Nkwado Onyeka has said that the perpetrators of the killing were demanding $1m to stop further attack on the community.
Onyeka yesterday told an Nnewi High Court that two suspects, Gozila and Afam who had owned up to the crime and were still being held in South African prison had demanded the sum as part of their conditions to stop further killings in the town.
The witness, Onyeka who was the former President of Ozubulu Development Union (ODU), South Africa branch revealed to the court that the gang was being led by one Chinedu Akpunonu, and was responsible for the killing of his wife, Mrs. Onyeka, as well as six prominent people from Ozubulu in South Africa.
The Ozubulu church massacre which happened in 2017 had being said to have emanated from a drug war between indigenes of Ozubulu, who reside in South Africa.
During yesterday’s sitting, Onyeka told the court that the gang had threatened that they would continue the killing until the Ozubulu people whom they claimed were responsible for their imprisonment effected their release.
While being led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Ezeuko (SAN), Onyeka said, “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 will 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 be visiting in November, and already I had booked December to travel to America. So in December I travelled to New York, my wife and son dropped me at the airport. On landing at America, at the airport I switched on my phone and the first call that I got was that my wife has been short dead in our office which I share 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.”
Onyeka said the reason they were saying that Ozubulu people imprisoned them was because the then leader of Ozubulu, Oruche called Chinedu Akpunonu and asked him to stop using the killer gang.
“Secondly, they said Ozubulu people should come and get them released from the prison and thirdly, that Ozubulu people should kill the head of killer gang, Chinedu Akpunonu uses, who is named Tijani Usman.
“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 he killed my wife he called two persons, Onyedinanma and Emeka Obi and told them that he had dealt with me.”
Furthermore in his testimony, the witness said, “On 6th August, 2017, I received a telephone call from Aloysius Ikegwuonu that gunmen went to the church he built in Ozubulu and killed worshippers. While we were trying to figure out what happened, chairman, Onyedinanma called me on phone and said that Dozila and Afam said they sent those that did the attack.”
During cross examination by counsel to Akpunonu, Mr. Festus Keyamo, the witness said he was not aware if any court both in Nigeria and South Africa had convicted Akpunonu for murder, just as he said he had never written any petition to security agencies on the alleged murder cases he accused Akpunonu of.
The presiding Judge, Justice F.I. Aniukwu adjourned the matter to May 4, 11 and 25 for continuation of hearing.