Onyeka Nkwado, the former president of Ozubulu development union, ODU, South Africa Branch, and a star witness in the Ozubulu church massacre trial, on Friday, April 20, 2018, revealed to the court that those involved in the bloodbath had made financial demand of $1 million from Ozubulu people resident in South Africa to sheathe their sword shortly before unleashing terror on worshippers at St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu.
The case, which has been transferred to Awka High Court following the tension it generated each time it was to be heard in Nnewi, witnessed a calmer environment with less people turning up to witness the case.
The star witness, who took to the witness box for close to two hours, said that two persons, Dozila and Afam – who are currently serving prison terms in South Africa – had demanded the aforementioned sum as part of their conditions to stop the planned mass murder.
He 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 six other prominent sons of Ozubulu in South Africa.
Onyeka’s words: “The gang had vowed they would continue the killing if Ozubulu people, who they claimed were responsible for their imprisonment until they were released from prison.”
Narrating his story while being led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Jay Jay 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 a 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, Gozila, and Afam, have claimed that they killed Obinna. We concluded that five people – 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 won’t have visiting time 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 America, at the airport I switched on my phone and the first call that I got was that my wife has 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 sympathise 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.”
The star witness said the duo accused Ozubulu people of being behind their imprisonment because the then leader of Ozubulu, Oruche, called Chinedu Akpunonu and asked him to stop using the killer gang.
Continuing, he said: “Their second condition was that Ozubulu people should come and effect their release from the prison and, thirdly, that Ozubulu people should kill the head of the killer gang, Chinedu Akpunonu.
“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.
“On August 6, 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.
“After the incident, Ozubulu people invited us, everybody for three times and I came the three times but Chinedu Akpunonu only came the last time we were invited.”
Cross-examined by Festus Keyamo, SAN, the counsel to Akpunonu, the witness denied knowledge of Akpunonu being convicted for murder by any court either in South Africa or Nigeria. He also said that he has never written any petition to security agencies on the alleged murder cases he accused Akpunonu of.
The case was adjourned to May 4, 11 and 25, 2018, for continued hearing by F. I Aniukwu, the presiding Judge.
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