A first cousin of Chief Aloysius Ikegwonu (aka Bishop), Mr Augustine Ugochukwu, has stated that people are out to demonise his cousin (Bishop), paint him in bad light while chasing shadow instead of focusing on last Sunday’s killings in St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, that shook the nation and avert a recurrence.
Ugochukwu said: “I was in the church with my wife and I saw everything that happened. We had problem with the generator that early morning. The Rev Father and I tried to start it for the service but could not and the father sent for the electrician. The catechist later came back with the electrician and all efforts to start it failed and at that time the service was going on with the Rev Father’s rechargeable lantern.
“He (Bishop) is a successful businessman in South Africa, although I cannot say this is what he is dealing on because I’ve not been there.”
On the case between Bishop and his friend, Chinedu Akpunonu, which is said to have triggered the killings, Ugochukwu added: “The matter was brought back here to Ozubulu and it was decided at Obi of Ozubulu’s palace and my brother (Bishop) won. What happened from what they said was that my brother through his boys was buying goods from Chinedu but later stopped buying and the relationship developed into hostility.
“What my brother does is that he picks people who are stranded in South Africa and in this town too, train them in business and he has always settled them establish ‘business’ for them.
“He has settled a lot of people in this community. Some of them are from Imo State, others are from different towns and villages in Anambra State. As I am talking to you now he has built over three bridges and tarred many roads in this town. He has also built three churches in the four quarters of Ozubulu. They are Nza, Egbema, Amakwa and Eziora.
“These churches are St. Philips Umuezekwe, St. Francis Egbema, and St. Alloysius at Eziora Leprosy Centre. He also pay all those who are 80 years and above in this community and had always distributed rice, clothing and money to indigent families at every festival in this community.
“The 36-year-old young man started having problem in South Africa with his friend Chinedu when three of his boys were killed in South Africa. Two of them were from this village and one was from Mbaise. He came back and gave them befitting burial and settled their families. So, we cannot say this is where this is coming from.”
Meanwhile some youths in Ozubulu, where some gunmen killed worshipers at St. Philips Catholic Church last Sunday are planning to carry out a reprisals on any community that might have masterminded the dastardly act.
Although normalcy is gradually returning to the community which was deserted shortly after the incident, the youth vowed that they were determined to get to the root of the problem by taking their own pound of flesh avenge the killings.
Newsmen who visited the community on Thursday reported that shops were opened and people were going about their normal businesses despite the presence of armed soldiers and policemen in all the nook and cranny of the village.
As part of the surreptitious moves, it was gathered that the youth had formed search parties and are combing neighbouring villages and towns in search of the perpetrators.
A middle aged man who spoke on the condition of anonymity said: “Our people have gone into neighbouring towns and villages to search for whoever is behind this dastardly act and by the time they come back with their findings, whosoever was behind it will never go unpunished. Of course we must take revenge. Nothing will stop us from getting to the root of this incident. We have heard a lot of stories, even on the radio and in the newspapers, but we have our own way of finding something missing in even inside water”.
“Whether they are from South Africa, Ozubulu or anywhere they like, we are heading for a revenge mission simple and short”.
An okada operator said that the community was now sitting on a keg of gun powder waiting to explode one day. He said: “We are all from this town and some few people who do not like good things happening in this town are bent on causing confusion.
“There is no person in this community who has not benefited from his Chief Ikegwuonu’s philanthropy but they wanted to paint him black and even kill him because he helps the widows, poor people and vulnerable children. Do you know how many people this man is sponsoring their education in secondary schools and tertiary institutions? Do you know how many people from this town he has taken to abroad? They are countless”.
“He was the person who took Chinedu (Bishop’s alleged rival) whom we heard he is having problem with to South Africa. But instead of reciprocating his good gesture, people are saying negative things about him. But each time Chinedu comes back to the community people will not sleep with their two eyes closed. He wants to suppress everybody and will not want any other person to grow. I know him very well; his father”.
Also, the Police yesterday, vowed to bring to justice suspects involved in the church killings.
In the midst of the confusion, the Anambra State Police Command had said its preliminary investigation revealed that the incident was a fallout of drug war between two members of the the Ozubulu community in the Diaspora. Consequently, the police authorities in Abuja, have enlisted the cooperation of the International Police Organisation (INTERPOL), to apprehend the suspects.
The Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), CSP Jimoh Moshod, who made the disclosure in a telephone conversation, said: “We are working with INTERPOL to get the suspects; we know we are active on the INTERPOL platform. We have arrested three suspects, and we are carrying out more arrests.”
In a related development, a former Minister of Aviation, Senator Stella Oduah, has expressed shock at the killings. In a statement on Friday, she said: “The event of Sunday 6th August, 2017, at St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu, is certainly beyond my comprehension. It is difficult to make sense out of the narration of the possible reasons for the dastardly act.
“Whatever could be the reason, it cannot justify the act which can honestly be described as Godless. The house of God was defiled, humanity was desecrated and, the social environment traumatised.
“Needless to emphasise the need for the security agencies to fish out the culprits but to add that the task is a challenge to the security agencies. As my heart goes to the families of the victims, it is my prayer that the Almighty avenges the blood of the innocent.”
The traditional ruler of Ozubulu, Anambra State, Igwe Fidelis Nnamdi Oruche, in a separate report has stated categorically that he never at any time mediated in a drug dispute between two sons of the community, Ikegwonu (aka Bishop) and Akpunonu. Both Bishop and Akpunonu have been widely reported to be at the centre of an alleged drug deal gone awry that led to the early morning bloodbath at the church last Sunday.
But Igwe Oruche clarified that the only matter where he mediated was one that involved a leadership crisis in Ozubulu Development Union (ODU) South Africa branch.
He said when the dispute over who would become the President General of the union in 2014 persisted, the matter was brought home and he intervened to settle it.
He insisted that it had nothing to do with disagreement over a business deal. It would be recalled that gunmen stormed the church and opened fire on congregants, killing at least 13 people.