Sunday, 30 October 2011

Duped, kidnapped, killed•The tragic end of a peace-loving pastorallegedly murdered over his own plot of land…And the killers still turned round todemand N50 million ransom from his family

As a land speculator, Pastor Desmond
Igbokwe, peeled off some N500,000 of his
hard-earned money to invest in a piece of
land, said to be about three standard plots.
He had hoped to resell as soon as the value of
the property appreciated. No sooner had the
value appreciated, however, than other people
also developed interest in the land. It meant
trouble. Trouble for the peace-loving pastor.
Trouble from which he would not come out
Tears flowed freely from the eyes of villagers
at Nnemere Mpam Ekwerazu in Ahiazu
Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State,
when Daily Sun visited the community, to
investigate the alleged kidnap and murder of
one of their own.
The Igbokwes screamed and cried profusely
immediately this reporter introduced himself.
They rained curses on the conspirators, who
kidnapped and killed Pastor Igbokwe, 51, in a
bush at Umuobia, Olokoro in Umuahia,
capital of Abia State, on April 21.
His killers were said to have perpetrated the
wicked act with the intent to snatch the cash
in his possession and also deny him ownership
of the three plots of land he reportedly bought
some years back from one Azubuike Onuora,
popularly called Zubby.
But while the family and the soldiers, who
initially investigated the matter think that
they have the killers already rounded up, the
law appears to be following the due process, as
the police move to properly arraign the
suspects and charge them formally.
As at now, no court has pronounced the trio
of Azubuike Onuora (19), Ikenna Ohieri (19)
and Ugochukwu Nwokeocha (20), arrested in
connection with the murder, guilty.
According to the findings of the soldiers,
members of the Abia Military Task Force, the
arrested men, all from Umuobia, Olokoro
Umuahia, have already confessed to killing
Pastor Igbokwe by accident, a position which
one of them would unwittingly confirm to
Daily Sun. The ‘confession’ remains largely
unsubstantiated as it is obviously not their
official position on the matter, having not
sought legal advise on the matter.
Also fingered in this rather complicated
killing are three others namely; Apostle
Eunice, Reverend Phillips and one Chief
Akunne, who has continued to restate his
innocence. Daily Sun gathered that after
killing Pastor Igbokwe in the bush, they
buried him there same day and turned round
to demand N50 million ransom from his
family, the Igbokwes, if they still wanted to
see him alive. They later reduced the amount
to N30 million and later N20 million, which
was further reduced to N10 million. When it
dawned on them that the family could not
afford such amount, they finally agreed to
collect N1 million cash or no deal.
Incidentally, while all this negotiation was
going on, Pastor Igbokwe was already dead
and buried in a shallow grave.
Before his death, Pastor Igbokwe was also a
land agent, working with Project
Implementation Unit, Umuahia. When the
pastor bought the plots of land located in
Umuobia community, in Olokoro Umuahia,
from Onuora, he was so happy because he
believed that the land would soon appreciate
and he would later sell it at a higher price. He
told his wife it was a very good deal. The
Pastor cum agent never knew that he had
signed his own death warrant with that
singular purchase.
Soldiers attached to the Military Task Force,
Asa Camp, Ngwa, who were drafted to provide
security in Abia State, arrested five out of the
six suspects, including two clerics, Apostle
Eunice and Reverend Phillips. According to
the younger brother of the deceased, Livinus,
Apostle Eunice and Reverend Philip played
the role of a middlemen in this case. When
the suspects got in touch with the family,
claiming to be kidnappers, Phillips soon
assumed the position of a facilitator. He
claimed to know the conspirators and their
Livinus said the facilitator, Phillips, was the
only means of negotiation between the
purported kidnappers and the Igbokwes on
how much should be involved before they would
set his brother free. After arresting Onuora,
Ohieri, Nwokeocha, Eunice and Phillips, the
soldiers handed them over to the policemen
attached to the State Criminal Investigation
Department, Umuahia. When Daily Sun
visited the Asa camp of the soldiers
penultimate Thursday and Friday,
respectively, the commander of the Task
Force on Security in Abia State, Brigadier
General Sylvester Audu, was not within the
One of the soldiers, who went for the
operation and who also pleaded anonymity
told Daily Sun that the conspirators lured
Pastor Desmond into the bush when they
deceived him that there was another land that
somebody wanted to dispose of and they
wanted him to see it first before negotiation
would commence and he happily followed
them into the bush.
The role of the soldiers
The soldier narrates: “The younger brother of
the deceased told us that his brother was
kidnapped and held hostage in the bush. The
kidnappers, who we later found out could also
be guilty of murder were also demanding for a
large sum of money as ransom from the
victim’s family. So, soldiers swung into action
after we got the tip-off about the suspects.
We used one suspect to arrest the rest. The
family gave us the address of Eunice and the
description that would help us to arrest the
Reverend. We laid ambush for him and
arrested him. We also went after Eunice and
arrested her at her residence and brought her
to our base here.
We arrested the Reverend first. He was
arrested on April 22. On April 26 we arrested
three of the suspected killer boys. When you
see them, they are just small boys, who should
be in school. We also arrested one Chief
Akunne. From our investigation, we gave
Akunne benefit of doubt as he denied
knowing Pastor Igbokwe from Adam and he
claimed that he had never set his eyes on him.
The man wept. The Igbokwes claimed that
Akunne wanted the Pastor killed so that he
would resell the land but we could not verify
that or pin anything on the chief.
Furthermore,when he denied all the
allegation, we temporarily set him free. We
later handed the rest of the suspects over to
the police. It is up to the police to re-arrest
The deceased’s younger brother speaks out
Livinus 43, who is also a businessman, said
the family formed a search party immediately
they heard of his brother’s strange
disappearance. According to him, the search
combed through the bush and tried several
means until his brother’s phone that was
switched off came alive. It rang but a
different voice was on the line. The suspense
almost drove Livinus crazy as the conspirators
later demanded for N50 million.
He takes up the story from there: “My
brother, Desmond, was one of the Pastors of
Watchman Charismatic Movement. He was
also a land agent with Project
Implementation Unit, Umuahia. He was
married and blessed with four kids. He left
his residence in Umuahia to honour an
appointment with Mr. Obiakor at Umuobia
Housing Estate, Umuahia. My brother did
not return home that day. His wife,
Philomena, was worried. She called me the
next day, being April 22, 2011, that my
brother was yet to return home and his three
phones were switched off. I had to leave my
hometown in Ahiara Mbaise for Umuahia. I
went to Umuobia Housing Estate and we did
not see my brother’s car there. My brother’s
wife had to give me the phone number of Mr.
The man told me to come and see him at a
place he chose. I went there and saw him with
somebody with a long gun whom I suspected to
be a member of a popular vigilance group.
Obiakor told me that he had an appointment
with my brother but when he got to the agreed
point, he saw my brother’s car but could not
see my brother. He also complained that he
could not reach him (Desmond) on phone. I
had to rush to the police station in Umuahia
and the hospitals too but there was no trace of
him. When I decided to search through his
car, I found out that the vehicle had been
ransacked. At that juncture, I raced to World
Bank Police Station, Umuahia. Police
followed us to the station.
On Thursday of the same week, a woman,
who identified herself as Apostle Eunice,
came to my brother’s residence at Olokoro,
Umuahia. Eunice told my brother’s wife
Philomena, that she heard the dilemma we
were in. Eunice promised that my brother
would return soon. She told us she knew
somebody that would help. The Apostle also
added that Reverend Phillips would assist us
to talk to the kidnappers. She warned
Philomena not to reveal the secret to
anybody, including the police. The next day
(Friday) Desmond’s line came alive. The
man holding the phone was not talking with
his clear voice. That was not my brother’s
The male voice asked me to give the phone to
Philomena after I had identified myself to
him. I gave the phone to her and they claimed
to have kidnapped Desmond. The criminals
demanded for N50 million ransom before
they would release my elder brother. I tried to
sweet-talk Eunice to disclose the identity and
address of this reverend. I told her she should
let the kidnappers to understand that the
man they held hostage was a pastor and had
no such money to give. They later reduced the
money to N30 million, down to N20 million
and later N10 million and they stopped at
N1million. They said we must pay or they
would kill him. They advised us to check my
brother’s vehicle that we should collect the
receipt of the land and that we should sell the
land so that the N1 million would be complete.
I told Eunice that we were ready to borrow
from friends so that they would release him.”
Hide and seek game
Having raised the ransom money, to locate
the kidnappers now became another hide and
seek game that created more tension and
suspense. Livinus said: “The kidnappers told
us on phone to come to a bush at Olokoro. We
also delayed to enable the security men to be
prepared for them. We went there and they
told us they had moved to Ahiaukwu, a
market at Ubakala. We drove down to the
place only to be told that they had moved to a
place near Grand Lavish Hotel in Umuahia.
We drove down to the scene and they told us
that they had relocated to a place near New
Heaven Hotel, Umuahia. We were there also
and they said they had relocated to Ahiaukwu
We also used delay tactics each time we were
moving, so that the law enforcement agents,
who were now part of our team could move
ahead or immediately behind to be able to
arrest them. When the soldiers told us that we
should make the money available to the
kidnappers, we withdrew N 700, 000. My
brother’s wife told Eunice to call Reverend
Phillips. She did. Phillips told us to pay the
money into his account. He dropped his
account number with us. Phillips also said we
should prepare to part with some more money
because he would host the kidnappers after
they had released my brother. We agreed.
While we were doing this we were also
contacting soldiers in Osisioma, Ngwa and
they later referred us to the Military Task
Force base in Asa.
They were also in charge of providing security
and dealing with kidnappers in Abia State.
They were the people that advised us to lodge
the money into Phillips’ account. We lodged
the sum of N700, 000 and gave Eunice the
slip as I said earlier. Phillips did not go to see
the kidnappers on the first day. On the
second day he began to ask of the colour of
my brother’s vehicle we were patrolling in and
his address. The third day Philomena went to
see Eunice and discovered that she was
packing her load, in a seeming bid to leave
town or move away from her residence. We
contacted the soldiers, who went to her
residence and after arresting her, took her to
their base in Asa, near Obewe, Rivers State.
“The soldiers interviewed Eunice. We were
surprised when they ordered that the Reverend
should come out where they kept him. We
never knew that they had already
apprehended the Reverend (Phillips). The
Reverend confessed that he knew were they
kept my brother. The soldiers told me and
Philomena to go home and come back next
day. The Reverend was nabbed on April 22.
The soldiers called that they had succeeded in
making another breakthrough.
They invited me to Asa on April 26. There I
was told that the men, who took my brother
were not actually kidnappers. The soldiers told
us that they killed my brother the first day
they lured him into the bush. The soldiers
brought out three young men, Azubuike
Onuora, Ugochukwu and Ikenna. The
soldiers disclosed that the killers had allegedly
revealed that the Chief wanted them to kill
my brother, Desmond. Now there is still no
way yet of confirming the veracity of these
claims until these men appear in court and
are convicted or otherwise.
Buried body exhumed
“The soldiers told us that immediately the
men committed the murder, they quickly dug
ground in the bush and buried him. After
doing that, they still demanded for ransom
from the family. The soldiers told my family
to prepare for the exhumation of the body the
next day. They told me to come along with
shovel, chemicals, hand gloves, nose gloves
and coffin. They told me to come with the
items alongside some of our kinsmen from
the village. At 2am that Wednesday some
members of my community and I went to
Olokoro, Umuahia.
They took us to the bush in Olokoro where the
killers had shown them. They got to the place
and pointed at it, saying this is where they
killed my brother. We exhumed the body and
took the body to our village. Police and
soldiers were present during the burial. Police
came with a doctor, who removed parts of his
body for autopsy. After that we gave him a
proper burial. When we got to the village with
the corpse hundreds of people were waiting
and they wept like babies as we arrived with the
corpse. Soldiers called me later and handed
over the N700, 000 the (alleged) criminals
would have collected after they had already
killed my brother. Just less than three weeks
now, police detectives attached to the State
Criminal Investigation Department (SCID),
Umuahia, called me on phone and
announced that the soldiers had transferred
the case to them. Philomena and I visited
SCID, Umuahia, and they brought out the
suspects. I asked one of the suspects,
Azubuike Onuora, whether he had engaged in
any transaction with my brother in the past.
He responded, yes. He alleged that my
brother bought three plots of land at the rate
of N500, 000 from him in 2005. He said
now that the land had appreciated, they
needed a way of getting the plots of land
back. That was the reason they planned and
killed my brother.
He also claimed that he usually did menial job
for my brother each period he was erecting a
house. Onuora and Ohieri were my brother’s
casual labourers. Onuora said my brother paid
them up to N3, 000 each for laying
foundation. He claimed that it was a mistake
that they killed my brother, adding that they
wanted to collect the money inside my
brother’s pocket but he refused to let go.
Onuora confessed that he held the hands of
my brother while his colleague in crime called
Ohieri sliced his throat with a knife. My
brother pleaded that they should rush him
(Desmond) to a hospital but they (alleged
criminals) refused. My brother bled to death.
They watched him die. They refused to help
Yet as wicked as they were they quickly
organised themselves and wanted to swindle us
of N50 million. It is man’s inhumanity to
man at its peak. They removed his three
mobile phones and the cash in his pocket.
Onuora revealed that they wanted to
dispossess Desmond of his cash and mobile
phones but he resisted and that provoked
them to slay him. They quickly buried him in
the bush and planned to swindle us. Anyway,
the soldiers handed the case over to the State
Criminal Investigation Department (SCID),
Umuahia. My brother was an honest man, a
man of God to the core. Everybody will attest
to that in my village. He was a quiet person.
He took everybody as his relation. Even
Onuora confessed to that. He said my
brother used to give him money freely.
Tears of pain at victim’s village
Armed with an address, this reporter boarded
a mini- bus from Azikiwe Road, Umuahia,
capital of Abia State, enroute Eke Ahiazu
Junction, in Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government
Area of Imo State. Commercial motorcycle
operators were at the bus stop, waiting for
would-be passengers. A slim, tall and dark-in-
complexion young man was chosen to move
the journalist from the bus stop to Nnemere
Mpam Ekwereazu, in Ahiazu Mbaise Local
Government area of Imo State. He was
selected among others because of his innocent
look, by the reporter’s calculation and
moreover, a stranger could be able to defend
himself in case he tries anything funny.
The motorcycle operator claimed that the
distance was far so, he would collect N250.
The weather showed that it would rain any
minute. So, the journalist agreed, thinking
that it was not a distant journey. After
riding for about five kilometres on the tarred
road, the motorcyclist negotiated a bend into
the narrow, bush path. There were houses two
minutes into the bush path. As the journey
continued, there was no further sign of house
or life, just a narrow bush path. The reporter
had prepared for the worst. Although he had
no weapon on him, he had sworn and prayed
that before he would be killed, one or two would
die before him. He asked the motorcyclist
that there was no house and no sign of life
now on the bush path.
The operator responded: “Aah! Oga, are you
afraid? Just trust me. Nothing will happen to
you. I am a Christian. But why do you want to
see the Igbokwe family?” he asked.
Reporter: (Thinking vividly what to reply
him. I knew I would not identify myself as a
journalist in this forest. Who wants to be
kidnapped?) “Okay, I am a friend to Livinus,
younger brother of the pastor, who was killed
in Umuahia, recently. I want to see members
of his family and condone with them.”
Operator: “You must be a very good person. I
know this is your first time of visiting this
community. We are almost close to the
place,” he assured.
Reporter: “Yes, I can see houses in front but
we have spent about 20 minutes on this bush
part. Don’t worry I will double the amount we
bargained earlier. What you have to do now is
to wait until I finish my assignment here. I
will pay for time wasted. Not that I have so
much money on me, but you are honest.”
Anger of a bereaved mother
Some members of the Igbokwe family were
sitting in front of the house built by the
deceased. They were looking at the reporter
suspiciously as he walked towards them. After
greetings and explanation that one of their
own, named Livinus, encouraged him to visit
the family and inquire about the killing of
Pastor Desmond it was as if their old wound
was reopened as they all began to cry.
The deceased’s mother, Mrs. Apolonia
Igbokwe, 78, shook her head repeatedly,
looking at the sky as she spread her palms in
the air, weeping and calling God to strike the
killers of her son with Holy Ghost fire.
“Almighty God will punish those that killed
my son. I want them to be killed also. They
must suffer the same fate like my son. Holy
Ghost fire will kill all of them that connived
to snuff life out of my son. My son is
supposed to bury me and not me burying him.
The torture is too much for me to endure. My
son was a very peaceful somebody, who could
not hurt a fly. He was so caring and God-
The whole story is still unbelievable. God, wake
me up from this tortuous nightmare. I am yet
to believe that my own beloved son is dead.
Desmond returned that Saturday to attend a
wedding. He later told me he wanted to return
to Umuahia because he had a meeting to
attend in the church. I wanted him to attend
our church in the village but he insisted to
travel back to Umuahia. He handed over the
medicine he bought for me. I was suffering
from rheumatism. He was the person that
usually took care of me each time I was sick.
He was a very good son and everybody in this
community loved him. He was a friend of his
people. I cannot forgive those that killed my
son because his death has affected my health
so much. They have killed Desmond. My sons
are only two remaining in this wicked world,”
said mother of the deceased.
Tears of a widow
Desmond’s widow, Philomena Igbokwe,
noddned as tears rolled down her cheeks. At
first she was dumbfounded. Relations held
her down in the passage as she stared at this
reporter. Suddenly she voiced out: “You mean
your company, The Sun Newspapers sent you
all the way from Lagos to this our village to
investigate the murder of my
husband?” (Reporter nodded). She screamed
as more tears tumbled from her eyes down the
cheeks. “Oh, my loving husband. Nkem
(meaning: Mine), those who killed you will
have death at their door step very soon. They
killed you so that I will suffer to train our
four kids alone.
Since we married in 1987, nobody would say
they had heard my voice or that of my
husband. We don’t like problem and we don’t
like anything that would bring trouble. If my
husband knew that after paying Azubuike
(Onuora) money for the land, the seller
(Onuora) would turn around and plot such
evil against him, he would probably not touch
the business at all. He (Onuora) believed if
my husband died, he would resell the land.
The killers believed that the only way to
reclaim the land was to kill my husband. We
saw where they had abandoned my husband’s
car at Holy Ghost School area, Umuahia.
They killed him in Umuobia, Olokoro bush.
Somebody told us that one big chief was eyeing
the land. The informant (name withheld by
Daily Sun) alleged that the chief wanted
Desmond dead so that he would buy and resell
the plots of land.” She suddenly broke off
from the story: “Oh, if only you know my
husband. (crying) He was so good, so kind
and loving. He was a good Christian.”
“They killed him because of the plots of land
he bought for N500, 000 from Azubuike
(Onuora). They sliced his throat with knife.
My husband bled to death. The wicked people
also had the guts to demand for ransom from
us. They demanded for N50 million, later
they reduced the money to N30 million, N20
million, N10 million and finally N1 million.
His last words to me were that some people
called him that they wanted to buy land from
him. My husband used to call me Nwanne.
He said Nwanne, there will be good business
today. Prepare for enjoyment after the
transaction. Those were his last words. I will
never see him again, God....” Philomena cried
Squeezing water out of dry towel
It is easier to squeeze water out of a dry towel
than to get information from Abia State
Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Geofery
Ogbonna, on the matter. He would not come
out unless he gets the express permission of
his boss, Abia State Commissioner of Police,
Mr. Bala Hassan.
Daily Sun visited the Abia State Police Public
Relations Officer (PPRO), Ogbonna in his
office at the State Police Command
Headquarters, Umuahia, to get the police
angle of this story. Unfortunately Ogbonna
said he could not comment on anything
without the approval of the Commissioner of
Police, Mr. Bala Hassan. All efforts to reach
Hassan on phone proved abortive.
This reporter insisted that he had the right
and power as the state police spokesman to
give information to the press. The journalist
after briefing the police spokesman about this
story that brought him from Lagos to Abia
and Imo States, respectively, he denied
knowledge of the story.
The PPRO said, “I cannot comment on this
story or any other story until my boss, the
State Commissioner of Police permits me to do
so. I do not even know the IPO (Investigative
Police Officer of the case.”
The reporter gave the number and surname of
the IPO and phone number to him. He called
him,” Are you Mr. Obeta? Please, there is this
case about alleged kidnappers, who turned out
to be killers, which you are investigating.
Journalists are interested in that story. Okay,
they will arraign the suspects tomorrow? You
can cooperate with them inside court. Let
them write their story from there,” Ogbonna
All efforts made by this reporter so that the
PPRO would allow him speak to the suspect
or brief them on the situation proved abortive.
Drama at the Umuahia court complex
This undercover reporter went to the State
Criminal Investigation Department (SCID),
Umuahia, and posed as relation to the
deceased. Though he had already spoken to
the IPO on phone about his interest to have
access to the suspects, which he vehemently
refused. They have never met. The IPO was
uncooperative as he insisted on respecting the
police policy. At the SCID the reporter waited
to see the IPO, who brought out the suspects
for arraignment in court. This journalist
pretended to be relation to the deceased. IPO
fell for it. As the police vehicle carried the
suspects to court, the pressman boarded a
tricycle and followed them behind.
At the Magistrate Court premises, the
journalist was just behind the three suspects
who were handcuffed together on one wrist
each, while Apostle Eunice walked beside them
and exchanged jokes with a slim, tall and
black man, who visited her at SCID.
Suddenly, while the detectives were busy in
their discussion few metres away from the
suspects, the pressmen used journalistic antics
to get words from the suspected killer-men,
who came from the same Umuobia
community. They disclosed their names, age
and community they hail from,
Reporter asked, “Azubuike Onuora why did
you people kill Pastor Desmond?”
Onuora: “It was a mistake, it happened by
Reporter: “How?”
Onuora: “We were fighting over money.”
Reporter: “So, you people wanted to dispossess
him of the money on him?”
Onuora: “Not like that.”
Reporter: “But the pastor bought land from
you. So you killed him so that you can possess
the land back. Was that not your
Onuora: “Oga, who are you now? Please, we
will not talk again until we see our IPO.”
(At that juncture, IPO Obeta announced
that the court would not sit on that Friday.
He beckoned on the suspects to go inside the
As they were going towards the vehicle,
Onuora reported the journalist, pointing at
him for Obeta to see).
Obeta asked: “What did the man (pressman)
ask you?”
Onuora: “He asked why we killed Pastor
Obeta: “What did you answer?”
Onuora: “I said it happened by accident. He
asked how? I said we were fighting. He then
asked fighting over what? I said money.”
Obeta: “You have already answered his
questions. Instead of you to wait for me to
come you are talking to people you do not
know. This man here I suspect is an
undercover journalist. He will right your
story. Go inside the vehicle.”
The journalist quickly hung his identity card
round his neck and positioned his camera on
the suspects. But they were shielding their
faces from the camera. One of the detectives
who identified himself as Bright walked to the
journalist and threatened to break the camera
if he snap another shot.
He hollered: “Do you know you are not
supposed to snap on court premises? Why
should you snap picture on court premises?”
Reporter: “Who told you a journalist has no
right to snap picture on court premises?”
Detective: “I am a policeman. I should know.”
Reporter: “I do not think you know. I have
the privileged right as a journalist to snap
picture on the court premises.”
Detective: “I am telling you, you do not have
the right.”
Reporter: “When were you enlisted in the
force?” (Takes another shot but the suspects
hid their faces at the side of the police patrol
Detective: “I can see you are the stubborn
Reporter: “If you break my camera I will call
IGP and report you.”

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