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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Family Cries for Justice, As Masquerade Beats 71-Year-Old Man to Death in Anambra


By Izunna Okafor, Awka

The Okoye Family of Umuawulu Community, Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State, has cried for justice and craved the intervention of relevant authorities, following the gruesome murder of their father, Chief Shadrach Okoye, by masquerade.

Chief Okoye was said to have been beaten to death in his hometown by a recalcitrant and untamed masquerade, popularly known as Ụdọ̀.

This reporter, Izunna Okafor, gathered that the corpse of the 71-year-old man had been dumped in the mortuary since his murder, following the delay and hindrances the family encounters in their search for justice for the soul of their father.

Recounting the incident in an exclusive interview with this reporter, the first son of the deceased, Mr. Chidubem Okoye said the entire drama began on December 25, 2023.

According to him, his father, Chief Okoye left his house alive to see off his friend and resident of the community who visited to fete with him in the spirit of the Christmas season on that fateful day, only to be brought back as a corpse moments later.

Narrating further how it happened, Chidubem said his father and his friend met about four masquerades on the road as they were going, one of whom refused to allow him pass, even after the other three masquerades had moved on.

According to him, the unyielding masquerade requested for money from his Dad (Mr. Okoye), and insisted that he must give him money before he would pass.

“My Dad told him that he didn’t have any money on him, and explained to him that he just came out empty-handed to see off his friend. But the masquerade insisted, calling him a cunning person, and vowing that he would never allow him to pass if he didn’t give him money. The masquerade said my Dad’s friend was free to pass, even if he didn’t give him money.

“They initially thought it was joke until they noticed that the masquerade was mean. So, my Dad’s friend dipped hand into his pocket, brought out N500 and gave to the masquerade, to save the situation and bail out my Dad whom the masquerade was even pushing and threatening with cane as he was talking,” Chidubem narrated.

He said, despite that attempt by his Dad’s friend to settle the masquerade, the masquerade, after collecting the money, still insisted that his Dad must give him his own money, hence, throwing everybody into surprise and wonder, as to what the he actually wanted.

He said the masquerade then moved closer to his Dad, still pushing him, calling him a cunning person, and threatening to deal with him.

According to Chidubem, as the masquerade was saying these, he uncovered his face, probably for Chief Okoye and people around to see that he was not smiling; and he then gave him (Okoye) a close-range heavy punch on the chest, pushed him one more time, left him there and went away.

“When he punched him, my Dad bent down and started grasping for air, complaining of his chest, before the masquerade now pushed him down, left him there and went away, still raining abuse on my Dad for having wasted his time,” he said.

“When the masquerade was leaving, the people around and my Dad’s friend, who is also advanced in age, were calling him to come and take care of whom he pushed down, but he ignored them. He told them to abandon my Dad there, that he was just pretending and faking everything he was doing then, and would still stand up after a short while.

“Like play, like play my brother, as this was happening, my Dad started stifling, and when people noticed that he was no longer himself, before they could get a tricycle to rush him to hospital, my Dad gave up the ghost there and then. He died in pain,” Chidubem narrated (in a mixture of Igbo language and pidgin English), as tears rolled down his cheeks.

He revealed that his Dad, a petty trader, whose wife died since 2003, was having a very serious heart problem, and for which they had taken him to different hospitals. He said the various hospitals they visited said heart surgery would be the only solution to the sickness, and which will gulp a whopping sum of seven million naira (N7.m) to carry do. This humongous amount and its unavailability, he said, made them to take his Dad back to the village, where they were managing their lives and his health in the little way they could, until the unfortunate, unjustifiable incident caused by someone’s insensibility and callousness.

Chidubem said the people around identified the masquerade as Ifechukwu Nweke, a 19-year-old boy and indigene of the community, who has also become notorious in the village for his thuggishness and unruliness. He added that the suspect had also not denied the crime.

He recounted how the suspect’s family and kinsmen pledged to sponsor the burial ceremony of the deceased as their own way of appeasing the family for Ifechukwu’s act. While noting that he and his siblings initially did not accept the offer, but were persuaded to do so by some indigenes of the community who joined voice to plead with them; Chidubem, however, regretted that nothing was eventually heard from the the people since the day the burial list was prepared and sent to them, till date

This, he said, implied that the Ifechukwu’s family and kinsmen changed their minds and refused to even sponsor the burial which they earlier pledged to, and have even taken off their hands from the case, insisting that the suspect is no longer around, and that they cannot produce him or be forced to do anything on the matter until he returns.

While it was gathered that there was a long-standing communal rift between the Umuenu village (where the suspect hails from) and Okpala-Nduka village (where the deceased hailed from), which was said to have been arbitrated over time; Chidubem also noted that his life and those of his siblings have been under threats for still following up the matter of getting justice for their father.

According to him, while the matter has been reported to the police and the traditional ruler of Umuawulu, no much actions and effects have also been seen since then, as the police themselves said they would also not do anything on the matter until the suspect is arrested or provided for them.

On the other hand, he said the Traditional Ruler of the community, Igwe Egwuonwu had been keeping him posted since the day he reported the matter to him till date, as he would always tell him that he is in a church program or in a meeting, with a promise to revert to him later, which he won’t fulfill thereafter.

When contacted for inquiry and clarification on the matter, Igwe Egwuonwu told this reporter that the matter was handed over to a committee, and that he would not comment anything until the committee finishes their task and gives him report.

Amidst all these, the five children of Shadrach Okoye, with loud voice, still cry and crave for justice for their beloved father whose corpse has remained dumped in the mortuary since December 26, 2023.

While reassuring their resolve not to take the laws into their hands, the Okoye Family also called for the intervention of the Governor Chukwuma Soludo-led Anambra State Government, security agencies, as well as other concerned authorities and relevant stakeholders to get justice for their father.

Their poignant cries for justice reverberate not only in the hollow corridors of a mortuary but also in the shattered dreams and unfulfilled promises that Chief Okoye leaves behind.

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