Murder at dawn on the farm
Who killed Joseph Oko Onya and his pregnant wife, Ngozi? This is the question begging for answer in Afikpo ancient city, Ebonyi State, since the sad end of the couple inside their rice farm. UCHENNA INYA writes
The inability of security agents to unravel those behind the gruesome murder of the couple two weeks after their killings and manner at which they were hurriedly buried, also added to the worries of the people. Joseph Onya and his wife had gone to their farm on Thursday 8th October, 2020. But, when they did not return, panic gripped the family, relatives, neigbours and their entire community, Afikpo where they hailed from. A search party was organised, led by the first child of the deceased, Godswill Onya and 11-year- old boy, who knows the terrain by going to the farm with his parents during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Reports from the search party showed that Onya and his wife were brutally tortured before they were finally murdered by their assailants. Their lifeless bodies were found on their rice farm land at Amata Ozizza in the local government on Friday October 9th, 2020. It was alleged that Ngozi Onya who was four months pregnant suffered bruises in her private part as a result of multiple penetrations by her killers. It was also alleged that her husband was tied with rope on his neck, hands and legs to die slowly as he watched the horrible scene leading to his death of and that of his wife.
Onya was 42 years old while his wife, Ngozi was 35 years old. Their remains have already been buried. A member of the bereaved family; Hon. Christian Agha, Management Committee Member In-Charge of Education and Social Welfare, Afikpo- North East Development Center, Afikpo-North LGA, Ebonyi State, while speaking to New Telegraph, “the late couple went to farm on Thursday October 8, 2020, but never came back. On Friday morning, the family members decided to search for the couple with assistance of their first son.
“We, the family members and the DPO then took the dead bodies to Mater Hospital, Afikpo for examinations, where the doctor confirmed that the couple were murdered, adding that the woman was raped severely before murdering her.” Hon. Agha also noted that the killers left an axe in the farm land, probably used to hack life out of the couple.
Umahi shocked, orders investigation Governor Dave Umahi has ordered investigation into the killing of the couple. Umahi, represented by the Chairman of Afikpo North Local Government Area, Obiageri Enyim who visited the couple family, expressed deep shock and sadness over killing of the couple. A statement by the Public Relations Officer of the council, Sunny Nkama, quoted the Chairman as describing the dastardly act as the height of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. She assured the people that the state government was determined to identify the perpetrators and prosecuting them in accordance with the law.
She assured the bereaved family and the community that security agencies were neck deep into full investigations with a view to unraveling circumstances surrounding the gruesome murder of the couple and bring the perpetrators to justice, no matter how highly placed.
In his remarks, the Director General of Ebonyi Broadcasting Corporation (EBBC) Timothy Nwachi commended youths of the commu- nity for their efforts in discovering bodies of the deceased on the farmland amidst a bushy and swampy terrain. He equally extolled the youth for their civility in not taking laws into their hands judging from the heightened tensions and provocations.
The DG further appealed for calm among residents of the community as Government and security agencies were working round the clock to arrest the perpetrators of the heinous act. Residents of Afikpo have been condemning the gruesome murder of the couple. One of the residents, Rosemary Mbe, demanded for justice on their killing. She called for welfare of children of the deceased couple to be given utmost priority by philanthropists.
“Onya was a young man with lots of ambition. He had hopes for a better tomorrow. He kept pushing against all odds and it was the quest for survival that pushed him into farming, instead of engaging in illegal deals. He resorted to farming in order to keep body and soul together. Onya’s priority in life wasn’t to be a farmer. He became a farmer because the desired wasn’t available.
“Unfortunately, the system that refused to provide a job for him af ter graduation also failed to provide him with security; hence he and his wife had to be killed like fowls in the heart of the bush where they had gone to search for greener pastures for their family. Their lifeless bodies were discovered and hurriedly buried for whatever reason best known to the family and government, without any form of investigation.
“Though the manner in which Onya and his wife were hurriedly buried is unsatisfactory, the best thing to do now is to seek justice for the slain couple.” She added: “It’s comforting to hear that the governor of Ebonyi State has ordered for full scale investigation. Therefore, I hope and sincerely pray that those charged with that will do the needful by bringing the culprit or culprits to book.
The State police command while confirming the murder of the couple, described their death as mystery. According to the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Loveth Odah, blood was only seen coming out from the ear of Ngozi and that she was four months pregnant. She said: “Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Onya–Oko went to Amata Oziza farmland to farm on Thursday and according to the DPO at Afikpo, they had a hut already prepared in the farm that anytime they work and get tired, they will sit down there and rest. Throughout that Thursday, they did not come back home.
“According to the DPO, the family members came to the station on Friday morning reporting that Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Onya– Oko went to the farm and did not return home. He said he had to leave everything he was doing in line with our mandate of safeguarding lives and property and rushed with them to the farmland. To his greatest surprise, the couple was lying down side by side peacefully as if they were sleeping. He touched them and found out that they were already dead.”
Residents condemn couple’s burial, demand autopsy
Following immediate burial of the deceased couple, residents of the community have continued to insist that their corpses be exhumed for proper investigation into their sad end. A legal practitioner and social commentator from Afikpo, Chris Akani called on security agents to immediately exhume the bodies of Onya and wife and conduct autopsy to ascertain what happened to them. “Our security agencies must exhume their bodies which they hurriedly buried and conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of their death! “The perpetrators of this heinous act must be arrested and punish accordingly to deter further occurrences! Again, security must be beefed up in Afikpo. Afikpo (Ehugbo Land) land of Peace and Hospitality must be free again. “We cannot continue to tolerate this kind of devilish act.
It’s very strange to our land! We cannot continue to sleep with only one eye open! We did not wish anything to happen. We understood the private catastrophe, the personal loss, general misery, living and partly living,” he said. Also, an England based member of the community, Ebuka Clinton, frowned at the hasty burial of the couple, saying he was ready to foot the bills for the corpses to be exhumed and autopsy carried out on them. He said: “Our local government boss or the governor should give an order to the police to exhume the body of Mr. Onya and his pregnant wife. An Autopsy is needed right now. They must be exhumed for proper investigations. They must swab them for an autopsy. Where are all the human rights organisations?
“We’re very ready to pay the bills and to organise a proper burial for them, but exhume them first for an autopsy. All we want from the government now is to bring the culprits to book.
“To the unidentified killers of the couple, you made their innocent children orphans and think you’ll ever be happy in this life. I pity you and your entire generations. They were murdered and buried within few hours: no postmortem, no investigation, no burial ceremony, no questioning… no nothing! Even a fowl cannot be neglected like that.
Now, police have just commenced investigations! “Honestly, I think everyone connected with the idea of burying the couple hurriedly like that must be arrested for questioning.” Similarly, a Lagos based legal practitioner from the town, Barrister Cynthia Aja, said that the corpses must be exhumed for autopsy as it is ridiculous to bury the couple on the excuse that they were poor and had poor relatives. She said: “No one actually knows the exact time they were murdered. They went to farm on Wednesday, but couldn’t return. On Thursday, they were discovered dead on the farm.
According to the community spokesman, Mr. Alex Okoro, “they took the corpses to the police on Thursday and the police asked them what they wanted. They told the police they wanted to bury the deceased as they didn’t have the resources to take them for autopsy at Abakaliki and could not also afford mortuary bills.
It appears they used Thursday to run around, then buried the corpses on Friday. “The thing now is why draw such conclusions, without first of all reaching out; if they sincerely wanted justice? Did they reach out to other well to do members of the community at home and in Diaspora for money and they declined?
Why would few persons in the community conclude that there was no money for autopsy and mortuary in a whole Nkpoghoro that has produced millionaires like Zentus, Matthew Ibemgbo (Arimub), Ibesco, Dave Nwachukwu, Ebuka who is based in London and many others?
“Again, did they consult their councillor, the Coordinator of their Development Centre (Omerikete) the LGA Chairman (Barr. Oby), their representatives both at the state and federal levels and they told them there was no money? The community took a unilateral action by burying the corpses.
They must be exhumed as many have been demanding.” Residents of Afikpo have continued to hold divergent perception on the murder of the couple. While many accused herdsmen of masterminding the killing, some absolved herders of the couple’s murder saying “there are rumours of land squabbles involving the deceased couple.”
A resident of the community speculated that, “it has widely been accepted that the couple were gruesomely murdered by Fulani herdsmen and we are right to assume so, considering that circumstances surrounding their deaths have the hallmarks of how the herders deal with their victims, especially women, before eventually killing them. Be that as it may, we still want the government to unravel the mystery surrounding their deaths. We still want justice.”
Speaking also under condition of anonymity, another resident of Afikpo urged security agents not to focus on the allegation of Fulani herdsmen being responsible for the murders, but on other factors. She said: “I am not satisfied with the mention of Fulani herdsmen as being responsible for the murder of the couple. There are also rumours about land squabbles involving the deceased. Some people are saying that the farmland is in contention. Therefore, the police should also explore that angle in their investigation.
“Who were the people dragging the land with the couple? Who actually owns the land? Is it possible that the other party or parties to the land dispute could have a hand in the murder? Let investigation not be concentrated on Fulani herdsmen per se, please. New Telegraph learnt that the couple left behind three children; Godwill Oko Onya, 11 and in Primary 6, Favour Eleje Onya, 8, Primary 4 and Blessing Ogeri Onya 4, Nursery 3.