Since the afternoon of January 12, 2017 when news of the gruesome murder of her cousin – Chuks Okebata, a Nigerian-born United States of America Army Reserve, in their native Umuduruorie in Mbaitoli Local Government Area of Imo State, spread like wildfire, all has not been well for the young woman, their immediate and extended family members, kinsmen and all who knew him closely.
The 35-year-old heavily-built military personnel, who had left his base in Philadelphia, US, on December 22, 2016 to travel down home in company with two of his white friends ahead of the opening of his new house four days later, had no inkling of what laid in wait for him when he made the long trip.
Even though he had lived most of his adult life in his adopted homeland, Okebata, the eight child of an Anglican reverend, never forgot his roots and modest beginning. The new house, apart from providing a decent shelter for him, his immediate family and friends whenever he visited Umuduruorie, would also provide the platform for him to continually bond with his native land. In spirit, soul and body – Chuks was a village man in every sense of the word.
Read The Testimony Of Ndiukwu, Sister To The Murdered US Army Veteran:
“They killed my brother like an ordinary animal,” she stuttered, looking for the next expression to cling on. “They killed him in a ruthless manner. He did not deserve to die that way. We still cannot believe he is truly gone,” Lilian Ndiukwu, said as she battled tears.
“Even though his mother conceived him in the US, he was actually given birth to in Nigeria and in fact lived the first 12 years of his life in the village with his elder sister before they all moved to the US. For this reason, he loved the village and always looked forward to visiting whenever he had the chance.
“He decided to complete and open his house last December so that it would be easier for him to visit home more often. The ceremony of December 26 was a big feast; everybody was happy and had a great time. But we never knew that in a matter of days, our joy would turn into mourning,” she said as her voice grew colder – a testament of how heartbroken she still is.
“Initially moving with armed escorts in his first few days in the country especially before his white friends travelled back to the US on December 29, Okebata felt there was no need to carry on with that since he had no score to settle with anyone and even had his own service pistol on him as well.
Even though his mother, who also came home for the Yuletide, warned him against moving about freely on his own, the 35-year-old felt at home and saw no need for that. Standing well over 6ft and endowed with a massive and intimidating body build, only few mortals could match him in a physical brawl. But around 3pm on January 12, a handful of heavily armed young men wearing bullet-proof vests, who had laid ambush for him, pounced. He was returning home in company with two of his cousins after going to buy petrol and gas at a nearby filling station. The grief remains fresh for the family.
“The assailants came shooting sporadically in front of his house to scare people away. They later went to wait for him at the junction leading to his house. When they saw him, they ordered him to come down from his car. They accused him of being into illegal business. He quickly identified himself as US Army personnel and even showed them his service pistol. At that point they had collected his phones and that of our sisters, who were with him. They ordered the ladies to lie down in the car.
“It was after a while that my brother noticed they were assassins. He pleaded with them to spare his life that he was going to give them any amount they wanted. They refused and told him to go into the boot of their car. They drove out to a junction, close to a spot where caskets are produced and sold before shooting him on the head several times. His entire body was riddled with bullets.
“Everybody is still in shock. People are afraid to go out for too long. In fact these days, people run into their houses even before 6pm for fear of being attacked by criminals. Our village used to be a very lively place especially at this time of the year but the incident has spread fear and made the place look like a ghost town. A lot of people have moved to neighbouring towns at the moment.”
READ MORE: Punch Newspaper
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