Two alleged assassins are now in the custody of Abia State Police Command waiting for their day of judgement in court. They were trailed and arrested in Owerri, Imo State, by men and officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Command after carrying out albeit a failed operation in Abia State.
They are: Victor Mark Onyekachi, 23 and Emmanuel Okorie, 25. The duo who hail from Echele Otamkpa village in Isiukwuato Local Government Area of Abia State were said to have been hired by one Uche (surname withheld), a retired army officer, now said to be on the run, to kill Barrister Mark Okorie Ogbonnaya, from Ahaba Imenyi, who is the immediate past Transitional Chairman of Isiukwuato Local Government Council, with whom he was allegedly engaged in power tussle over the chairmanship of the local government area.
Hasty planning, poor execution
But in-between the point of conception of the idea and its execution, distrust came in and the contracted assassins rather than carrying out the hatchet job they were given, chose to fleece their victim of large sum of money and lied to the person who sent them that they had killed him. But while he was happy to receive the news, all the same, he did not give them a dime but asked them to come back in two days time to collect the agreed sum for the murder job.
Suspecting their lives to be in danger both from their sponsor and the law enforcement agents who they suspect must have been tipped off they ran to Owerri to hide till things cool off. But from there they continued to send threat messages to their victim to give them more money or else get killed. It was in the course of doing that the long arm of the law caught up with them.
On the day of their operation, the two assassins reportedly wore an army camouflage uniform and had with them pump action rifle said to have been given to them by the man who sent them on the deadly mission: Uche. They were supposed to use them in the Operation Kill Barrister Ogbonnaya assignment. But trouble started when rather than assassinate him, they collected N100, 000 from him through electronic transfer. They also collected his two phones, Infinix and Samsung makes, and dumped him at Akara Junction, Ovim, in Isiukwuato Local Government Area of Abia State.
Police Commissioner’s account of case
Throwing more light into what happened, the Abia State Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Janet Agbede told Saturday Sun that, on being dropped, the victim, totally shaken by the experience in which he narrowly escaped death by a whisker, rushed straight to SARS office Aba, as well as write a petition to him, to report matter on July 16, 2020.
“I immediately ordered the SARS commander, Obiogwu Johnbull (Superintendent of Police) and his operatives on July 24, 2020 to swing into action,” she said. “They did and arrested the two suspects where they lodged under the guise of students at Rosa Mystic Lodge, at Nekede Federal Polytechnic, Owerri, Imo State.” She further disclosed in the course of investigation they recovered from them the two phones taken from Barrister Ogbonnaya. She added that Onyekachi and Okorie have admitted committing the crime for which they are being held in police custody.
Suspect tells how they bungled case
In giving some insight into what happened, Onyekachi told Saturday Sun a bit about his life history and involvement in crime. His words: “I attended Divine Agenda Model School Onitsha and Isiukwuato High School, Isiukwuato. After that, I learnt Fashion Design. In July, 2020, myself and my cousin, Emmanuel Okorie went to Mr. Uche’s house to beg him to assist us with some money. He told us that he would assist us but we have a job to execute for him before he can give us the money. We asked him what kind of job was that. He took us to Barrister Mark Okorie Ogbonnaya’s house and showed us the place and said he would want us to eliminate him.
“The following day, he promised to give us N1.5m if we execute the job. We both agreed. He gave us his army uniform and a pump-action gun with four cartridges and insisted that we should kill Barrister Ogbonnaya because he is contesting for the chairmanship of Isiukwanto Local Government Area. He didn’t give us any money immediately but promised to do so the moment we finish doing the job. After reaching such an agreement with him, my cousin and I went to Ogbonnaya’s house at about 11.00 pm on the D-Day.
“I wore the army uniform and held the pump-action gun, while Emmanuel was in mufti and held a small jack knife in his hand. We got to the place and waited for him to drive into his compound. He did in his Lexus 470 Jeep. Immediately, he saw us, he became afraid. But to calm his fears, we told him that we were army officers on a mission to search and arrest and take him away with us for interrogation because of a report written against him. His sister came out from the house to ask whether there was any problem. He told her not to worry, that we were there on official assignment. Thereafter, he drove with us in his car from his house to Akara, Ovim village before we opened up to him and told him our real mission to assassinate him. But we said we would not kill him because he did not do us anything bad. And, besides we are not professional killers or assassins. We only agreed to do the dirty job for a fee.
“We told him that we only accepted Mr. Uche’s offer because we needed some money to set up our own businesses. We warned him to be careful and to hide himself for three days so that Mr. Uche who sent us would think we had actually assassinated him. We asked him to assist us financially in whatever way he can so that we can leave the village. Still shaking with our story, right before us, he transferred N 100,000 to my cousin’s Polaris Bank account. Then he released to us his two Infinix phones as evidence to convince Mr. Uche to believe that we indeed carried out the assignment.
“Having reached such agreement, he dropped us at Amaba village, after exchanging phone contacts with us and drove away. From there, we walked down to Mr. Uche’s house to lie to him that we had killed Ogbonnaya as he instructed. He was excited and told us well done. We returned the army uniform and the pump-action rifle back to him, after removing some cartridges from the four that he gave to us. However, we did not give or show him Barrister Ogbonaya’s two phones as evidence as we originally planned. Actually, we had promised to return them to the owner as soon as we finished giving our report to our sender. Uche told us to come back two days later to collect our money as we agreed.
“But rather than return the phones we decided to keep them. In fact, to prevent him from looking for us to collect the phones back we relocated from Abia State to Nekede Polytechnic, Owerri, Imo State. With part of the money given to us by Ogbonnaya, we rented and lodged in self-contain apartment. Thereafter, we started using Ogbonnaya’s two phones to make calls both to him and to other people until July 24, 2020 when the SARS operatives from Aba stormed our compound around 2 am and rounded us up.”
Second suspect explains reason behind the betrayal
Okorie, in his own account, agreed that he and Onyekachi were not only cousins but also partners in crime. “I hail from Echele Otamkpa village in Isiukwuato Local Government Area of Abia State,” he said. “We carried out the operation. We didn’t kill Barrister Ogbonnaya because we are not killers; we just needed some money from Mr. Uche to enable us establish business. If we had killed him we knew that Uche, a retired army officer, would never have given us the money that he promised. That’s why we were very careful when he gave us the assignment. If we had wasted the Barrister’s life what would have been our gain? The fact that he did not give us one kobo after we returned the army uniform and gun is a proof of what I am talking about. He told us to come back two days later. It was when we felt that our lives could be in danger both from him and the police that we relocated to Owerri, to rent a house.”
Victim recounts ordeal and how he escaped
Ogbonnaya, 53, the victim who is at the centre of the whole drama explained how he found himself in the eye of the storm and how he narrowly escaped death in the hands of the two death merchants and their sponsor. Here is his account, which, at some levels, contradicts the suspects’: “In 2019, I served as the transitional council chairman of Isuikwuato Local Government. On July 7, 2020, I went to entertain my friends at Akara Junction, Ahaba Imenyi. I went home but as I was trying to park my vehicle in my compound, I saw armed men with one of them dressed in military uniform and pointing a gun at me. They drew closer. I was confused. The man in military uniform told me they were hired assassins and asked me to identify myself. I said ‘no.’ They came in and ransacked my house. I informed my sister who entered while they were doing so to alert the villagers. The man in military uniform threatened to shoot her if she tried to raise any alarm. They searched my house, especially my bedroom and that of my relatives. They opened my boxes and other items. In fact, they practically turned my room upside down while engaged in the search.
“The whole operation lasted over one hour. They ordered me to enter my vehicle and along the way they said they were military men from 143 Battalion, Ovim. They asked me how many bank accounts I keep. I told them that it’s only Zenith. They ordered me to give them my phone and pin number. One of them opened Zenith platform and told me to transfer money to him. I told him there is a limit that I could transfer. I said it is only N100, 000, which I did at about 12:45am. They ordered me to continue to drive down the road. I drove close to Abasso Apostolic Church, Amaba, Isiukwuato before they ordered me to stop. They collected my Samsung Galaxy SQ plus and warned me not to report the incident to any law enforcement authority or else they will come back and kill me.
“It was around 1.30am that I got home to discover that in the course of their search they had taken away with them my Infinix phone. In all, the two phones they took away with them were worth N357, 000. With them they were calling and threatening me on the other phone which they didn’t take away. On July 16, 2020, I went and submitted a petition to the Abia State Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Janet Agbede and reported the case to SARS, Aba, which prompted their arrest and recovery of my two phones.”
Agbede said that investigation is ongoing and that the two suspects will soon be charged to court. She also vowed to track down and arrest Uche who was said to have escaped the moment he learnt that Barrister Ogbonnaya was not killed after all, and that the two people he sent to do the job were nowhere to be found in Abia State.
THE SUN, NIGERIA