It was shocking as a middle aged man was arrested by the Police in Akwa Ibom for killing and burying his Pastor uncle in shallow grave over allegations of witchcraft. Correspondent EMEKA SAMUEL writes.
Cases of witchcraft-related murder in Akwa Ibom have continued to rise in recent times in the state despite the activities of the state government and Churches in the area to enlighten and discourage residents and indigenes on taking the law into their hands when confronted with such allegations. Governor Godswill Akpabio has also continued to show commitment and passion in his quest to rid the state of the stigma of witchcraft beliefs, practices and allegations, especially against children and has subsequently signed the Child Rights Act while also empowering the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development to fight such negative practices.
But in one of the latest incidents, middle aged men from Ikot Udo community in Ika local government area of the state were arrested by the Police for alleged murder of his uncle over land dispute and allegations of using witchcraft to kill members of the suspect’s family. The man, Usen Saturday Akpan, along with his collaborator, Friday Monday Akpan, a youth leader in Ikot Udo community were alleged to have killed Usen’s uncle, Pastor Okon Tommy Nnana and buried him in a shallow grave inside a forest in their village.
Parading the suspects before newsmen at the State Police Headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia, Assistant Commissioner of Police, State Criminal Investigation Department, Mike Okoli, explained that the late clergy, Okon Tommy and his nephew, Usen Saturday, were involved in dispute over a piece of land, while several efforts by members of the community to reach a truce were unsuccessful until the matter was reported to the Village Head, Chief Effiong Paul Uboh.
“When the matter was reported to the monarch, the parties were invited on a certain date for a meeting with the Chief (and his council of elders) to ascertain the bonafide owner of the land. On the day they scheduled for the meeting, Usen Saturday Akpan, declined to attend the meeting claiming to have travelled to Port Harcourt to raise money for the meeting. But in the midnight breaking into the day for the meeting, Usen Saturday Akpan, conspired with others and went to the abode of the late Pastor Okon Tommy Nnana, and abducted him while sleeping with his wife.
For more than two months, no one knew the whereabouts of the clergy, until investigations by the police on the matter revealed during interrogation of the suspects that they abducted Nnana, tied his hands to the back, killed and buried him in a shallow grave inside a thick forest.
“When it was obvious that the man was missing and no one knew his whereabouts, the matter was officially reported to the police by the Village Head, Chief Effiong Paul Uboh; then, we swung into action in search of the missing man.
“When the story was narrated that they were to attend a meeting with the Village Head over land issue, I questioned why Usen Saturday failed to attend the meeting where the matter was to be resolved. Gentlemen, that was when the bubble burst for him. He told us he traveled to Port Harcourt to raise certain amount of money for the meeting. But, when my men took him to Port Harcourt to find out if he actually went there, we realized he never traveled at all, but conspired midnight of the meeting day with one Friday Monday Akpan, alias 18, to kill Tommy Nnana.
“We did not stop there; we asked them to take the police to the shallow grave where they buried the man. The man had been declared missing since October 18, 2014. Eventually they took the police detectives to a forest in Ikot Udo, Ika local government area, where they dug the skeletal parts of the man out of the shallow grave with his hands tied to his back”, said the ACP.
Fielding questions from newsmen, the first accused, Usen Saturday Akpan, admitted having a hand in the gruesome murder of his uncle but said that the mastermind was his youth leader, Friday Monday Akpan, alias 18. He however said that the real reason for the crime was that his late uncle threatened to also kill him after he (Usen) accused him of killing five of his family members through witchcraft.
“Though we had a land dispute with the late Tommy Nnana, but the crux of the matter is that five (5) of my (Usen Saturday Akpan’s) siblings died in rapid progression. By that time, I went to my uncle (late Tommy Nnana) kneeling down and pleaded if he has hands in the death of my family members.
“He told me vividly that I am the next to die. Weeks later, I felt sick and never knew what to do until I reported my uncle and how he was sweeping my entire family members, to this my youth leader (that is, Friday Akpan alias 18). He then initiated moves to assassinate the man, (Tommy Nnana) for a fee of Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N250, 000). I later paid N50, 000 since I told him I won’t have such huge amount.
“Then, on that fateful night, Friday Akpan, alongside his younger brother, Promise, went and picked the man to where he was killed and buried in a shallow grave. Before I was asked to use a plank and hit the man (Tommy Nnana), we took an oath (Urine mixed with salt and pepper) never to reveal the secret to anyone as any defaulter would die.
“After taking the oath, I used the plank on the head of the man, since he had confessed that he’s the one who killed 5 members of my family. Later, Promise (Friday’s brother) finished him up, till he gave up the ghost. But shockingly, after few days, one of us (a fellow conspirator, Promise) died mysteriously.” Usen explained.
The latest incident would also add to the growing cases of murder in the state. It would be recalled that at least 168 murder cases were recorded in the state in 2014, including 17 cases of children killing their parents .Governor Akpabio who expressed disgust with the situation at a recent event in Uyo explained that, while 147 murder cases occurred in rural communities, four of the cases involved husbands or wives killing themselves during argument over text messages and phone calls.
The Governor decried activities of some human rights activists for politicising the arrest and detention of a man held on circumstantial evidence over the death of his father and appealed to them to discontinue their planned protest march to free the suspect as this could hamper further investigation of the case.
He had also promised to hand over the files of all cases pending in courts and under investigation by the police to the AG to determine the veracity of the matter and called for prayers from residents of the state to avert such incidences in the future.