Two remaining suspects in Ozubulu Massacre trial acquitted in Awka for lack of evidence

TWO of the remaining suspects charged with complicity in the August 2017 Ozubulu Massacre that saw 13 people being gunned down while worshiping in a church in Anambra State have been acquitted by an Awka high court.


On August 6, 2017, Unknown gunmen invaded St Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, killing no fewer than 13 persons. Arrests were made and trial commenced but in December 2018 Justice Fidelis Aniukwu, who is hearing the case, discharged two out of the four persons arraigned before him in November 2017 following the attack.


Yesterday, he discharged and acquitted the two remaining suspects standing trial for alleged involvement in the killing for lack of evidence.  In a ruling that lasted for over three hours, Justice Aniukwu ruled that the prosecution counsel was unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt the allegations levelled against the defendants Chinedu Akpunonu and Onyebuchi Mbanefo.


Justice Aniukwu argued that the prosecution witnesses could not provide any evidence linking the defendants with the murder as alleged. Defence counsel, Festus Keyamo, described the ruling as landmark in view of the accelerated hearing granted by the presiding judge.


Mr Keyamo said: “It’s the prosecution’s right to appeal the judgement but from what I witnessed in the court today, it will be very difficult for the appeal court to upturn the judgement."


One of the defendants, Mr Akpunonu, was full of gratitude to God for vindicating him from what he described as attempt by some persons to smear his reputation. He, however, said he had forgiven his accusers, urging them to join hands to ensure peace reined in the community.


Mr Akpunonu added: “From the beginning, I told my people that I was not involved in the killing but the Lord gave me victory as proof that I’m very innocent. I didn’t know I was very important to my people until I saw excitement in the faces of crowd that came to court.


"I’ve already forgiven all that put hands to put me in prison. I thank those that stood by me throughout my travail and I also thank my lawyer and the judge for delivering a fair and sound judgement.”