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Anambra Govt declares masquerade wanted for punching 71-year-old man to death

Anambra State Government has declared one Ifechukwu Nweke, wanted for killing a 71-year-old man, Mr Shedrack Okoye, while masquerading at Umuawulu community in Awka South Local Government Area.

It was gathered that the 19-year-old suspect, from Unuenu quarters, Umuawulu, punched Okoye of Okpala-Nduka kindred of Enugu quarters, also in Umuawulu, to death after refusing to give him money.

This incident happened on December 26, 2023, while the deceased was accompanying a friend who visited him.

Reacting to the incident in his office at the Jerome Udorji Secretariat, Awka, on Tuesday, February 20, 2024. the State Commissioner for Culture, Entertainment and Tourism, comrade Don Onyenji stated that the act is against the state’s law on masquerading enacted in 2022 which specified that communities using masquerades as a form of entertainment, during festivals or festivities should have an arena where people seeking such fun should go and enjoy themselves.

According to Onyenji, the state’s law stipulates that on no account should a masquerade or masquerades obstruct people’s movement, block a community’s road or cause any problem in a community he said that masquerading as a culture is all about fun and entertainment.

He said that it is against the law for the particular masquerade to stop people going on their way and talk less of killing someone. 

The Commissioner also made it clear that it is a murder case which must be tackled with every seriousness it deserves, noting that the culprit must face the law no matter how long it takes.

While sympathizing with the deceased’s family, Onyenji urged them not to take laws into their own hands but cooperate with the community through the traditional ruler whom he said has been making plans to give the dead a befitting burial.

Meanwhile, the family of the deceased is demanding justice, alleging that the Umuawulu community is not doing anything serious to get the culprit to face the law.

Speaking to the punch, the deceased’s first son, Chidubem lamented that the corpse of the deceased had been dumped in the mortuary since his murder following hindrances the family encountered in the search for justice and the burial of their father.

“My father, Chief Okoye, left his house alive to accompany his friend and resident of the community who visited to fete with him in the spirit of the Christmas season on that fateful day, only to be brought back as a corpse moments later,” he said.

“My father and his friend met about four masquerades on the road as they were going, one of whom refused to allow him to pass, even after the other three masquerades had moved on,”

“The unyielding masquerade requested money from my father and insisted that he must give him money before he would pass.

“My father told him that he didn’t have any money on him, and explained to him that he just came out empty-handed to see off his friend. But the masquerade insisted, calling him a cunning person, and vowing that he would never allow him to pass if he didn’t give him money. 

“The masquerade said my dad’s friend was free to pass, even if he didn’t give him money. They initially thought it was a joke until they noticed that the masquerade was mean.

“So, my father’s friend dipped his hand into his pocket, brought out N500, and gave it to the masquerade, to save the situation and bail out my father whom the masquerade was even pushing and threatening with a cane as he was talking.”

He explained that the masquerade, after collecting the money from his father’s friend, still insisted that the deceased must give him his own money, hence, pushing him and threatening to deal with him. 

“As the masquerade was threatening my father to give him money, he uncovered his face, probably for him and the people around to see that he was not smiling; and he then gave him (Okoye) a close-range heavy punch on the chest, pushed him one more time, left him there and went away,” 

“When he punched him, my father bent down and started gasping for breath, complaining of his chest, before the masquerade now pushed him down, left him there, and went away, still raining abuse on my father for having wasted his time.

“When the masquerade was leaving, the people around and my father’s friend called him, but he ignored them, telling them to abandon my father there, that he was just pretending and faking everything he was doing then, and would still stand up after a short while,”

“As this was happening, my father started stifling, and when people noticed that he was no longer himself before they could get a tricycle to rush him to the hospital, he gave up the ghost there and then. He died in pain.” 

He revealed that his late father, a petty trader, whose wife died in 2003, had a serious heart problem before he met his death at the hands of the masquerade.

Chidubem said the people around the scene of the incident identified the masquerade as “Ifechukwu”, a 19-year-old  indigene of the community. He added that the culprit had fled the community since the incident.

According to him, while the matter has been reported to the Central Police Station in Awka and the traditional ruler of Umuawulu, nothing much has been done as the police said they would also not do anything on the matter until the suspect is arrested.

Speaking Earlier, the Traditional Ruler of Umuawulu, Igwe Joel Egwuonwu explained that he was shocked when he learnt of the incident and subsequently, banned masquerading in Umuawulu indefinitely.

Igwe Egwuonwu said that he also constituted a committee that would broker peace between the two families and plan a befitting burial for the deceased.

The monarch said that so far, they have been able to reach a compromise on the amount of money that would be paid by the culprit’s family.

He said both the bereaved and the culprit are not financially buoyant to foot the bill, adding that some concerned indigenes of the community are trying to complete the amount approved by the committee for the burial ceremony.

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