By Evelyn Usman
Commercial activities were, Monday, disrupted for the better part of the day along Oba Kayode Way, in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, following sporadic gunshots from three heavily-armed men operating on a motorcycle. The gunshots sent fear-stricken motorists and passers-by scampering for safety.
By the time the dust settled, some vehicles were reportedly discovered to have sunk into the numerous potholes covered by flood, with the drivers abandoning them at the mercy of the gunmen.In their desperate bid to leave the scene, motorists increased their speed limit while companies, including transport operators around the axis, hurriedly shut their entrance gates, depriving those who attempted to take cover in their premises, from entering.
Death at noon
Shockingly, the driver of one of the vehicles was seen lying helplessly inside his bus in a pool of his blood. He was the victim of volleys of bullets released by the gunmen. By the time curious on-lookers checked, the man was found stone dead while reclining on his seat with head facing downwards.
On closer observation, he was discovered to be wearing a lemon-coloured reflective jacket of the Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Ministries, whose headquarters is located in Ijesha, not too far away from the scene of the tragedy. The bus he drove was also discovered to be owned by the church.
Visit to bank
The victim was later identified as Pastor Chukwuemeka Augustine Okpokpo, the Lagos State Coordinator of the church. Information at Crime Guard’s disposal has it that he left the church that fateful day, informing some of his members that were with him that he was going to the bank to withdraw some money. But shortly after he left the bank his assailants came calling.
Eyewitnesses told Crime Guard that it was obvious that Okpokpo was the target of the gunmen. This is because they focused their attention on him while shooting. They were said to have apparently trailed him right from the bank before releasing some shots.
An eyewitness who simply gave his name as Ndubuisi said: “I had gone to the bank to deposit some money and was on my way back to Okota when the bandits started shooting. I hurriedly parked my vehicle on reaching the bad spot and ran into the bush by the median, where I laid flat, praying to God to spare my life.
“From there, I saw a Lord’s Chosen bus slow down on reaching the bad spot and immediately the robbers got to the bus, they shot at the tyres. A man on the steering was about to come out and escape, only for one of the robbers to move close to him and shot him at close range.
Thereafter, he (the gunman) opened the door and brought out a nylon containing some money. He came back to where his victim was, looked at him for some seconds and nodded his head before joining his two other colleagues on the motorbike. They made a U-turn and disappeared the same way the came.”
Controversy trails killing
However, controversy has begun to trail the death of late Okpokpo, as many are of the view that the gunmen were assassins. Those close to him, however, did not rule out the fact that his killers could be close associates from the same vineyard whom they alleged may be envious of him.
Pastor Okpokpo, as gathered, reportedly incurred the envy of some of his church members, owing to his uprightness in executing projects entrusted to him. His killing, as gathered, might not be unconnected with his position as the Ministry’s Lagos State Coordinator and one of the right-hand men of the General Overseer of the church, Pastor Lazarus Mouka.
A member of the church in the ministerial cycle who did not want his name in print told Crime Guard that there was more to Okpokpo’s death than mere armed robbery operation, hinting that the deceased attained the position of the church’s state coordinator, owing to his stand against corruption and unnecessary inflation of projects.
According to him: “Pastor Chukwuemeka,” as they all called him, “was one of the trusted hands in the church. In fact, he wormed his way into the G.O.’s heart through honesty, hard work, dedication and commitment to the well being of the church. The first time he was given a building project of N1.2 billion to execute, he rendered account accurately and even brought the balance of money, an act that had never been done by those who handled such projects in the past.
Others would not render account and would, rather, demand for more money. Since then, our G.O. entrusted key projects to him. This created an open rivalry as most people saw him as a stumbling block to their financial uplift. He usually queried inflated projects which put those involved in a bad light.”
Another area which generated controversy was the fact that the bus with plate number EPE 101 BE that was driven by him, reportedly had no stain on it. Relatives of the deceased who saw the bus told Crime Guard that there was no sign that someone who was shot in the stomach was brought out of the bus.
Crime Guard gathered that Pastor Okpokpo could have had premonition of the tragedy that befell him, as he reportedly complained of tiredness and boredom before leaving his 41 Adisa Cooker abode in Iju area of the state, where he lived in a one room sublet of a three-bedroom flat.
The deceased, as gathered, only returned from a crusade from one of the South-Western states last Saturday, and was actively involved in the preparation of a forthcoming crusade billed for July 4 and 5, 2015 at the church’s headquarters in Ijesha, Lagos, with the theme ‘It is God’s time’.
He was said to have coordinated the posting of bills and tying of banners for the crusade in every nook and cranny of Iju as well as other areas and complained of exhaustion. But little did he understand the message being passed through his instincts. With a declaration of faith, he stepped out of his house and drove the missionary bus assigned to him, without the slightest inclination that he would never live to witness the success of the crusade he had put so much energy.
Journey to Europe
Crime Guard gathered that before branching into ministry, the late Okpokpo who was from a humble background, had like others, travelled to Europe in search of greener pastures. He reportedly lived in Greece and Italy for several years, before returning to Nigeria in 2003, to attend one of his cousin’s wedding but could not return to Europe since then. It was in the process that he was introduced to the church by his eldest sister who passed on six months ago.
Pastor Chukwuemeka is not dead
Efforts to speak with the church’s spokesperson, Mr Chidi Louis, failed as he was said to be in the church when this reporter visited, Thursday. He affirmed that in a text sent to his mobile line with a reply saying: “In the service, please.” Attempt to get the reactions of some members of the church was greeted by expression of surprise on their faces as they claimed that their Pastor was alive.
In fact, one of them, a woman with the lemon-coloured reflective jacket gazed at this reporter, saying: “Who told you he is dead? That is how you journalists will be talking anyhow. Pastor Chukwuemeka is not dead. He has performed miracles that were beyond human comprehension through the power of God and such a person cannot go down the grave like that. God’s power is still at work and will do the miraculous in his life.”
It was gathered that after he was shot dead, the body of Pastor Okpokpo was taken to the church clinic where it was discovered that he was shot in the stomach and the bullet pierced out from the back. Undaunted by the bodily damage, as they put it, members of the church prayer warriors reportedly went into warfare prayer from 12.30pm to 8pm, believing firmly that he would resurrect.
Although the body has been taken to the home town of the deceased in Amizi, Ikwuano Local Government Area, Umuahia, Abia State, where it was deposited in a morgue, church members are still hopeful that he would resurrect from the morgue. When his twin sister, Evangelist Augustina Chibueze was contacted, she asserted authoritatively that her twin brother was not dead. According to her: “He cannot die because it is not yet time for him to die.
Our Pastor (Pastor Mouka) has said that nobody is permitted to die a day before God’s pre-destined time. The God of Chosen whom I serve will resurrect Chukwuemeka. That grave that rejected Jesus will also reject Chukwuemeka. He is not dead. We are still praying. No matter how long he stays in the morgue, he will resurrect and come to testify because God of Chosen will bring him back to life,” she stated with all sense of conviction.
Mouka rains curses on killers
On his part, Pastor Mouka was said to be too devastated to speak when he met with some family members of the deceased in the church . Trying hard not to betray his emotion, Mouka was quoted as saying that he was overwhelmed by the tragedy because the deceased was close to him.
Crime Guard gathered that he later held a meeting with all Pastors where news of the death of Pastor Okpokpo was officially announced. A visibly angry Mouka was said to have placed curses on whoever had a hand in the death of Okpokpo. He was quoted as saying: “Anyone who has a hand in Pastor Chukwuemeka’s death will never see good.”
The Police on their part said, investigation had begun. Spokesman for the Lagos State Police Command, Kenneth Nwosu said: “We have begun investigation to unravel the killers and bring them to book.”