From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi, Sola Ojo, Kaduna And Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
More facts have emerged on the murder of two soldiers who were allegedly on their way to Nkwere, Orlu, Imo State to perform their traditional wedding rites. Two of their relatives were also killed.
Available facts revealed that Warrant Officer Audu Linus, from Southern Kaduna is the eldest of his father’s five children. But after he lost his father in 2000, he went to live with his uncle where he picked his surname Audu. But the roots of his bride, Ms. Gloria Matthew who is reported to come from Nkwere, Orlu, Imo State, is yet to be traced says the monarch of the place.
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Attempts by Saturday Sun reporter to locate the church where the couple’s wedding was supposed to have taken place somewhere in Makurdi, Benue State, on the same day they were killed proved futile, creating more confusion about the wedding invitation which suddenly appeared on the social media after their death. But all the same, their death has continued to attract attention and to generate condemnations from various quarters.
A BBC report said they were killed at a forest near Banana Junction, Orlu, by four armed youths who army authorities alleged to be members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and their security arm, Eastern Security Network (ESN). The two bodies have however denied responsibility. But the Nigerian Army authorities have vowed to bring the perpetrators to book, no matter who they are. In killing the army couple, the perpetrators also beheaded them. This made their death a gruesome one.
Among those who expressed their shock at the ungodly act was the President, Muhammadu Buhari. In a statement issued by Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, he described the killing as “barbaric”.
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Describing the incident as “unacceptable”, he directed security agencies to “do their utmost in apprehending the perpetrators of these barbaric acts and bring them to justice.” A public statement issued on the development by Onyema Nwachukwu, army spokesman, not only expressed its condolences to the family members of the deceased but also added that efforts are on to ensure that the attackers face justice.
But a wedding invitation card that emerged on the social media within the week purportedly inviting guests to a wedding ceremony at a church in Makurdi, Benue State, on the same day they were murdered and the denial by Nkwere monarch of the said nativity of Ms. Matthew have combined to deepen the mystery surrounding their gruesome death.
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We’ve yet to trace bride’s roots – Monarch
The traditional ruler of Nkwere, Eze Chijioke Okwara popularly known as Eshi of Nkwere told our correspondent that elders of the town had gone round to verify the claim by the report that the female officer was an indigene of the community. But he said in all their searches, none of the communities in Nkwere claimed to know who she is.
Okwara, the former Deputy Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, said: “We can tell you that the officer is not from here and that incident did not happen here. We have gone round to ask. There is nothing like that to prove that she is from Nkwere. She might have come from a neighbouring town to Nkwere but not Nkwere.”
At first, the invitation card bearing the names and pictures of the deceased army personnel and appearing on Facebook gave a glimmer of hope. But that hope dimmed when our respondent’s diligent search for the mentioned church turned out to be futile.
‘Church wedding venue’ on IV card untraceable
The said invitation card indicated that the deceased couple were to wed at the church, Spirit-Filled Christian Centre, while reception was scheduled to hold at 401 SF BDE Joint,Wos/SGTs Mess, Makurdi, Benue State. Also written on the card was the date of the wedding: April 30, 2022, which coincided with the date they were murdered in Imo State.
Our correspondent in Benue State combed the length and breadth of Makurdi metropolis for three days in an attempt to locate the said church but without success. After several telephone calls to the State Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Akpen Leva were not picked or returned, our correspondent got in touch with his media aide, Samuel Tya. He disclosed that his boss was very busy at the time. He, however, noted that the state Chairman of Pentecostal Fellowships of Nigeria (PFN), Bishop Mike Angou, would be in a better position to tell if the church really exists and where it is located in the state.
But when he picked up his call on Monday, Bishop Angou who said he could not tell if any church by that name exists in the state, however promised to make further inquiries and get back to our correspondent.
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“I only know about Spirit-Life Christian Assembly owned by Pastor Thomas Shikaan,” he said. “But I have never heard about Spirit Filled Christian Centre in Benue at all. However, I’ll send some of my men to check and see if there’s any church by that name and get back to you.”
On Wednesday morning, he called to disclose that the people he sent to check could not find any church by that name. Meanwhile, Hon. Emeka Anyaogu who had lived at the North Bank area of Makurdi for almost 50 years also confirmed the same fact.
The area houses the 72 Special Forces Battalion of the Nigerian Army as well as the Nigerian Army School of Military Engineering (NASME) and the annex of Nigerian Army College of Environmental Science and Technology (NACEST) formerly Nigerian Army Institute of Technology and Environmental Studies (NAITES).
Anyaogu had earlier promised to send out people to look for the church. Few hours later, he called back to say that the only church that has a semblance of that name was Spirit Life Christian Assembly located at the Ankpa Quarters Extension, close to the Modern Market in Makurdi. It was the same church earlier mentioned by the PFN Chairman.
Anyaogu said some Army personnel he spoke with told him that Gloria Matthew actually served in Makurdi some years ago before she was transferred to another place. He said the soldiers agreed that there is 401 SF BDE Joint, Wos/SGTs Mess, Makurdi, but could not say whether such wedding reception was scheduled to hold at the venue on the said date. “The soldier could not also confirm whether her would-be husband, Linus Musa Audu was staying in Makurdi before their gruesome murder.”
He noted that the Imo State Police Command has a lot of work to do to investigate and know the truth. While expressing his doubts about the alleged incident, he wondered why no relatives, friends or acquaintances of the deceased couple or even their church members had deemed it necessary to come out to debunk the allegations flying about.
“Where are their relatives?” he queried. “Where are their friends? Who are their neighbours or co-tenants? Who are those who got their invitation cards to attend the wedding? Can they please speak up to let the world know the truth about this matter?” he pleaded
Bridegroom’s younger brother laments loss
Well, one of them has indeed spoken out. Murphy James, younger brother to the Master Warrant Officer (MWO) Linus Musa Audu said that the gruesome murder of the deceased and his fiancée, Private Gloria Matthew and two others had plunged the family into deep mourning. He said they were still in shock after they were told through a telephone call that one of their family’s breadwinners was no more.
According to him, the family was aware of the love relationship between their son and Gloria because he had brought her to the family house at Angwan Waziri, behind Government Technical College, Kafanchan in Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State. But he claimed that he didn’t know much about their planned traditional marriage as widely reported in the media.
He disclosed further that his late brother was serving in Lagos before he was transferred to Makurdi, Benue State. “So, he was living and working in Makurdi from where he possibly travelled to Lagos and then to Imo State when this happened. It is unfortunate that the old woman, his mother, would be thrown into mourning her son after we lost our father some 18 years ago. A son that was so dear to her. Our mother has been there for us since we lost our father in 2004. We are trying to persuade and comfort her over this loss. It has not been easy, especially with the news of the gruesome murder of her son all over the place.
“You know, we lost four loved ones at once in that incident – Musa Audu, his younger brother, our uncle and the lady were involved. He is the first son in the family. I don’t know much and I cannot tell you much about whether they were going for marriage rites or not. What we know is that they were travelling to Imo”, he said.
The late Musa Audu was the oldest of five children – three boys and two girls, he revealed. Their father, Mr James, was a peasant farmer as at the time he died after a brief illness. Afterward Linus began to live with an uncle called Audu. That was how he picked up the name Audu. So, the Audu in Musa’s name was the name of our uncle he lived with as a child.
Speaking about how the family in the village learnt about his elder brother’s death, he said, “We kept trying their phone numbers without response. But at a point, someone else answered the phone and the person eventually told us that the owner of the phone and three others had been killed somewhere in Imo State and he subsequently sent the pictures of their bodies to us.
“Up till now, we have not seen their corpses physically. We are aware that the Army had gone to the scene of the incident and evacuated their bodies to a morgue in Imo State. But we have not seen anybody in the village to officially inform us or condole with the family. It was a very unfortunate development, I must say. But we are trusting God to help stabilise our mother,” he said.