A 45-year-old Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps female ooperative has been found dead days before her wedding in 2019.
The deceased, Josephine Cynthia Onche, was found buried in a shallow grave at Adum Obi Local Government Area of Benue State on May 27, 2021.
When Cynthia went missing, her brother, Doctor Onche, lodged a complaint against Cynthia’s fiancé, Christopher Akpan, suspecting him of being behind her disappearance.
Akpan and Cynthia had slated their wedding for December 20, 2019, when she went missing.
She left Benue State to Akwa Ibom State to visit Akpan for the final planning of the wedding, but never returned.
When Cynthia didn’t return, her family members started calling Akpan, but he didn’t pick, instead he allegedly changed his phone number and then disappeared.
A petition by the worried family members of the missing lady led to the Inspector-General of Police, Alkali Baba, drafting operatives of the Force Intelligence Response Team, led by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, to find out what happened to the woman.
During investigation, investigators discovered Cynthia’s last communication from her phone was in the house of a native doctor identified as Afolabi Rafiu Akin, residing in Adum, Obi Local Government Area of Benue State.
Further investigations showed that Akin hurriedly vacated his house and relocated to Oyo State.
IRT operatives later arrested Akpan, arraigned him and the court remanded him in prison custody.
However, throughout his arrest, interrogation and subsequent arraignment, Akpan persistently maintained that he didn’t know the whereabouts of Cynthia.
Akin, the native doctor, was later tracked to Ogun State and arrested.
He told the police that Akpan shot and killed Cynthia because he wanted to use her to make money.
He alleged that the blood of Cynthia, from the gunshot hole in her skull, was collected in a calabash, to be used later for a money ritual for Akpan.
Akpan had allegedly lured Cynthia to a bush, after telling her that prayers should be done so that she would not end up dying like his first wife.
Akin told police that Akpan had also used his late wife for money rituals.
Following Akin’s confession, Police got a court order and brought Akpan out of the Makurdi Correctional Center, where he was remanded.
The two men would later lead police to Edi-Anyoga Forest in Adum, where the decomposed body of Cynthia was retrieved from a shallow grave.
Akpan, 57, a father of five, who is into buying and selling of mortar and pestles, said his wife died some years ago.
Aside from being an NSCDC official, Cynthia was also a trader.
She has a workshop in Otukpo, Benue State, where she produced mortar and pestles in large quantities.
She used to take the items to Enugu State, where Akpan resided, to supply to him.
He said: “We became friends and she made sure I ate whenever I was around in Benue State.
“One thing led to another and we became lovers.”
Akpan started spending days with Cynthia whenever he came into town to buy goods.
He recalled Cynthia telling him that she was a divorcee.
He said: “She also told me about another man, whom she had wanted to marry.
“She said his family refused based on their age differences.
“She had a child for the man.
“I have seen him several times when he came to visit their child.
“She introduced me to her family in 2015 after we agreed we would marry.
“The marriage was delayed because I lost my mother.
“Cynthia was at the burial ceremony.”
In 2019, Akpan told Cynthia’s family of his intention to marry her.
They gave their consent.
The wedding was fixed for December 29.
Akpan said on December 15, 2019, Cynthia called, saying she wanted to come to Akwa Ibom State to see him.
On December 17, Cynthia landed in Akwa Ibom State and left on December 19.
Akpan narrated: “On the December 20, she called me that I should lend her money to pay a debt.
“I sent N50,000 to her Zenith Bank account.
“The next day, I called her, but her phone was switched off.
“I was not worried until her elder brother called me on December 23 to say Cynthia was missing.
“I panicked, but her brother said I should calm down.
“I wanted to go to their house, but her brother said I should hold on.
“After Christmas, another of her brothers, who is a professor, called, asking why I had not come to visit since I heard Cynthia was missing.
“I explained to him that I was asked to stay back.
“He then said that I should come.
“I was still making plans to come with my family when the Coronavirus lockdown started.”
Akpan said before his arrest, he had gone to the motor park, where Cynthia used to board a bus in Akwa Ibom State.
He saw her name on the manifest and also noticed that she signed him as her next of kin.
He said: “I was surprised when the police came and brought me out of the prison.
“The police brought a man, who introduced himself as Afolabi Rafiu Akin.
“ The man claimed that I was the person who contracted him to use Cynthia for a money ritual.”
Akpan said on May 27, police took him and Akin into a forest, where Akin alleged they had buried Cynthia.
He said: “Since I was born, I have never entered such a thick forest, even in Akwa Ibom.
“How can someone lie that I went that far to bury my fiancée, whom I loved so much.”
Akpan said the first time he met Akin was in 2017 when he visited Cynthia and then assisted her to drop off a bag of charcoal at Akin’s house.
He said: “That was the first and last time I ever saw him.
“Cynthia had never done anything to me.
“Why would I kill her?
“I had already printed our wedding card, gone for an introduction and even hired a bus that would take guests to the wedding venue.
“I loved her very much.
“My nickname for her was Nkem.
“Cynthia had never asked me to follow her to any native doctor.
“She didn’t need any native doctor to be successful.
“We dated for seven years and I can attest to it that she was a good woman.”
Asked why people couldn’t get him on the phone after Cynthia went missing, Akpan replied: “My phone was faulty.
“This Akin killed Cynthia and then decided to frame.
“I don’t even have his own phone number.
“Police should check my contact list.”
Akin, 67, married with three wives, said only one of his wives was still alive.
He said he was not just a native doctor, he was also a farmer.
He said: “I have the natural gift of using herbs to cure different kinds of ailments.
“I also used to organise special prayers and sacrifices for people in need.
“I started my work in 1981 and I can proudly tell you that I have assisted plenty of businessmen and women to become successful.
“In 2019, Cynthia came to my shrine in the company of a man.
“She told me that she sells mortar and pestles and needed my help to make the business flourish.
“I collected N14,000 for the job and asked her to come back in three days’ time.
“When she returned, she told me of her plans to get married.
“She asked me to prepare medicine for her so that she would get pregnant quickly.
“I took the medicine to her house; it was there that I met her fiancé.
“She stepped outside and her fiancé asked me about my job.
“He said that he wanted to do a money ritual, and I told him that I didn’t know how to do it.
“He said that he had used his wife for a money ritual, but that the ritual didn’t bring enough money.
“He had only been able to build a house, he said.
“He called me days later with Cynthia’s phone, asking if I had found someone.
“I told him that I had the phone number of a person.
“The man later came to my shrine, saying he wanted to use Cynthia for a money ritual.
“He promised to give me N5 million for my silence.
“The man lied to Cynthia that they needed to perform a sacrifice so that what happened to his late wife wouldn’t happen to her.
“He had a calabash with a python, pigeon and soup.
“I took him to the forest where he set the three on fire.
“He gathered the ashes and put it in the calabash and we left.
“We agreed to meet there around 10pm that same day.
“At about 10pm, he came there with Cynthia.
“I never knew he had a gun with him.
“He brought a cloth, spread it on the ground and asked her to kneel down for prayers.
“Before I could understand what was going on, he shot her on the head.
“He quickly grabbed the calabash and collected the blood gushing out from her head.
“Next, he attempted to set the body on fire, but I stopped him.
“I told him that the smoke could attract the villagers, but the gunshot would be viewed as that of a hunter.
“I ran home and got a hoe; we dug a shallow grave and buried her.
“He carried the calabash, Cynthia’s handbag and left.
“When I got home, I asked him to bring the N5 milion, which he had promised me, but he promised to do so in eight days’ time.
“He came to my house later that night and gave me only N50,000.”
Akin said he decided to move to another area of Otukpo because the ghost of Cynthia was troubling him.
On January 12, a cyclist saw and told him that everyone had been looking for Cynthia.
He added: “After I received a phone call one day, asking me Cynthia’s whereabouts, I quickly packed my property and fled to my village in Oyo State.
“I also changed my phone number.
“I was surprised when I received a call from someone in Benue, requesting for medicine.
“Next, I got another call warning me to destroy my SIM card.
“I threw my phone away and ran to Abeokuta.
“I knew that the person who called must have found out about the incident.
“I was in Sango-Ota at the house of a fellow native doctor when Operatives of IRT came to arrest me.”
The deceased’s elder brother, Dr. Onche, said that Akpan had come to ask for Cynthia’s hands in marriage, but the family didn’t accept him.
But after much pleading from Cynthia, the family reluctantly gave their blessings.
The wedding date was fixed.
He said: “In preparation for that marriage, Cynthia left on December 17 to Akwa Ibom to see Akpan.
“She told my mother’s sister that the man invited her over to see where he was preparing for her to live after the marriage.
“On December 21, 2019, at about 4pm, Akpan called us to say that he had been trying my sister’s number and it was not going.
“We were not apprehensive at first because it could be the network or her phone battery had gone flat.
“When we went to the police station in Otukpo, we were advised to come back the next day if she didn’t return that day.
“After three days, we went to a radio station and announced that Cynthia was missing.
“We called her friends, combed all the bushes, but we didn’t find her.
“A friend directed me to IRT and the policemen started an investigation.
“The policemen discovered that Cynthia left Akwa Ibom State on December 19 and went to another local government known as Adum.
“We met one guy known to us, who told us that he saw Cynthia passing through in October 2019.
“The guy said that he knew the cyclist that carried Cynthia on that date.
“She had told them that she was going to the forest to get logs of wood for her mortar business.
“When we met with the cyclist, he confirmed it and took us to Akin’s house, who was a native doctor.
“This was on January 4.
“We were told that Akin had relocated.
“We called his phone line and pretended to be sick customers in need of his herbs.
“He told us that he was in Shaki, Oyo State.
“Efforts to get him at Oyo failed as he had relocated, but we were able to get information from a source in Adum, who told us that Cynthia came for spiritual cleansing.
“I reported the matter to the police and they promised to track him down.
“Luckily, on May 10, they arrested him in Ogun State.
“It was at the IRT office that he accepted he killed Cynthia.
“He alleged that he did it with Akpan and buried her in the forest.
“We secured her corpse and buried her.
“Akpan had notified my family Cynthia was missing on December 21, so we asked him to come over.
“He never came.
“According to him, it was my elder brother who asked him not to come.
“Rather than come to the family to help look for Cynthia, he decided to hide and ask questions from afar.
“Luckily, IRT arrested him.
“I warned Cynthia about this marriage, but she had insisted.
“We became suspicious after he ran away.
“Why did Akin mention his name as an accomplice?
“It is left for the police to investigate.”