From sanctuary to mortuary

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Adelani Adepegba

If Happiness Akpan had had any premonition that the person she hoped would be her deliverer would turn out to be the harbinger of her death, she would not have been lying stone cold in the mortuary of the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Enugu now. The hand of the clock stopped for her on April 6, 2010 when she died after suffering what was believed to be third degree burns on her face and body.

Akpan was living in Lagos from where she came to Enugu to attend the traditional wedding ceremony (Igba nkwu) of her friend, Blessing Ani, when she met her death. She had heard much about the spiritual prowess of Pastor Uche Okoro of End Time Ministry located on the top floor of a four -storey building at 173 Zik Avenue, Uwani, Enugu.

Ani, it was learnt, had regaled her friend of the ability of the pastor to see vision and offer divine solutions to human problems. So when Ani invited Akpan to her wedding, she reportedly vowed to see the ‘man of God’ to solve her problems before she went back to Lagos.

A source who was conversant with the case said Ani asked her friend to postpone the planned visit to Okoro till after her wedding, but Akpan would hear none of this as she insisted on seeing the man at the ‘End Time Ministry,’ on April 5, 2010.

To pacify her friend, Ani agreed that they should see Okoro. On getting to the church, the pastor was said to have prayed for Akpan and given her some “messages” and an instruction that she needed to undergo ‘a deliverance programme’ which was scheduled for the next day.

The two friends visited Okoro on Tuesday as planned. Ani sat outside the deliverance room waiting for the end of the deliverance session when she saw the pastor rushing out of the room. Alarmed, she ran into the room to find her friend battling to put out fire which had caught her clothes. She quickly removed her own head gear and used it to extinguish the flame.

Akpan was said to have fallen under the ‘anointing of the prayer session’ and her clothes caught fire from the candles that were lit for the deliverance programme. Before the prayer began, she was said to have been asked to rub anointing oil all over her body which reportedly aided the fire that burnt her.

After the incident, Okoro allegedly took the girl back to Ani’s home at Abakpa, a surburb of Enugu , instead of taking her to the hospital for treatment.

“When we saw Happiness the evening when Pastor Okoro brought her, she was in a very bad condition. The fire had burnt her chest and her body. we kept her in the house, but on the third day, we had to rush her to the orthopedic hospital, but she died after a week. During this time, Pastor Okoro didn’t even bother to come and see the girl. We had to report the matter to the police when Happiness died and Okoro was arrested along with Blessing,” One of Ani’s siblings explained.

The Enugu State Police Public Relations Officer, Ebere Amarizu, confirmed the incident, but added that investigation was still ongoing to ascertain the roles played by Ani and Okoro in Akpan’s demise.

He said that both suspects who were being held at the State Criminal Investigation Department were helping detectives in their investigations, adding that they would be charged to court as soon as investigation is concluded.

Our correspondent who visited the premises of the End Time Ministry on Thursday found the place under lock and key. A lady who worked in an office on the first floor of the building said the church had been locked since the incident, adding that she had not seen “the man of God for some weeks since this problem started.”

Commenting on the incident, a consultant plastic and reconstruction surgeon and Chief Medical Doctor, Imperial Hospital, Enugu, Dr. Don Onyiah stated that Akpan must have been doused with a flammable chemical for her to have caught fire.

According to him, if a victim of fire is not treated within six hours, she could suffer serious damage to vital organs which could lead to sudden death. “once the skin is burnt, the body loses its major protection and the body’s haemo-dynamics and body fluid is distorted. The victim may look healthy, but may give up within hours,” he said.

When contacted, the Chief Medical Director, NOH, Dr. Chukwuemeka Eze, said he was not aware of Akpan’s demise in his hospital.


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