Ochanja market: Populaly Known As Onitsha Bakassi killing spot

Emmanuel Uzor's photo.
 From EMMANUEL UZOR, Onitsha
Whenever Ochanja is mentioned, what comes to mind especially to those who witnessed the reign of terror, armed robbery, assassination and other criminal activities in Onitsha is always, the killing spot where notorious criminals were publicly executed by the defunct dreaded Bakassi boys.
Ironically, just as Christians travel miles away to Israel on pilgrimage to visit Golgotha, the sport where our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified over 2014 years ago, Ochanja Round About in Ochanja Main market, one of the major markets in the commercial city of Onitsha had played host to many execution of perceived criminals.
This particular spot during the reign of Bakassi boys, employed by the former Governor of Anambra state, Dr. Chinweoke Mbadinuju had so much blood spilled on it. It was the major place for public execution of suspected armed robbers and notable men suspected to have hand in crime.
Among the notorious suspected kingpins that Ochanja Round About witnessed their brutal end included the notorious suspected armed robbery and assassin kingpin, Prophet Edwin Okeke (a.k.a Eddy na Nwagu), a notorious suspected armed robbery kingpin who held Onitsha and its environs hostage, Okwudili Ndiwe (a.k.a Derico) among others.
During the reign of the dreaded Bakassi boys in the commercial city of Onitsha, so many young men and women suspected to be armed robbers and other criminals were publicly executed in various parts of the commercial city with Ochanja entertaining the major execution.
Many believed that maybe due to the fact that it is seen as central in the commercial city and because of its space which distinguishes it from other markets in Onitsha, the choice of Ochanja as execution spot was apt.
Oriental News gathered that shortly after the election of a civilian government in May 1999, Anambra and Nigerian citizens in general saw themselves confronted with one of the most serious spirals of violence in decades, in the shape of increasing crime rate and inter-communal clashes.
Then, the only major crime confronting Anambra state and staring the young administration of Governor Mbadinuju in the face were armed robbery and high class assassination across the state with Onitsha taking the highest slots in the two hydra headed monsters.
At a time in the security evolution of Anambra state, it appeared that the people lost confidence in the ability of the Nigeria police and other security agencies including the military to arrest the issue of rising spate of violent crime and insecurity in the state.
Bewildered Governor Mbadinuju, a man in search of possible end to armed robbery and assassination in his state had to make a very strong decision and dammed the consequences. But before then, many notable personalities in the state had fallen to the bullets of the dreaded assassins across the state.
The likes of the late traditional ruler of Nwafia, Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo and many others had fallen so sadly to the bullets of the killers. The chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Onitsha Branch, Mr. Barnabas Igwe and his pregnant wife, Amaka had also gone.
Then, the major challenges facing Governor Mbadinuju and his new administration was to bring a lasting solution to these killings and there was only but one solution as at that time which was to borrow a leaf from his fellow governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, then governor of Abia state.
Mbadinuju saw an antidote to the increasing menace of armed robbery and assassination in former Governor Kalu’s approach and decided to go for it against all odds. When he finally settled within the executive council and sought the legal backing from the then Anambra State House of Assembly, the dire was cast.
When the Anambra State House of Assembly finally gave its nod to the proposed approach to invite the defunct members of the dreaded Bakassi boys from Aba in Abia state, a group of local vigilance group, endowed with rich metaphysical power to dictate armed robbers and evil doers, the entire state went agog in jubilation.
Before then, residents of major commercial cities like Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi were sleeping with one eye open, for those who slept at all. Others especially notable wealthy men whimper at night whenever they began to hear the sound of gun from these men of the underworld. Many of them fled the state completely in search of peace and security.
While majority of the residents of the commercial city of Onitsha went amok in celebration of the arrival of Bakassi boys, some elite in the society felt their presence and approach of the state government was ill conceived.
However, against all odds, the Bakassi boys began their “Operation Kill and Burn”. In the ensuing operations across the state, many suspected notorious armed robbers were caught in the web and publicly executed by using their sharp cutlass to chop off their suspects’ heads, rip off their hands and legs before setting them ablaze to the admiration of thousands of Onitsha traders and residents.
The operation of the Bakassi boys brought sanity to the commercial city and the entire state in general as some of the so called bad boys on seeing the execution of their fellow “guy men” left the commercial city of Onitsha and relocated to their various communities to take refuge. Some of them went home to lie low, pending the time the operation will end for them to go back to business.
Apparently satisfied that they had appreciably finished killing the suspected armed robbers in the major cities, the same Bakassi boys moved down to towns and villages across the state in search of those suspects that relocated to their communities. Then, any suspect they arrested, tested and found guilty was executed at their community market square.
Reason according to the leader of the Bakassi boys popularly known as Ngwuro (the crippled) was to show example to others who may be nursing ambition of indulging in armed robbery and other criminal activities.
The arrest of Prophet Edwin Okeke (Edyy Nawgu and Derico)
Oriental News investigations revealed that while the operation lasted, there were some highly placed suspected armed robbery kingpins that posed great challenge to Ngwuro and his team of boys. These allegedly included a notable Prophet, the owner of defunct Anioma Healing Centre, Nwagu in Dunukofia council area of the state, Prophet Edwin Okeke, popularly known as Eddy Nawgu who was allegedly arrested by the Bakassi boys after several unsuccessful onslaughts and killed.
The news had it that the Bakassi boys had allegedly laid siege in Anioma Healing Centre, the church of Eddy Nawgu who was also known as Arusi na-eje Uka, (deity that is also a Christian) but could not arrest him because of alleged mystical power to disappear and reappear.
However, finally, the members of the dreaded Bakassi Boys allegedly after incantations by Ngwuro their leader pinned Eddy Nawgu down, thereby rendering him inactive to disappear when they went for him and finally arrested him. Despite the public outcry and incursions from high placed individuals in the country including the federal government, Eddy Nawgu was allegedly executed publicly at the same Ochanja Round About in Onitsha.
On Okwudili Ndiwe, a native of Onitsha, who was known as Derico Nwamama in the underworld, his arrest triggered off mixed reactions in the entire community; shortly after the news of his arrest and death was disclosed, some angry youths mobilized and went to their house at Ugwunabankpa in Enu-Onitsha and raised the building down in protest and jubiliation.
The operation that led to the arrest of Derico by the Bakassi boys was swift and thorough, conveying the urgency admired by Onitsha residents in such matters when the security men allegedly got information about the hideout of the notorious and most wanted criminal, Okwudili Ndiwe.
The 22-year-old Onitsha indigene had been the scourge of Anambra residents. Surprisingly, despite the presence of the Bakassi Boys, a group regarded with awe for its acclaimed mythical capabilities to fish out criminals with dispatch, Derico remained as elusive as the wind. As the search for him intensified, the Bakassi Boys learnt that Derico was holed in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, almost a whole day's journey from Anambra State, and miles away from the Boys' statutory area of operation. He was finally arrested at the Headbridge, on his way back and later executed on12th July, 2001 at the same Ochanja Round About.
The role of commercial motorcyclists in execution of suspects
Like a scene in Nigeria Movies, whenever the dreaded Bakassi boys drove around the commercial city of Onitsha on patrol or in search of suspects, Oriental News reported that commercial motorcyclists, popularly called okada filed up to follow them, ready to donate petrol from their motorcycle tanks for execution of the suspects.
It was a fun, at a time; to get okada to anywhere in the city became very hard because the okada men were busy following Bakassi people about the town, donating fuel for burning of the suspects. The vulcanizers were not left out as they were ever ready to donate old and used vehicle tyres to the Bakassi boys for roasting of the suspects any time any day.
The Ochanja debacle still remains fresh in the minds of many traders in the commercial city who felt the bitter pills of armed robbers in the city as well those who fell victim of high powered assassination syndicate that held the state hostage for several years.
Though, controversies that trailed the operations and activities of the defunct Bakassi boys which later led to their disbandment and arrest by the federal troop was rather seen as too late, many residents of the commercial city of Onitsha that witnessed the deadly era are still commending the former Governor Chinweoke Mbadinuju for his efforts.
They held that the menace of armed robbery and assassination was their bane, adding that Onitsha would have taken over major industrial and commercial hub in the West Africa sub region and some Asia countries like China, Japan and Malaysia if not for the set back. Ends


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