There was confusion in Ezinihitte Mbaise Council Area of Imo state when Mr. Louis Onwumere, an 80-year-old grand-father, poured petrol on his family house before allegedly striking a match and burning himself to death.
Daily Trust gathered that the grandpa, described by one villager as a “strange man” retired many years ago as a staff of the School of Arts and Science, Port Harcourt in Rivers State where he had worked with a Standard Six certificate as his highest qualification.
Although natives described the ugly incident as an abomination, first of its kind in the village, they could not pin-point anybody with whom he had any quarrel or fight to warrant such a bizarre action.
To prevent possible mass arrest of natives by the police and apparently wash their hands off the matter, some members of the Umualika village had gone to swear a court affidavit, insisting that the deceased who reportedly lived alone in the house had no trouble with anyone, hence they could not finger anybody as a suspect, according a source in the village, who added that they told the police “we are not suspecting anybody and we don’t want trouble.”
The source disclosed that they had submitted the affidavit to the police at Ezinihitte Police Division in Ezinihitte Mbaise Council Area of the state.
On Thursday when the incident happened, the octogenarian, whose wife still resides in Port Harcourt, had waited patiently for the rain to stop before allegedly executing his plot.
“It rained from morning till about past 11 am on that day. When the sun began to shine in the afternoon, say at about 1pm the inferno began and raged on till at about 6pm before the walls of the building began to fall down,” a resident said.
It was gathered that the entire 3-bedroom and a sitting-room bungalow – the rooftop, the walls and everything – were burning at the same time, suggesting that he might have spread petrol or kerosene on the house, our source said.
Our source said it was when the inferno died down, that the burnt corpse of the deceased was seen in one of the rooms “apparently suggesting that the old man must have been moving about naked in the room when the raging fire became unbearable to him.”
According to a villager, the real owner of the burnt house is his immediate younger brother.
The late grandfather was a father of two daughters, one of who lives with her family in London while the other daughter is married and lives with her family elsewhere.
“The man returned from Port Harcourt about 30 years ago. He was not living with his wife or any of the children. He bought enough fuel and poured it up and down of the house. As soon as the rain stopped, he used the opportunity to do the thing,” a villager said.
A leader in the village, who is also a member of the traditional rulership, Eze’s cabinet, Nze Nicholas Nwokoleme, said the villagers are not happy about the incident.
Nze Nwokoleme, who spoke on telephone with our reporter said: “We are not happy about the ugly incident. That’s all I can say now.”
A youth leader, Mr. Jude Ndukwe said: “it’s a very sad thing but I was not there when it happened. Some people called me and told me about it on phone. But before I could reach the place, the damage had already been done and the corpse of the deceased had been deposited in a mortuary. It’s sad but this type of incident has not happened in our place before.”
The state police spokesman, CSP Mike Abatam, neither answered calls nor replied a text message sent to him.