A final year student of the Imo State University (IMSU), Miss Kelechi Assumpta Ibeh, marked her 23rd birthday in a big way last Thursday. It was her last.
The Banking and Finance student was shot dead by suspected secret cult members, who allegedly stormed her hostel where she held a party to mark the day.
The incident happened on Douglas Road in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
It was gathered that Kelechi was shot at close range as she was about cutting her birthday cake. The motive for the killing has been a subject of controversy. Some speculated that she was targeted allegedly because of her boyfriend’s involvement in a deadly fight between two cult groups in the school.
Some eyewitnesses said the assailants were armed robbers. The late Kelechi was said to have been shot after she refused to submit her mobile phone to the assailants.
The Department of Banking and Finance was thrown into mourning when the news of her death broke. Her colleagues were shocked because the late Kelechi was said to have posted pictures of her birthday party on the social media moments before she was killed.
It was gathered that there was a fight between members of two cult groups on Douglas Road on Wednesday evening. It was learnt that members of a rival group returned to the area in search of their opponents, unleashing terror on residents and passersby.
Traders hurriedly closed their shops when the armed hoodlums moved to Nwaorie Lane, off Douglas Road, robbing residents at gunpoint. The hoodlums invaded Edede Street, besides Eastern Basic Nursery and Primary School, also on Douglas Road.
An eyewitness said the assailants pointed a gun at Kelechi, ordering her to submit all her valuables. But, the deceased was said to have refused to drop her phone.
The eyewitness said many of the party guests were injured as they ran for safety. The witness said the hoodlums used coded language, suggesting that they were cult members.
The late Kelechi’s family members were still in shock when CAMPUSLIFE visited them. Her elder brother, Stanley, who graduated from the Faculty of Humanities, said the family had reported the matter to the police. The family, he said, wanted the perpetrators brought to book.
Stanley cautioned people against speculations about his sister’s death, urging them to wait for the police investigation. He said the funeral of the deceased had not been fixed, because “we are still in shock”.
Stanley said: “I am not supposed to be speaking to you (reporters) because we have not got over the shock of the death of my sister. We want people to stop speculating that she was having an affair with a cult member, which is why she was targeted. This is all lies.
The fact is that the true story around my sister’s death would be revealed and those who killed her will be brought to justice. She was supposed to graduate this year and some people who have no conscience picked guns, pulled the trigger and killed her on her 23rd birthday. It is painful.”
Some of her colleagues recalled how she encouraged them to read during the recently- concluded first-semester examination.
“The late Kelechi was the one telling some of us to study hard for our first-semester examination because she didn’t want anyone to be delayed in school due to carryover. She read all through the night in preparation for the examination. She didn’t come to school for some days because she had been running around for her final year project,” her colleague, who gave her name as Chinyere, told CAMPUSLIFE.
President of the IMSU chapter of the National Association of Banking and Finance Students Victor Adiele said: “The news of the death of Kelechi hit us like a stray bullet. It is really a sad period for all graduating Banking and Finance students, our department and the university community at large. In tears and agony, we mourn the death of our colleague murdered by unknown gunmen.”
Victor said the late Kelechi could not have been the target of the assailants, noting that she was not known to be a troublemaker.
He said: “She was friendly and played with everyone. She was never known to be a troublemaker. We are still surprised why she became a victim of this gruesome murder.”
Stanley Nwakurume, her colleague, said he could have been at the birthday party but for his busy schedule on a fateful day. He described the late Kelechi as a “gentle soul”, saying her death should be atoned by bringing the assailants to justice.
The class representative, Obizuo Chibuzo Shedrack, said her colleagues had been in pain since the incident.
He said: “To every one of us, it came as a mystery for her to die on her birthday. The most painful part is that she died when she was about to graduate after four years in the university. It is a great loss to us.”