Families and friends of the two remanded pharmacists, Osita Orji, 32, and Chukwunonso Maduokor, 25, involved in the murder saga of Cynthia Osokogu last July 22, are mounting pressure on the police to drop the charges filed against them. The pharmacists were arraigned along with Okwuma Nwabufo and Ezeike Olisaemeka, both of whom had confessed to killing Osokogu, on an eight-count charge of conspiracy, murder, armed robbery, rape, "unlawful administration of obnoxious substance" and "forceful administration of obnoxious substance" with a view to causing bodily harm.
After the eight-count charge was read to them, without taking their plea, they were remanded in Ikoyi prisons. Osokogu was allegedly raped, tortured and then killed by the duo of Nwabufo and Olisaemeka at Cosmilla Hotel at Amuwo Odofin in Lagos.
According to the pharmacists' allies, the only crime the suspects had committed was in selling Rohypnol, the drug used for the late Osokogu, to Nwabufo and Olisaemeka and the police detective who went undercover.
Rohypnol is a controlled drug also known in street parlance as a date rape drug but can also be used to manage anxiety disorders, insomnia and restlessness, and also prescribed to patients with high blood pressure.
However, despite being a controlled drug, the pharmacists had allegedly sold it to the two suspected killers. They also had sold to an undercover police detective, who wanted to test if the control status of the drug was being obeyed by the pharmacists. The pharmacists who worked at Oxpharm Pharmacy, one of the largest goods and drugs stores in FESTAC Town, were arraigned alongside the two main suspects.
When THISDAY paid a visit to Oxpharm Pharmacy yesterday, the pharmacists' colleagues were reluctant to speak. THISDAY further sought to know the kind of persons the suspects were before their arrest.
According to one of their colleagues who spoke on condition of anonymity, the two accused persons are known for their hard work and conscientiousness.
She said: "They were both hard workers who minded their business. Before their arrest, they had never had any criminal record in this pharmacy.
We were just as surprised to see them both arrested and branded murderers."
Already, there is a growing campaign for the release of the duo. In a statement by some of Maduokor's friends and colleagues, they demanded that the murder charge against them be dropped. The friends include: Amatesiro Dore (a writer), Funmi Oshinowo (pharmacist), Elijah Briggs (lawyer), Oluwaseyi Adeoshun (computer scientist), Onatufe Edebi (medical doctor), Aladokiye Gabriel Whyte (lawyer), Chinedu Blaise Okoroafor, (lawyer), Stephen Menkiti (engineer) and Imoh Edem (political analyst).
Others are: Adeola Adefisoye (pharmacist), Obaze Osaze (pharmacist), Iretunde Oshinowo (urban planner), Jennifer Ifebigh (pharmacist), Henry Iloanugo (pharmacist), Obiajulu Obi (pharmacist), Ifeanyi Nwaizu (microbiologist) and Ovie Olakpe (lawyer).
Their spokesperson, Elijah Briggs, who was Maduakor's roommate at the university, and Oshinowo, another friend of his, vouched for his character and disposition.
They said: "We, the friends of Chukwunonso Maduakor are saying: Nonso is our friend and we are not friends of a murderer. His name is associated with the above names and other responsible names attached to this document and do not belong to the Ikoyi Prisons' roster.
"Brandishing him with crimes he didn't commit is the same as brandishing his friends, colleagues and family. This unfair and unjust imprisonment of Nonso is a crime against humanity. Today an innocent man is in jail and you might be the next."
According to them, since the suspect was never implicated by any of the alleged killers and had never met them before his arrest, then the charges against them should not be for murder.
They, however, admitted that he sold the controlled drug to the detective in disguise but not to the suspected killers of Osokogu. They said since the alleged killers had been apprehended, Maduakor should not take the punishment for another man's crime.
Their statement reads: "If you visit the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Higher Ground Parish in Oluti, near Agboju, Lagos, and ask for the pastor of the Youth Fellowship, you won't find him. His name is Nonso Maduakor and he has been in detention since the 20th of August, 2012.
"Nonso had finished from King's College, Lagos, in 2003 and his WAEC certificate was grade B in all subjects except Igbo in which he scored an E. At the Igbinedion University, he was the best graduating student in his class and president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigerian Students, Okada Chapter. Nonso is an outspoken Chelsea fan and that's the only offence some of his friends have against him, minus his dull coloured clothes.
"He was a leader at Christian Fellowship International, a campus arm of Church of God Mission Inc
"In May 2012, Nonso began his internship with Oxpharm, one of the largest chains of goods and drugs stores in FESTAC Town. Mrs. Maduakor watched her son leave for work from their Satellite Town residence and knew that he would be a licensed pharmacist after a year.
"Until then and according to the rules of the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria, he would train under a superintendent pharmacist. On the 20th of August 2012, Nonso did not return home after his morning shift."
They said they decided to campaign for Nonso's release because he was never implicated by any of the alleged killers. Citing the statement issued by the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), they said the sale of drugs without prescription is not a criminal offence but a professional breach of ethics.
"The law provides that such matters are dealt with by the Pharmacist Council of Nigeria, a regulatory agency of the Federal Government established by Cap. P.17 LFN 2004," they said.
The PSN also lent its weight to the campaign for the release of the two pharmacists. While calling on the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Lagos, to ensure that its members who are in police custody in connection with the murder are not unjustly punished, the PSN President, Azubike Okwor, said they should not have been charged to court in the first place.
He said the power to penalise members found guilty of selling controlled drug without proper prescription lies with the PCN and not the courts.