2 February 2013

Nigeria: Appeal Court Upholds Death Sentence On Reverend King

A Court of Appeal in Lagos Friday affirmed the death sentence slammed on the General-Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly, Chukwuemeka Ezeugo (aka Rev. King), by Justice Joseph Olubunmi Oyewole of an Ikeja High Court, Lagos on January 11, 2007.

The court in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Fatima Akinbami dismissed Ezeugo's appeal, on the ground that the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt against him at the trial court.

Rev King had through his counsel, Olalekan Ojo, appealed the judgment of Justice Oyewole who convicted and sentenced him to death by hanging for the alleged murder of a church member, Ann Uzoh, and attempted murder of five other devotees.

The appellate court dismissed Rev King's contention that the lower court's judgment was full of "contradictions and inconsistencies".

"This appeal fails and is hereby resolved against the appellant. This appeal is devoid of merit and it is hereby dismissed.

"The conviction and sentence passed on the appellant on January 7, 2011 by Justice Joseph Oyewole of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja Division is hereby affirmed.", She held.

Rev King was arraigned on September 26, 2006 on six counts of attempted murder and murder on allegations of pouring petrol on the deceased and on five other persons and thereafter setting them ablaze.

One of the victims, Uzoh, died on August 2, 2006, 11 days after the incident, as a result of the injuries said to have been sustained from the burnt.

Ojo, had among his 32 grounds of appeal, argued that the judgment of the trial court occasioned miscarriage of justice for relying on unresolved contradictions and inconsistencies in the prosecution's evidence.

He argued that there were contradictions in the testimonies of some of the prosecution witnesses with some saying that the cleric ordered for matches to set the victims ablaze and others saying he only ordered for matches after a lighter failed.

In her judgment, Justice Akinbami held that the contradictions were immaterial to the case of the prosecution.

"Not all contradictions in the case of the prosecution will raise a doubt. For contradictions to be fatal to the prosecution's case it must be related to the material fact. All the witnesses are unanimous that the appellant used matches", she said.

On Ojo's contention that the evidence adduced by the prosecution did not show that the action of his client was not linked with the death of the deceased, Justice Akinbami said the evidence given by eyewitnesses, and that of a pathologist ascribing the cause of death to "hypovolemic" (severe loss of blood and tissues), showed that Ezeugo's action was the cause of one of the victims' death.

"The evidence is overwhelming and damning. He was offering them stone when they demanded for bread.

"He was giving them scorpion when they demanded for fish." The Appeal panel held.

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