Leadership (Abuja)

1 February 2013

Nigeria: Appeal Court Upholds Death Sentence On Reverend King

The Court of Appeal, Lagos, on Friday upheld the judgment of a Lagos High Court which convicted the General Overseer, Christian Praying Assembly, Chukwuemeka Ezeugo and sentenced him to death.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Ezeugo, popularly known as Rev. King, who was charged with six-counts bordering on attempted murder and murder, was convicted by Justice Joseph Oyewole on Jan. 11, 2007.

Oyewole sentenced Ezeugo to death by hanging, for the murder of a church member, Ann Uzoh.

Ezeugo was said to have poured petrol on the deceased for an offence which he classified as "acts of fornication," and set her ablaze.

The convict, through his counsel, Mr Olalekan Ojo, had, however, filed an appeal on Nov. 5, 2012 raising a plethora of issues for determination and urging the court to upturn the verdict of the lower court.

Justice Fatima Akinbami, in a lead judgment at the appellate court, held that all issues raised by Ezeugo in his appeal, failed.

"This appeal is devoid of any basis and accordingly fails.

"The judgment of the High Court is hereby affirmed, and the conviction imposed on the appellant, is also affirmed" Akinbami ruled.

She said that the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and faulted an alibi raised by Ojo that the appellant was not at the scene of the offence.

According to her, the evidence of some prosecution witnesses pinned the appellant to the scene of the offence, throwing out arguments by Ojo that the evidence was tainted.

Akinbami said that even the evidence of a tainted witness is admissible, once it is material to the case, noting that all evidence adduced by the prosecution witnesses were unanimous.

She said that they all pointed to the fact that the appellant actually used matches and petrol to set the deceased ablaze.

"Each of the prosecution witnesses gave evidence as to how the victim was beaten and burnt by the appellant.

"To my mind, there is no contradiction whatsoever and even if there were, it is immaterial, since all the witnesses were unanimous," she said.

According to Akinbami, the evidence of some doctors also showed that the deceased died as a result of the burns.

She held that the trial judge was at liberty to write his judgment in his own style, provided it sets out the issue for determination, shows a clear understanding of the facts as stated and arrives at a logical conclusion.

The judge condemned the attitude of some pastors toward their congregation, noting that the circumstances surrounding the death of the deceased were rather bizarre.

"It is so devastating how some men of God will give out to their congregation scorpion, instead of fish, and stone, instead of bread.

"It is indeed sad and unfortunate," Akinbami said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justices Amina Augie and Ibrahim Saulawa consented to the judgment.

NAN reports that the appellant's counsel informed the court of his intention to challenge the verdict at the Supreme Court.

NAN

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