LAGOS — One hour into the judgment of guilty for murder passed on the General Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly (CPA), Isolo, Lagos, Emeka Ezeugo a.k.a. Dr. Reverend King by an Ikeja High Court, yesterday, the convict began perspiring in the fully air-conditioned courtroom.
His knees buckled under his not too heavy frame, where he stood in the dock listening to Justice Joseph Oyewole.
Security aides quickly rushed to his aid before he could collapse. The judge paused and allowed him to sit down.
Two hours later, Ezeugo was condemned to death by hanging.
Then the drama started, launched by the convict himself.
“I am not afraid to be hanged, after all Jesus Christ was hanged. That was how Jesus was hanged and the crowd was against Him. It is a great honour for me to follow the foot path of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a pleasure and honour for me to die by hanging,” he shouted at no one in particular. He is to die for the murder of one of his church members, late Miss Ann Uzor.
He was found guilty of causing petrol to be poured on seven members of his church on July 22, 2006 at the church premises, 6B Canal View, Ajao Estate, Isolo, Lagos and throwing a lit match at them with the intention of setting them ablaze. This was after he had accused them of indulging in sexual immorality.
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The victims were Miss Onuorah Chizoba, Olisa Chiejina, Uche Chukwu Iwoba, Vivian Ezeocha, Jessica Nwere, Kossisochukwu Ezenwankwo and Ann Uzor. The seventh victim, Ann Uzor, however, died on August 2, 2006 from severe loss of body fluid caused by the burns. King was then arraigned at an Ikeja High Court on a six-count charge of murder, attempted murder and causing bodily injuries on his victims by setting them ablaze.
In the course of the trial, 12 witnesses testified for the prosecution while the accused called nine witnesses including himself. The first prosecution witness, Vivian Ezeocha, in her evidence testified that she was saved after petrol was poured on them and set ablaze because she was wearing multiple clothes but the late Ann Uzor could not escape as she was in her silk night gown and was immensely soaked.
Reviewing the proceedings of the trial before passing judgment, Justice Oyewole said King “identified in court in his defence the generating sets he claimed caused the fire incident but made no mention of any tracts which he had earlier ordered to be burnt as claimed by one of the defence witnesses. He said he was busy in the church until his arrest. The accused admitted there was fornication in his church and confirmed he has two kinds of rods. He said there was a fire incident on July 22, 2006 and confirmed knowing Ann’s father but said he never sent a condolence message to him since Ann’s death.”
The defence counsel, Mr Mike Okoye, in his final address said there were material contradictions, inconsistencies and discrepancies in the evidence of the witnesses. He said the generators were not switched on for the court to know whether or not they were functioning and further submitted that there was doubt as to whether the deceased actually died as proper verification was not done before autopsy was carried out. The defence counsel also argued that the victims were nursing grudges against the accused and that was why they could go to any length to nail him.”
The prosecution led by the former Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution, Mrs Bola Okikiolu-Ighile, in her submission argued that “the onus is on the prosecution to prove the offence committed beyond reasonable doubt. She said the victims’ testimonies portrayed the person of the accused and further corroborated the offence of the accused.
She then urged the court to hold that with the evidence of the pathologist and the medical doctor that treated the deceased, there was no doubt as to the identity of the deceased and that the offence was committed by the accused.”
In his findings, Justice Oyewole said “the foundation of the entire trial was based on the six-count charge which was amended on December 4, 2006. An issue was raised by the defence as to the irregularity in not dating the original charge. Failure to date is of no effect. The issue for determination is whether the prosecution has proved each of the counts beyond every reasonable doubt. In a criminal trial evidence must include all reasonable doubt other than imaginary or speculation. Prove beyond reasonable doubt is not prove beyond any shadow of doubt once the ingredient of the offence for which the accused was charged with are proved. Although many of them dwelt on issues that are not concerned with the offence, I shall dwell only on the evidence that relates to the matter.
“Counts 1 to 5 were allegations of attempt to murder. The mere attempt to cause grievous bodily harm is not enough for him to be convicted for murder. The prosecution tendered 25 documentary and real exhibits. Prosecution witnesses 1, 3, 5, 10 and 11 were victims of the fire incident. The victims were the only eyewitnesses of the incident. The proper approach, therefore, is for the court to duly scrutinise the evidence before it. The first prosecution witness, Vivian Ezeocha, in her evidence was not shaken, it did not show that she was lying or had lied on oath before. Her expression was sound and very plausible under cross examination. All other victims corroborated her testimony. The clothes she wore on the said day were also tendered before the court as well as containers of oil and bowl for fuel were all tendered. She is a witness of truth and I accept her testimony.
“The prosecution witness number three confessed he lied on oath at the magistrate court but confirmed his testimony was not against the testimony of the first prosecution witness and I accept it. I consider the fifth prosecution witness as witness of truth and I accept her evidence too. The 10th prosecution witness, Kossisochukwu Ezenwankwo, showed burn injuries and the clothes he wore at the time of the incidence. The portions burnt on his legs were exactly burnt on his body. I accept this too. The 11th prosecution witness, Jessica Nwenne, corroborated the 10th prosecution witness testimony. I believed her story more so as she corroborated the other witnesses. The fourth prosecution witness, Kelechi, was an accomplice, an actor in the alleged offence. Her two statements were contradictory, I rejected one and accepted one. The one accepted was in line with her evidence in court. She admitted to have told different lies on the matter. I consider her pathetic.
“The generators were before the court, clean and without any evidence of burns or flames. The accused confirmed the generators and identified them as his. I accept her testimony on this and act thereon accordingly. The second prosecution witness was the Investigating Police Officer in the matter and I accept his evidence. The medical doctor of Faith City Clinic who gave evidence for the prosecution had no contradictions in his testimony. His evidence was a valuable corroboration to the evidence of the victims. He also described how all other people that came to the hospital that night corroborated what the victims have said. None of them suffers credibility deficiencies and was not discountenanced under cross examination.
“On the testimony of the victims concerning how they were treated by the accused, I don’t agree with Mr Okoye’s argument as they all testified to sexual relationships, beating, order of petrol and the lighting of the match. There was no inconsistency or contradiction in the evidence of the prosecution. I consider the allegations of the defence witnesses as mere afterthought.
“On the alibi of the accused person, he said he was elsewhere but this was not enough as he did not give account of the specific place he was. The accused person in his evidence raised some questions in his explanation. The account of the accused with regard to the burning of the tracts was 9 or 10 a.m. but the fire incident was at night. None of the defence witnesses claimed to have witnessed the incidence, their testimonies were filled with lies and fabrications. Defence witnesses 5, 7, and 8 gave no relevant evidence on the trial. I find that the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt the accused committed the offence. I hold that the prosecution has proved that the accused attempted to kill the five victims.
“The deceased died through the act of the accused and it was an intentional act. The prosecution said the late Ann was badly beaten and was the most affected by the fuel and fire. Even the accused acknowledged taking the late Ann to the hospital. The prosecution witness number 8 testified to seeing her everyday till she died. Prosecution witness number 2 also testified that she saw her on a daily basis until her death.
“From exhibits P5 and 5A one could see how Ann looked before she died, her body was identified by Prosecution witness number two to Prosecution witness number 6. There were severe burn injuries on her face, neck, whole of the back, hands and legs. The doctor said she had about 70 per cent burns on her total body surface area and that she suffered third degree burns.
“I have no difficulty in concluding that the accused died as a result of the burn injuries inflicted on her by the accused. On whether the accused acted intentionally or not, the victims testified that the accused said ‘he could kill us and that he is above the law, we were on our knees begging before the fuel was poured on us.’ It was evident that the accused acted intentionally and with impunity.
“Having declared his intention on allegation of improper sexual conduct and having gone ahead to order fuel to be poured on them and striking the match despite pleas, he can’t escape from the fact that he murdered Ann Uzor King. The accused was angered by supposed sexual conduct of the victims. He was in control of his senses sufficiently to move the victims away from his seats and cars. They called him daddy, daddy yet all he thought of was to brutally terminate their lives.
“From the totality of the evidence before me I find him guilty and convict him accordingly.”
After the plea for mercy made by the accused counsel, the judge then passed his sentence, saying: “Pursuant to Section 320 of the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State, the punishment is life imprisonment while in Section 319 of the same law the only punishment for murder is death penalty.” The judge then sentenced him to 20 years on each of counts one to five which will run concurrently. On the sixth count of murder the judge said: “I find you guilty of the offence of murder. I hereby sentence you to death by hanging. You should be hanged by the neck until life is out of you.”
After the sentence was passed on him, King who had in the course of the judgment been sweating profusely and was at a stage about to slump in the dock before security men went to his aide started to brag and condemn the judgment. According to him, “there was not truth in the judgment, that was no how to discover the truth. The witnesses said I did something, I said I did not do it, so it was their word against mine. But the judge chose to believe the witnesses who came to lie against me. I know I am not guilty.”
Original headline: Rev King to die by hanging