The Court of Appeal in Lagos has affirmed the death sentence passed on the General Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly, Chukwuemeka Ezeugo (aka Rev. King), by a Lagos High Court in Ikeja on January 11, 2007.
In a unanimous judgment read by Justice Fatima Akinbami on Friday, the appellate court dismissed Ezeugo’s appeal, stating that the prosecution had “surely and effectively” proved its case against the convict at the trial court.
Ezeugo had appealed the judgment of Justice Joseph Oyewole, who had 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 convict is currently among the death row inmates at the Katsina Maximum Prisons in Katsina State.
Delivering judgment on the appeal, the Justice Amina Augie-led three-man panel dismissed the appellant’s contention that there were “contradictions and inconsistencies” in the prosecution’s evidence.
Other members of the panel are Justice Fatima Akinbami and Justice Ibrahim Saulawa.
Akinbami, who read the lead judgment, said, “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.”
The condemned cleric, arraigned on September 26, 2006 on six counts of attempted murder and murder, was said to have poured petrol on six devotees for an offence which he classified as “acts of fornication,” and set them ablaze.
One of the victims, Uzoh, died on August 2, 2006, 11 days after the incident, as a result of the injuries she sustained from the incident.
Counsel for the appellant, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, had among his 32 grounds of appeal, argued that the judgment of the trial court occasioned a miscarriage of justice for relying on unresolved contradictions and inconsistencies in the prosecution’s evidence.
According to the lawyer, 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.
Akinbami said the contradictions were immaterial to the case of the prosecution.
She said, “Not all contradictions in the case of the prosecution will raise a doubt. For contradictions to be fatal to the prosecution’s case, they must be related to the material fact.
“All the witnesses are unanimous that the appellant used matches.”
On Ojo’s contention that the evidence adduced by the prosecution did not show that the action of his client was linked with the death of the deceased, 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 death of one of the victims.
“The evidence is overwhelming and damning,” she said.
The justice, who also descended on Ezeuogo over his “dastardly and nefarious” act, ended the two-hour judgment on a philosophical note, saying his action “reflects the moral decay of the society in which we live.”
She said the condemned cleric presumed to be a man of God, “instead of protecting and guiding his followers, resorted to setting them ablaze and roasting them.”
Akinbami added, “He was offering them stone when they demanded bread. He was giving them scorpion when they demanded fish.”
But the defence counsel rejected the judgment. He promised to challenge the judgment at the Supreme Court.