A High court sitting in Awka has discharged and acquitted two remaining suspects standing trial for alleged involvement in the killing of worshipers in a church in Ozubulu, Anambra state.
In a ruling that lasted for over three hours, Justice Fidelis Aniukwu ruled that the prosecution counsel was unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt the allegations leveled against the defendants, Chinedu Akpunonu and Onyebuchi Mbanefo.
Unknown gunmen had on August 6, 2017, invaded St Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu in Ekwusigo local government area of the state and killed no fewer than thirteen persons.
The Judge had in December 2018 discharged two out of the four persons arraigned before a high court in November 2017 following the church attack.
Justice Aniukwu argued that the prosecution witnesses could not provide any evidence linking the defendants with the murder as alleged.
Reacting to the judgment, the defense counsel, Mr. Festus Kayemo SAN, described it as a landmark in view of the accelerated hearing granted by the presiding Judge.
Kayemo, represented in court by another counsel, Mr. Samuel Echeakputa, however, said he would not be surprised if the judgment would be appealed.
“It’s the prosecution’s right to appeal the judgment. But from what I witnessed in the court today, it will be very difficult for the appeal court to upturn the judgment,” he said.
One of the defendants, Mr. Chinedu Akpunonu, was full of gratitude to God for vindicating him from what he described as an attempt by some persons to smear his reputation.
He, however, said he had forgiven his accusers, urging them to join hands to ensure peace reined in the community.
He said, “From the beginning, I told my people that I was not involved in the killing. But the Lord gave me victory as proof that I’m very innocent.
“I didn’t know I was very important to my people until I saw the excitement in the faces of the crowd that came to court. I’ve already forgiven all that put hands to put me in prison.
“I thank those that stood by me throughout my travail. I also thank my lawyer and the Judge for delivering a fair and sound judgment.”
Meanwhile, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Jay Jay Ezeuko SAN, said he would determine the next step after receiving a copy of the judgment.
Osun Polls: Rights Group Protests Inclusion of Justice Oyewole From Appeal Panel
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has kicked against the alleged inclusion of Justice Joseph Oyewole as a member of Appeal Panel on Osun governorship petition, describing the judge as an interested party and a friend of the appellant.
In a petition sent to the President of the Appeal Court on Thursday and signed by the duo of Emmanuel Onwubiko and Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA called for the removal of the judge from the panel if truly he was added to the five man team.
The full details of the petition reads as follows
“We write as a human rights group that has consistently advocated for equity, fairness and fair hearing within the polity to bring to your attention a widely circulating report among members of All Progressive Congress (APC) in Osun state and beyond that they have imputed their strong ally and an interested party, Justice Oyewole as a judge on the Osun appeal panel. Many top APC leaders are bragging and boasting in Osun right now that they have pocketed the panel by having an ally of the appellant, Gboyega Oyetola as a panel member and this is beginning to raise tensions amongst the populace.
“We had conducted a search on who the said judge is and we found out many compromising facts that confirmed that Justice Oyewole as an interested party should not for the sake of justice and equity , be on the panel. They may have hidden the indicting facts from you but we have a duty to bring them to your attention to assist the temple of justice under your esteemed leadership.
“My lord kindly note the following:
-Justice Oyewole is a godson of Chief Bisi Akande, the former National Chairman of APC; they are from the same town, Ila Orangun;
-Justice Oyewole was a judge of Lagos State High Court during Aregbesola’s tenure as governor of Osun state ;
-When there was a vacancy in the Chief Justice of Osun state under Aregbesola, the governor pushed to import and elevate him above his senior to be made the state Chief judge in Osun state. The state erupted in protests and protestations against imposing a judge serving outside the state on his seniors in another state as the head of judiciary, forcing the governor to reconsider his plot;
-The arrow head of the movement to force Oyewole on the state as Chief Judge then was the appellant who was then the Chief of Staff of Rauf Aregbesola;
-When the plot failed because of mass resistance of Osun people, Aregbesola and the appellant succeeded using Osun slot to get Justice Oyewole elevated to the Court of Appeal, again above his peers and seniors.
-Since the commencement of the Osun governorship petition hearing, the judge has been fingered as the contact person for Gboyega Oyetola. APC members in the state are not tired of declaring that they have their man at the Appeal court;
-It is therefore troubling to listen to APC members now boasting in the state that they have their man right on the appeal panel. My Lord will not allow a man to sit in a matter in which he is an interested party.
“My Lord, Osun is currently in a state of fragile peace with the expectations of and faith of the people in the Judiciary as their last hope of getting justice. The controversial Osun election still remains a matter of national and international interest. The whole world is watching!
“We are are aware of the riot act you read out to chairmen and members of election tribunals early this year. We are in the know of your insistence that justice must be done without fear or favour. We are also conscious of your pedigree and antecedent as an incorruptible judge and leader of justice.
“It is with the preceding in mind that we humbly request the following:
-That you kindly resist the satanic pressure to compromise the integrity of the Appeal panel for the Osun Governorship Election;
-That you help Osun state to maintain subsisting peace which may be disrupted if an interested Justice is allowed to serve on his own case ;
-That you remove Justice Oyewole from the list if it is true as APC members in Osun state are bragging that he is one of the panel members;
-That you act as such on the weight of evidence adduced above in our paragraph 3;
-That no Judge from Osun state or with affinity with the state should serve on the panel to ensure neutrality and no conflict of Interest;
-That you sustain your insatiable quest for equity and fairness in justice administration by allowing justice to prevail in the case of Osun governorship election Appeal.
“My Lord,we urge you to urgently act on the above so as not to lend credence to the reprehensible boasts and assertions of APC members in Osun state and beyond that they have pocketed the Appeal panel. Justice Oyewole should be removed from the panel.”
Breaking: Tribunal Delivering Judgment On Onnoghen .
The CCT has dismissed the preliminary objection filed by Justice Onnoghen to challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
The CCT has also dismissed the application by the former CJN accusing the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, to withdraw from further presiding over the trial on the grounds of bias.
The tribunal is now delivering judgment on the merit of the five counts.
More details soon…
EFCC Apprehends Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia as Judge Strikes Out Corruption Charges Against Her
Officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have apprehended Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, a dismissed judge of the Federal High Court, after corruption charges against her were struck out.
Her arrest took place on the premises of an Ikeja High Court, Lagos, on Tuesday.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that about 10 officials of the EFCC surrounded Ofili-Ajumogobia as she attempted to leave the courtroom at 10.24 a.m. after the ruling by Justice Hakeem Oshodi.
Upon sighting the officials, the judge made a hasty retreat and went back upstairs into Justice Oshodi’s courtroom to seek the protection of the court from the EFCC officials.
Justice Oshodi, when notified about the development, said there was nothing he could do, as “the file had been closed.”
The embattled former judge and her husband who was with her, were observed frantically making various phone calls.
The EFCC officials however allowed Ofili-Ajumogobia’s co-defendant, Mr. Godwin Obla, SAN, to exit the court premises.
Immediately Justice Oshodi’s court rose, Ofili-Ajumogobia was apprehended at 11.47 a.m. by some EFCC officials who whisked her away in a white Hilux van with Abuja number plate BWR637AT.
NAN reports that earlier, Justice Oshodi, in a ruling, had struck out the 31 counts filed by the EFCC against Ofili-Ajumogobia and Obla on the grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit.
The judge ruled that, based on the judicial precedent set by the case of Justice Nganjiwa Vs FRN, the EFCC had “jumped the gun” in filing the first amended charge.
Justice Oshodi noted that the anti-graft commission had not followed the procedures set by the National Judicial Council in disciplining erring judicial officers.
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