A Lagos State High Court, sitting in Ikeja, has sentenced four persons to death by hanging for armed robbery and kidnapping of one, Mrs. Gloria Emole, the younger sister of Emzor Pharmaceutical Managing Director, Chief Ebuka Okafor.
Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo on Thursday held that the prosecution was able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt against Victor Chukwunonso V, Ifeanyi Maduaka, Obinna Nwankwo, and Richard Nwabueze.
The first convict, Chukwunoso was a former employee of the victim’s elder brother. He was sacked after he engaged in physical combat in the company against the laid down rule.
The convicts were arraigned on 13th July 2013 and had been remanded in prison custody.
They were arraigned on a three-count charge, bordering on conspiracy, armed robbery, and kidnapping preferred against them by the Lagos State Government.
Director of Public Prosecution, Dr. Babajide Martins, had told the Court during their arraignment that they kidnapped the victim, who was about leaving her house at 7, Unity Street, Ogudu GRA, Lagos, on 19th November 2012, at about 8:30 am.
Martins had told the Court that the victim was kidnapped, blindfolded, thrown inside the trunk of a vehicle, and driven to an unknown destination in Ikorodu.
According to the Prosecutor, the offences committed are contrary to and punishable under sections 297,285 (2) a, and 291, of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2015.
The victim was later released on 22 November 2012, after a ransom of $70,000 was paid by her husband.
During the trial, the prosecution called four witnesses.
The victim also narrated to the Court how the incident took place, and that she wrote a statement at the Police station.
According to her, on 19 November 2012, the first accused person held a double barrel, accosted her at about 8:30 am, blindfolded and locked her in the trunk of her car booth to an unknown place.
She narrated that after the kidnap they demanded $300,000.
The victim’s husband, Osodun Emole, in his testimony, also told the Court that he paid the first and second convicts the sum of $70,000.
Emole said they had initially asked for $300,000, but after negotiation, they accepted $70,000.
He stated that he put the money inside an envelope and he was instructed how he was to dress and where to drop the money.
Emole also told the court that it was the police that told him that the convicts had been arrested.
Inspector Gbenga Faguiro, who tendered nine exhibits, also narrated how the first defendant was arrested at Alapere, Ketu area and a Nokia phone was recovered from him.
Faguiro stated that the second convict was arrested after obtaining information from the first convict as well as others.
Faguiro, who said he was attached to SARS Ikeja, told the court that the first defendant was an employee of the victim’s elder brother before he was sacked over misconduct.
He said the victim on 19 November 2012, at about 8:30 am, was about to leave her house at 7, Unity Street, Ogudu GRA, Lagos, when she gave the key to her security guard to open the gate and as she was about getting into the car, six gun men accosted her and immediately held her hostage.
The witness said during the investigation, the first defendant told him that the victim’s elder brother was his boss and there is a laid down rule that they must not engage in physical combat while at work, adding that he was sacked for flouting the rule and his boss gave each of them N250,000.
Faguiro stated that one of the defendants who engaged the police in a gun dwell during their arrest was shot dead.
He said Chukwunoso told him how they shared the $70,000. He said the first defendant took 12,000 dollars, the second defendant $11,000, the third defendant collected $10,000 and the fourth defendant received $9,000.
The convicts also gave evidence at the trial. Chukwunoso said he was an apprentice of Okafor and had not finished his apprenticeship before he was sacked.
He further stated that he knew the victim as he had worked with her elder brother.
The second defendant, Maduka informed the court that he was not part of the gang that rented the hotel at Ikorodu. The third and fourth convicts also testified before the court.
While delivering judgment, Justice Lawal-Akapo held that “I found that the offence of armed robbery has been established against the accused and I hold.
“The first convict was arrested after the IMEI no of the victim’s Nokia phone which got lost was inserted in another phone and it brought out all the information. After he was arrested, he made a confessional statement that led to the arrest of the second convict.
“The provision of the law is that in the instant case, I have tested the statement and it passed all conditions. The confessional statement that the first defendant worked with the victim’s elder brother was collaborated by other witnesses.
“I rely on the confessional statement and the guilt of the accused person has been established.
“On the whole, the prosecution has been able to establish the offence of conspiracy, armed robbery, and kidnapping“, the judge held.
In the allocutus of the defence counsel, Mrs. Helen Ibeji, Mr. S.P Okeke and Mrs. Scholastical Nwogu pleaded with the Court to tamper justice with mercy and that they were first-time offenders who had learned their lessons the hard way.
The prosecuting counsel, Dr. Martins urged the Court to sentence the convicts as armed robbery was a capital offence.
He said, “The victim was lucky not to have died as the offence the convicts committed was premeditated”.
“I have listened to all the allocutus by all the counsel. These are able-bodied young men and they have unleashed terror on people. They must therefore face the music.
“The defendants are sentenced to 10 years for the 1st count of conspiracy. There are hereby sentenced to death by hanging for the second count of armed robbery and sentenced to 21 years imprisonment for the third count of kidnapping,” Justice Lawal-Akapo ruled.