• Lagos Hails Verdict
EXCEPT for the final declaration of the Supreme Court, it would have been a birthday bash and wild jubilation for members of the Christian Praying Assembly (CPA) yesterday, if the death sentence of their General Overseer, Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, had been repealed by the apex court, as some newspaper pages were already awash with birthday greetings for their spiritual leader, whose death verdict was ironically sealed on his birthday.
The Supreme Court yesterday set aside the appeal filed by the General Overseer of Christian Praying Assembly (CPA), Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, also known as Reverend King.
The appeal was challenging the judgment of a Lagos High Court that condemned him to death by hanging, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division.
The Lagos State Government, in its reaction yesterday through the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, applauded the judgment, saying it was another confirmation of the seriousness of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration to be decisive in fighting crime in the state.
In his lead judgment, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, said the facts of the case was similar to “what you see in a horror movie,” adding that the appeal lacked merit.
The apex court, therefore, upheld the earlier judgment of the High Court that sentenced him to death by hanging.
In a unanimous judgment, the apex court held that the two lower courts were right to have sentenced Ezeugo to death by hanging for the murder of a member of his church.
The court, which resolved all the 12 issues Ezeugo raised in his appeal against him, also said the first five counts against him were for attempted murder, with a penalty of 20 years imprisonment, while the 6th count was for murder, which attracts a death sentence by hanging.
Justice Ngwuta in the judgment held that the 20 years imprisonment for attempted murder was no longer necessary.
“Having considered the arguments of parties in this matter, I am of the view that the appeal has no merit.
“The appeal is hereby dismissed and the judgment of the Lagos State High Court, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeal, is hereby affirmed,” Justice Ngwuta held.
Recall that in December 2015, the apex court, presided over by Justice Walter Onoghen, had adjourned for judgment after entertaining arguments from Prosecution and Defence Counsels in the matter.
Kazeem appeared before the Supreme Court on behalf of the Lagos State government, alongside Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Idowu Alakija, and other senior Counsels in the state, urging the court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the judgment of the lower courts.
Ezeugo was arraigned on September 26, 2006 on a six-count charge of attempted murder and murder.
Though he pleaded not guilty to the allegations, he was nevertheless sentenced to death by the then Justice Joseph Oyewole of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja on January 11, 2007 for the murder of one of his church members, Ann Uzoh.
Justice Oyewole is now a Judge of the Appeal Court, Calabar Division.
The Lagos State Government had stated that the convict poured petrol on the deceased and five other persons and that Uzoh died on August 2, 2006, 11 days after the act was perpetrated on her.
Specifically, Ezeugo was convicted and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for the attempted murder and death by hanging for the offence of murder.
But not satisfied with the judgment, he challenged the verdict before the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos, which also upheld the verdict.
According to Justice Fatimo Akinbami, who ruled on the matter: “I hereby rule that the Prosecution effectively discharged the burden of proof on it.
“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, which is death by hanging, is also affirmed,” the judge had ruled.
Still not satisfied with the verdict, Ezeugo proceeded to the Supreme Court, which finally sealed his case yesterday.
Kazeem, in a statement signed by the Deputy Director, Public Affairs Office of the Lagos State Ministry Of Justice, Bola Akingbade, said: “This is just another confirmation that the government of Ambode is going to be very strong on fighting crime.”
“Wherever a crime is committed, no matter how long it takes, the government will ensure that the perpetrators of those crimes face justice eventually.
“I salute the institution called the Supreme Court for this erudite judgment and I want to assure the public that we will continue and we will not relent in our fight to make Lagos a safer, secure and more prosperous state.”
Prior to the Supreme Court judgment, devotees of the embattled pastor marked his birthday in absentia, describing him as their ‘God’. The members bought several pages of newspapers to congratulate him.
When The Guardian visited the church, which is located at Last Building in Ajao Estate, Isolo area, there was total quietness unlike the when Rev. King was around. The entrance gate was under lock; there were no church members within the premises and no activity going on.
However, in the advertorials in some dailies, the devotees showered encomiums on their beloved father, describing him as His Holiness. Some of the messages read: “Daddy G.O, it is your birthday but we are the ones receiving the gift through the extraordinary things you have done in our lives. Words shall never be enough to express our gratitude and happiness for your great miracles in our lives.”
“No matter what all the witches and wizards may do to put you down, your scepter of righteousness can never be contested because you are greater than the greatest, we and our entire families must follow you forever and ever.”
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