Four bag death sentence by hanging for armed robbery, kidnapping
Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, yesterday, sentenced, four middle age men to death by hanging for conspiracy and armed robbery.
They also bagged 21 years for kidnapping one Gloria Emole, the younger sister to the Chairman and Managing Director of Vixa Pharmaceutical Ltd, Chief Ebuka Okafor.
The judge found the defendants: Chukwunonso Victor, Ifeanyi Maduka, Obinna Nwanko, Richard Nwabueze guilty as charged by the state government.
The judge said that the state has proved the case of conspiracy, armed robbery and kidnapping against the defendants beyond reasonable doubt.
The first convict (Chukwunoso) was a former employee of the victim’s elder brother, he was sacked after he fought against the company’s rule that prohibited fighting.
The convicts were arraigned on July 13, 2013, and were remanded in prison custody.
Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Dr. Babajide Martins had told the court during their arraignment that they had kidnapped the victim on November 19, 2012, at about 8:30 a.m., when she was about to leave her house at 7, Unity Street, Ogudu Government Reserved Area, Lagos.
Martins had told the court that the victim was kidnapped, blindfolded, thrown inside the booth, and was driving to an unknown area in Ikorodu.
The prosecutor said their 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 November 22, 2012, after ransom of $70,000 was paid by her husband.
However, during the trial, the prosecution called four witnesses, who testified against the defendants.
The victim had told the court that she made a statement at the police station and how the incident happened.
She narrated that on November 19, 2012, the first defendant accosted her at about 8:30 a.m. with a double barrel gun, blindfolded and locked her in her booth, and thereafter took her to an unknown destination.
She narrated that after the kidnap they demanded $300,000. but was later negotiated to $70,000.
The victim’s husband, Osondu Emole, in his testimony, also told the court that he paid the first and second convicts the sum of $70,000.
Emole said that they instructed him how he was to dress and where to drop the money he enveloped. He added that it was the police that told him that the convicts had been arrested.
Inspector Gbenga Faguiro, who tendered nine exhibits, also narrated that the first convict was arrested at Alapere Ketu and a Nokia phone was recovered from him.
Faguiro told the court that the second convict was arrested after obtaining information from the first convict as well as others.
Faguiro, who said he is 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.
According to him, the victim onNovember 19, 2012, at about 8:30 a.m., 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 that 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 fight in his office, adding that he was sacked 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 convict took $12,000, the second convict $11,000, the third convict collected $10,000 , while the fourth convict received $9,000.
After the close of the prosecution case, the convicts also testified.
Chukwunoso told the court that he was an apprentice of Okafor and had not finished his apprenticeship before he was sacked.
He confirmed knowing the victim as he had worked with her elder brother.
The second convict (Maduka) said he was not part of the team that rented the hotel at Ikorodu. The third and fourth convicts also testified before the court.
In his judgment, Justice Lawal- Akapo held: “ I found that the offence of armed robbery has been established against the accused, I so hold. The first convict was arrested after the IMEI no of the victim’s Nokia phone number 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.”
However, the defendants’ counsel, Mrs. Helen Ibeji, Mr. S.P Okeke, and Mrs. Scholastical Nwogu in their allocutus, pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy and that they were first-time offenders, who had learned their lessons the hard way.
The prosecutor, Martins urged the court to sentence the convicts as armed robbery is a capital offence.
“The victim was lucky not to have died as the offence the convicts committed was premeditated,” the prosecution told the court.
“I have listened to all the allocutus by all the counsel, these are able young men and they have unleashed terror on people and they must therefore face the music.
“The defendants are hereby sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for first count of conspiracy.
“On count two, you are hereby sentenced to death by hanging. And on count three, you are hereby sentenced to 21 years imprisonment for offence of kidnapping,” the court held.