By AKEEB ALARAPE
Six years after a death sentence was slammed on him, Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos, yesterday ruled that Lagos pastor and General-Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly, Chukwuemeka Ezeugo (a.k.a. Rev. King), must die by hanging.
A Lagos High Court, presided over by Justice Joseph Oyewole had, on January 11, 2007, passed death sentence on Rev. King for alleged murder of a church member, Ann Uzoh, as well as the attempted murder of five other members of his church. The embattled pastor, who has been in prison custody since then, had appealed the death sentence, citing inconsistencies in the evidence of the prosecution’s witnesses.
At the sitting of the appellate court yesterday, Justice Fatima Akinbami, who read a unanimous judgment of the court, dismissed Ezeugo’s appeal, stating that the prosecution had “surely and effectively” proved its case against the embattled cleric at the trial court. The appeal panel dismissed the appellant’s contention that there were “contradictions and inconsistencies” in the prosecution’s evidence.
The judge ruled: “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.”
Counsel to Rev. King, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, had argued, in his 32 grounds of appeal, that the judgment of the trial court occasioned miscarriage of justice for relying on unresolved contradictions and inconsistencies in the prosecution’s evidence. According to Ojo, 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.
Justice 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 it 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 one of the victims’ death.
“The evidence is overwhelming and damning,” Justice Akinbami said, adding: “He was offering them stone when they demanded for bread. He was giving them scorpion when they demanded for fish.” Rev. King was arraigned on September 26, 2006 on a six-count charge of attempted murder and murder by pouring petrol on a deceased member of his church and five other persons and later set them on fire.