By Archibong Jeremiah, Jonathan Ugbal and Mudiaga Affe
Mr. Godwin Elewana who killed his daughter’s boyfriend, 22 year old Douglas Ojugbo Oga in March 2015 has been sentenced to death by hanging.
Justice Ukpai Ibitham of the Cross River State High Court delivered the judgment on Wednesday in Calabar, the state’s capital.
As reported by CrossRiverWatch 11 days after the incident, Mr. Elewana had chased Mr. Oga on the evening of March 10, 2015 and shot him at the River Basin Authority in 8 miles Calabar. He then connived with the then Divisional Police Officer of the Federal Housing Division, Supol Mike Ezenwerem to bury his body.
And, the court on Wednesday found Elewana, a retired staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) guilty of the murder of Mr. Douglas over suspicion that the victim was having an affair with his daughter, Mercy.
He was arraigned on one count of murder in case number HC/9C/2015.
And, Justice Ibitham who was sworn in by Governor Ben Ayade in 2016, said that the prosecution team, led by Mr. Eneji Amajama, a Deputy Director in the Department of Public Prosecutions in the state Ministry of Justice, proved its case that the accused committed the crime.
The PUNCH Newspapers reports that he listed the several confessional statements, hospital reports and other exhibits presented in the course of trial as reasons the accused was convicted.
“The prosecution team was able to establish ingredients of murder against the accused. On whether it was the act of the accused that caused the death of the victim, the prosecution team placed reliance mostly on the confessional statement of the accused… clearly, the statement linked the murder to the accused.
“The prosecution team also proved the second ingredient of murder which was the intentional act. To have fired the victim twice with his pump-action gun, I agree that the killing was intentional. I hereby find the accused person guilty of murder.
“Subject to Section 319 of the Criminal Code of Cross River State, any person who commits murder is sentenced to death by hanging,” said Justice Ibitham.
Moments before the verdict was given, the defence counsel, Mr. Clement Ukaegbu, had pleaded for leniency.
Ukaegbu’s position was supported by another lawyer, Mr. Orchardson Umoh, who pleaded with the judge to temper justice with mercy on the grounds that the convict had a good religious standing and high integrity in the society.
Shortly after the verdict, the leader of the prosecution team, Amajama, said the law had taken its course.
He said: “I thank God that we have industrious and sound judges who still uphold the rule of law. Today, the parents of the deceased would have some respite that the law of the land took its course.
“This judgement will serve as a deterrent to others that you cannot do what is wrong and go away with it and I think that our society will be better for it.
“The accused was tried under Section 319 of the Criminal Code of Cross River State. Under this section, the judge does not have the right to give him life imprisonment or any other jail term. The judge has just done what the law stipulates.”
The mother of the victim, Mrs. Maria Ojugbo, said, “I thank God for doing what should be done. It is stated in the Bible that anyone who kills by the sword, will die by the sword. Elewana had no reason whatsoever to kill my son in such a manner and conceal the act by burying him. It was Almighty God that gave approval for this judgment.”
CrossRiverWatch had reported that a senior police officer in the Federal Housing Police station told our reporter privately that they cannot say exactly what transpired between the DPO and Mr. Elewana when the DPO ordered that the corpse of 22 year old Douglas which was driven into the station by Mr. Elewana around to 5pm, be buried in a hurry by 8pm at Goldie cemetery without any autopsy or investigation and without verifying the parents of the deceased.
When contacted as that time, Supol Ezenwerem was audibly trembling and ended the call after mumbling a few inaudible words.
It was on the March 12, 2015, after frantic search by parents and family members that Douglas parents got wind that their son had been shot and driven to the Federal Housing Police Station.
On getting to the police station, the bereaved parents were not only shocked to hear their son’s corpse has been buried without their consent, the DPO also coerced the father into signing an undertaking not to let anybody hear what happened nor make any complaint to any authority whatsoever.
But the bereaved father, Mr. Oga Augustine Ojugbo, a lawyer with Kanu G. Agabi & Associates, said he later found that absurd and petitioned the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 6, Calabar and the National Human Rights Commission to investigate the cause of his son’s death and bring those who killed the son to justice.
In his petition written, a copy of which was also obtained by CrossRiverWatch, Barrister Ojugbo refuted claims that the son was having an amorphous relationship with Mr. Elewana’s daughter.
He said the son had sold his mini laptop to Mr. Elewana’s daughter who made part payment and it was the balance the son went to collect when he met his untimely death.
In April 2015, CrossRiverWatch had reported that following the directive of the then Assistant Inspector General in charge of Zone 6 Calabar, Mr. Tunde Ogunshakin, to the DPO of the Federal Housing Police Division, Supol Ezenwerem to produce Mr. Elewana, he swiftly swooped on the suspected murderer and brought him under police custody.
Mr. Elewana, was at at large with his weapon, after the police mounted a manhunt for him.
Also, in February 2017, CrossRiverWatch reported that the matter which was heard at Court 8 presided over by Justice Ibitham saw prosecution counsel Amaja Eneji tender evidence to the Court which showed that the license of the double barreled gun used in shooting the deceased expired in 2013, about 2 years before the incident.
Also tendered in evidence were two expended cartridges, one machete, a double barreled gun and five pellets recovered from the body of the deceased following an autopsy carried out after exhumation of the corpse reports.
Amaja who had argued that no civilian had the right to take the life of another prayed the Court to critically assess the matter with a view to delivering justice.
He was remanded in Afokang prison.
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