Court sentences Ozekhome’s kidnappers to 20 years in prison - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Friday, October 6, 2023

Court sentences Ozekhome’s kidnappers to 20 years in prison

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Friday, convicted and sentenced two kidnappers, Kelvin Ezeiegbe and Frank Azuekor, to 20 years in prison. 

The court, in the judgement that was delivered by Justice Binta Nyako, found that the duo were involved in the abduction of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Prof.  Mike Ozekhome and his driver, on August 23, 2013.

Their kidnapping operation, which occured along Benin-Auchi highway in Edo State, led to the death of six security operatives that were attached to the senior lawyer. 

Though the court found Ezeiegbe and Azuejor guilty of kidnapping, terrorism and murder, it, however, discharged and acquitted two of their alleged accomplices-  Michael Omonigho and Haruna Momoh-  who were cited as 3rd and 4th defendants, respectively, in the case that was prosecuted by the Federal Ministry of Justice. 

Whereas Omonigho regained his freedom, the court directed security agencies to trace and arrest Momoh who escaped from custody during the recent jail break at Kuje prison in Abuja. 

Justice Nyako held that the prosecution could not establish allegations of conspiracy and kidnapping against Omonigho and Momoh. 

She however ordered that Momoh should be apprehended and put on trial for escaping from lawful custody.

It will be recalled that the convicts were docked before the court in June 2013, on a 13-count criminal charge.

They were specifically charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist act, kidnapping of persons, inciting persons to commit act of terrorism recruitment.

The defendants were said to have committed an offence punishable under Section 17 of Terrorism Prevention Act 2011, as amended.

The prosecution, led by Mrs. Chioma Onuegbu, closed its case after it called a total of seven witnesses and tendered 16 exhibits before the court. 

Among the witnesses that testified before the court included Prof. Ozekhome, SAN, who narrated how he was forcibly abducted by Ezeiegbe, Azuekor and other members of their gang.

The lawyer further disclosed that he was kept in captivity for three weeks and was only released from the dungeon of the kidnappers after he paid a ransom to the tune of N40million.

In her judgement on Friday, trial Justice Nyako said she was satisfied that the prosecution established a prima facie case against Ezeiegbe and Azuejor.

The court described Prof. Ozekhome's testimony in the matter as very "central to the prosecution's evidence."

"Mike Ozekhome is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and he swore with the Holy Bible while giving his testimony," Justice Nyako noted, adding that he was a witness of truth whose testimony could not be ignored. 

While convicting Ezeiegbe and Azuekor, the judge further relied on a letter then Attorney-General of Delta State wrote to then Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, which indicated that Azuekor was previously indicted for a crime in the state before he was eventually linked to Ozekhome's abduction.

Justice Nyako held that the convicts' denial of their confessional statements was immaterial as they did not provide an alibi for the crimes. 

"The first defendant (Mr Ezeiegbe) aided and abetted the second defendant (Mr Azuekor)," she held, adding that there was evidence that Ezeiegbe and his gang members had earlier killed two prison officials that were escorting Azuekor to a court in Delta State for another criminal trial.

According to evidence before the court,  while Mr Azuekor was being taken for trial in Delta, Ezeiegbe and his armed gang members ambushed a prison vehicle, killing two personnel in the process before setting Mr Azuekor free.

"I find him (Mr Azuekor) guilty of escaping from lawful custody.

"I find that the prosecution has proven its case. This is very believable evidence. We need to send right messages to society that it is not acceptable to do bad behaviour.

"The convicts are hereby sentenced to 20 years imprisonment each. Their prison term will run from the date of their arrest," the judge held. 

The court, thereafter, directed the Department of State Services, DSS, which is keeping the convicts in its custody, to transfer them to a correctional center.

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