...Sentenced To Death By Hanging
The end may have come for the university undergraduate, Ifeanyi Dike, who has been convicted of murdering an eight-year-old girl, Chikamso Victory Nmezuwuba, in 2017 in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The incident which occurred on August 18, 2017 drew outrage from people within and outside the local government area of the state and even led to protest by those who called for justice in the case. Now justice has been done or is seen to have been done by the court which handled the trial.
The three accused in the case were Ifeanyi Dike, Ugochukwu Nwamiro and dismissed Police Sergeant, Johnbosco Okoroeze.
The first accused in the case, Ifeanyi Dike, was a two-hundred level student of the department of physics at the University of Port Harcourt while second and third accused respectively were Ugochukwu Nwamiro and the dismissed Police Sergeant, Johnbosco Okoroeze.
In the judgement delivered on Wednesday, the trial judge of Port Harcourt High Court, Justice Adolphus Enebeli, sentenced the first and second accused persons to death by hanging and the third accused to a one-year jail term.
In sentencing Dike and Nwamiro to death, the trial judge said the first accused should be hanged on his neck while the second accused should be hanged on his leg.
Justice Enebeli had said he relied on confessional statement made by first accused to also sentence second accused to death by hanging.
He also said the prosecution proved his case beyond reasonable doubt while saying that counsel to first accused did not deny the fact that his client killed the eight-year-old girl. According to him, the counsel said his client killed his victim because he had mental problem.
Dike was said to have murdered the eight-year-old girl in 2017 in Eliozu in Obio/Akpor local government area and was arrested as he was on his way to dispose of body parts of his victim.
He was said to have removed vital body parts of his victim and had told police on his arrest that he was sent by the second accused person to get body parts for money ritual.
The mother of the eight-year-old girl, Mrs Lucy Nmezuwuba, told newsmen she knew her daughter was missing when she did not come back to the shop after she left to use the toilet at home and had demanded justice for the death of her daughter.
She had said that the first accused had not been concerned about the disappearance of her daughter even though he was living with them at the time and said that he was not among those who searched for her daughter. She said her daughter was a “genius” and was going to be an international ballet dancer.
The father of the eight-year-old girl, Mr Ernest Nmezuwuba, also demanded justice for the death of his eight-year-old girl.
The third accused in the case who got a one-year jail term was convicted for assisting the first accused person to escape while he was taking him to cell.
Dike had escaped while being taken to cell in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and was re-arrested in Jos, Plateau State after the state Police Command had put One Million Naira bounty on him.
After the judgement was delivered, family members especially those of the second accused broke down in tears outside the courtroom.
However, the counsel to the second accused refused to accept the judgement and described it as an aberration when he spoke with the press.
Barrister Sonye John Ndah said that the judgement deviated from principles of law.
“The judgement delivered today is an aberration of the law. I want to believe that we are human and that the circumstances of this action - the death of the little girl - touched everybody and that this is one of the most noted, high-tension cases in Rivers State wherein everybody is interested but the truth is to be told. In criminal proceedings, a lot of things are static (and) even judges do not have power to change them,” he said.
He felt that some evidence given in court during the proceedings was used while others were discarded.
“We look at the provisions and look at the evidence slate (and) where there are controversies where the judge cannot pick and choose which of the evidence to believe - (because) confessional statement is very highly regarded in criminal justice - but that where a criminal or accused person makes more than one or two confessional statements, it is not the duty of the judge to take one, believe one and don't believe the rest. If prosecution has not proved their case, the duty of the judge is that they have not proved their case but not to pick one and then leave the other one.
“However, the totality of the judgement was heightened on the second defendant receiving a text message. Evidence was shown in this court that the text message they are talking about was sent through an MTN line. Text messages are not sent through phones. They are sent through SIMs. It was exhibited in this court that that message was sent through an MTN line (and) when they opened up the first defendant, Ifeanyi Dike's phone in this court, the two phones had no SIM(s)…Ifeanyi Dike had made two confessions. (In) one he said the second defendant did not send him. The court never bothered to look at it. It looked at (the one where) he said (that) he sent him. It is not the law (because) the moment evidence is conflicting, the court ought to reject the totality of the evidence…This is not the end of the way…where an innocent man would be put to death just because of feelings of people - yes it is right, the way the young girl died was too bad - but the person who did it have accepted that 'I did it', but you cannot incriminate someone else”, he further said.
The case was prosecuted by the state government and after the judgement, the counsel representing the state spoke about the judgement.
Barrister Chidi Ekeh said that the judgement was first of its kind and that justice had been done.
“Today, another legal history has been made. It's a ground-breaking judgement. You will recall when that incident happened and everybody wanted justice immediately. Today justice has been done”, he said.
He said that justice had been done for “tripartite” parties in the suit which include the state government, the accused and the victim and said “today the truth has been told. Chikamso will rest in peace wherever she is. She will know that justice has been meted out. The state does not delight in losing people but it delights in making sure that these laws are preserved and lives are preserved as well”.
The defence counsel for the first accused did not question the judgement by the court and had described it as supreme.
“The court today has given its judgement and the judgement of the court at all times remains supreme. It is the wisdom of the court which has been well condensed upon which today the court has found its position which remains the truth… For us, the court has given its judgement”, Barrister Lezina Amegua said in an interview with court reporters.
The counsel to the third accused, Barrister Chikwele Bekwe, said that he would consult with his client to know the “next line of action whether we are sticking with the judgement or we are going on appeal”.
A FIDA representative in the state who spoke with newsmen on the judgement said that the group was happy with the judgement.
The FIDA representative, Barrister Kemi Ogunoke, said: “Today everything has come to an end. Justice has been done. Judgement has just been given on behalf of Chikamso. Chikamso's death is not in vain. The first defendant, Ifeanyi Dike, has been sentenced to death by hanging. The second defendant, Ugochukwu Nwamiro, was equally sentenced to death by hanging while the third defendant, Sgt Johnbosco, was given a lesser sentence which ordinarily carries seven years imprisonment but with the mercy of the court was sentenced to one year knowing fully well that he had stayed in prison for two and a half years and he being dismissed from the force so the court was merciful on him and gave him one year sentence.
“As FIDANS we are so glad because FIDA looks at the welfare of the child (and) the women and because of the importance of women and the children to FIDA, we decided to follow up this matter and today we are happy that Chikamso's death is not in vain.
“We want to thank the court. FIDA is very, very happy with the judgement today and FIDA wants to say that the children (and) the women in the society must be protected and preserved. Children have right to decent life. They have right to be protected. They have right to live.”
The counsels in the case presented their final written address on January 22, 2020 which they used as final legal argument over the case before the judgement.
At each trial, the three accused persons were brought handcuffed to court and the handcuffs were removed only as their case was mentioned.
Capital punishment is the highest punishment for a criminal offence.