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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Abuja Court Jails Kidnappers Of Mike Ozekhome

A federal high court in Abuja has sentenced Kelvin Ezeiegbe and Frank Azuekor to 20 years imprisonment for the abduction of Mike Ozekhome, a human rights lawyer, and the murder of six security operatives.

Ozekhome, a law professor and senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), was abducted alongside his driver on August 23, 2013, at the Ehor stretch of the Benin-Auchi highway, Edo state.

Four police officers who responded to Ozekhome’s abduction were ambushed and killed by the convicts.

The convicts were first arraigned alongside two others — Michael Omonigho and Haruna Momoh — on a 13-count charge in June 2014.

Ezeiegbe and Azuekor were tried for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, kidnapping of persons, inciting persons to commit act of terrorism, recruitment and abetting escape while Omonigho and Momoh were prosecuted for conspiracy and kidnapping.

Delivering judgement on Friday, Binta Nyako, the presiding judge, said the prosecution failed to substantiate allegations of conspiracy and kidnapping against Omonigho and Momoh.

The judge, however, ordered the police to arrest Momoh and put him on trial for escaping from lawful custody during the Kuje prison break in 2022.

Ezeiegbe and Azuekor were found guilty.

Giving evidence during the trial, Ozekhome said he was held hostage for three weeks and was only released after he paid a N40 million ransom.

The judge said Ozekhome’s “testimony was central to the prosecution’s evidence”.

Nyako also relied on a letter from the Delta commissioner for justice to the attorney-general of the federation which said Azuekor was indicted for a crime in the state prior to his arrest for kidnapping Ozekhome.

She noted that the convicts’ denial of their confessional statements was immaterial as they did not provide an alibi for the crimes.

The judge also found him guilty of killing two prison officials who were escorting the second defendant (Azuekor) to court in Delta state for another criminal trial.

“I find that the prosecution has proven its case. This is very believable evidence,” the judge said.

“We need to send the 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.”

She ordered the State Security Service (SSS) which has held the convicts for 10 years to transfer them to a correctional centre. – TC

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