Accused of kidnapping and killing the Imo monarch, a judge is threatening to throw out their trial

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Four individuals have been charged with terrorism in relation to the alleged abduction and murder of Eze Basil Njoku, the traditional ruler of the Amanze-Obowo autonomous community in Imo state. On Monday, Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja threatened to dismiss the allegations.

Since the AGF, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, was not present in court to oversee the prosecution of the accused, Justice Nyako resorted to threatening action.

The four defendants were originally scheduled for arraignment at 9 o’clock in the morning, but the judge had to postpone the hearing until noon because neither the AGF nor his representatives showed there.

Judah Iheme, Chika Madukwe, Nwokorie Chidiebere Ejike, and Victor Nwajuiba Obumneke are the four accused.

The additional charges have upped the three counts that were previously levied against them to five.

At noon, when the arraignment was supposed to take place, neither the AGF nor his lawyer had shown up in court, and the court had likewise received no updates or communications.

Because of this, the judge summoned the defense attorneys to her chambers, where they set a new date for the case’s adjournment: April 30.

The defendants’ primary attorney, Solomon Akume, SAN, had sought to have the terrorism allegations against them dismissed, but Justice Nyako decided to allow the AGF another opportunity to conduct a thorough prosecution.

But the judge ruled that if the AGF or his representatives don’t show up on the rescheduled date, the court might have to dismiss the accusations against the defendants since they weren’t trying hard enough.

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Following the latest adjournment on March 20, the prosecution of the defendants was transferred from the Inspector General of Police (IGP), who had begun the trial, to the AGF, who was represented by David Kaswe, a lawyer from the Federal Ministry of Justice.

The AGF assumed the defendants’ trials, according to Kaswe, who informed the judge that they did so by citing sections 174 and 105 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) and the 1999 Constitution.

At the most recent postponed hearing, the AGF’s office informed the judge that the IGP had been ordered to hand over the case file to them.

The AGF, David Kwase, and Simon Lough, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who was prosecuting the trial on behalf of the Inspector General of Police, were all served a hearing notice but did not appear in court during today’s sessions.

On the other hand, the AGF is to get a new hearing notice for the four defendants’ arraignment on April 30th, as per Justice Nyako’s decision.

It is alleged that on December 17, 2022, the traditional king was assassinated by Iheme, a 52-year-old from the Amagwu Amanze Obowo local government area of Imo, and Madukwe, a 42-year-old from the Ndi-Uche Etiti Onuimo local government area, both of which are in Imo State.

After abducting the monarch and demanding a ransom of N4 million from his family, the defendants allegedly murdered him when he was returning from the Federal Medical Center in Umuahia.

Iheme and Madukwe, together with other individuals believed to be on the run, were accused in the FHC/ABJ/CR/575/2024 accusation of conspiring to do terrorist activities in violation of section 26 of the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act 2022.

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They allegedly assaulted, abducted, and murdered the monarch on December 17, 2022, while equipped with firearms and aggressive weapons.

Under section 16 of the same Terrorism Act, the IGP further claimed that they had failed to cooperate with security forces by withholding information that could have resulted in the capture of additional kidnappers.

The accusation included the following: “That you, Nwokorie Chidiebere Ejike, 45 years ago, and Victor Nwajuiba Obumneke, 39 years old, all of Ehume in Obowo LGA of Imo State from June to August 2023 at Zone 9 Police Headquarters at Umuahia and Special Tactical Squad, Abuja, conspired and brought false accusations with intent to cause Nwigwe Emeka Williams to be charged with kidnapping and terrorism of Eze Basil Njoku, thus committing an offense contrary to section 125 of the Criminal Code Act.”

In the case of Eze Basil Njoku’s kidnapping and terrorism, you, Nwokorie Chidiebere Ejike, 45 years old, and Victor Nwajuiba Obumneke, 39 years old, all from Ehume in Obowo LGA of Imo State, knowingly provided false information to the investigators at Zone 9 Police Headquarters in Umuahia and the Special Tactical Squad in Abuja between June and August 2023, claiming that a drunk man had informed you that Nwigwe Emeka Williams was responsible for Eze Basil Njoku’s kidnapping and terrorism. It is a crime under section 125 of the Criminal Code Act of 2004 to knowingly or reasonably believe that the information you provided to law enforcement is false.

“That you, Nwokorie Chidiebere Ejike, 45 years old, and Victor Nwajuiba Obumneke, 39 years old, all of Ehume in Obowo LGA of Imo State, conspired and brought false accusations with intent to cause Nwigwe Emeka Williams to be charged with kidnapping and terrorism of Eze Basil Njoku during the police investigation of the offence from June to August 2023 at Zone 9 Police Headquarters at Umuahia and Special Tactical Squad, Abuja. You thus committed an offense contrary to section 125 of the Criminal Code Act.

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