July 14, 2024

Court sentences native doctor to death for kidnapping in Akwa Ibom

Akwa Ibom State High Court sitting in Uyo, on Friday, sentenced one Sunday George Andrew, also known as Sunday Akpan Adede, to death by hanging for kidnapping two brothers, Chief Israel Efefiong Utit and Pastor Bassey Utit.

Andrew, a native doctor from Ikono Local Government Area of the state, was said to have conspired with others, now at large, to commit the offence at Nkemba Street, Uyo on November 29, 2015, and harbored the victims in his shrine at Ikot Enua, Ikono, demanding N50m as ransom.

The convicted native doctor was standing trial with the first defendant, Ibe Francis Emeka, on a six-count charge for conspiracy, kidnapping, and armed robbery, in which he was found guilty, while the Court discharged and acquitted Emeka due to the failure of the prosecution to prove the ingredients of kidnapping, armed robbery, and conspiracy against him.

Emeka, a native of Abia State, stated that he was invited to Uyo by his friend “Papa,” only to be taken to a drinking joint at Nkemba Street in the company of one Ukeme Amos, alias “Bishop,” the leader of the gang, and Jude Ihemekwa, alias “Method,” who is currently undergoing trial for another kidnapping case in Uyo.

He said while at Nkemba Street, the gang saw a black Toyota Corolla car and double-crossed it. Before he knew it, “Bishop” and “Papa” dragged the two brothers out of their car to another car and instructed him to go to the front seat, while “Bishop” and the victims were kept at the back of the car, and “Papa” took the victims’ car away.

In a one-hour judgment on Friday, the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Ette, described Ibe Francis Emeka as “an innocent man and a victim who happened to be in the company of the wrong guys in the wrong place and at the wrong time by inadvertence,” adding that “the only difference between him and the other victims was that no ransom was placed on his head.”

“He was, like the main victims, put in the same room with them; that piece of evidence was not debunked. He was precluded from leaving the camp, hence his decision to escape with the victims. If he was a kidnapper, his access and exit would not have been restricted or curtailed, as shown in evidence. The real kidnappers left the camp; he was not allowed freedom of movement. That is why I see him as an innocent victim too,” Justice Ette held.

The Court also noted that “the first defendant initiated the escape plan and the victims in their extra-judicial statements corroborated the fact,” stressing that “if the first defendant came from Aba to Uyo to make money through kidnapping as alleged by the prosecution, why then was he the one who initiated and aided the escape of the victims.”

Justice Ette said, “It is in evidence that the first defendant did not run away upon their escape, but followed the victims to their residence, got refreshed, had his bath, and stayed behind with them till the DSS showed up.”

“Even in the house of the victims and in the presence of the DSS officers, ‘Papa’ texted the first defendant and vowed to kill him for aiding the escape of the victims, and he showed the text to his hosts, who showed it to the DSS officers. If these do not paint a different picture of the person of the first defendant, then it will be a surprise to me. I had the opportunity to watch the demeanor of the first defendant in court; he didn’t come across to me as a hardened criminal. He was sincere in his testimony,” Justice Ette further held.

“He became like Jonathan in the camp of King Saul, his father, who had no reason to die but for filial considerations. The lesson being; do not be found an innocent man in the camp of the wrong men. I advise him to be careful with those he calls friends. Unlike Jonathan, Ibe Francis Emeka won’t die, at least not in my hands. Today, I have the honor of breaking the chains of bondage that held him down for 10 years in the custodial center. I declare him not guilty indeed of the six counts charge and free him accordingly,” the court held.

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