Friday, April 18, 2014

Police consolidate charges against Cynthia’s alleged killers

Published:

Cynthia Osokogu

The trial of the alleged murderers of Cynthia Osokogu’s has been adjourned to November 5.

The case of the alleged killers of Cynthia Osokogu, murdered in her Lagos hotel room, continued on Friday at the Yaba Magistrate Court with the police substituting the criminal charges against the seven suspects involved in the incident.

The police had earlier filed its suit against the accused persons on separate sheets; it withdrew the separate charges and filed all charges against the seven defendants in one sheet.

Earlier, the police had filed its suit against Okwumo Nwabufo, Olisaeloka Ezike, Orji Osita, Chukwunonso Maduakor, and Gideon Okechukwu in one sheet.

Those of Nonso Ezike, Olisaeloka’s younger brother, and Chinonso Ezeaka were filed in a separate sheet.

The fresh charge saw a merger of the separate charges, with the police adding Nonso Ezike and Chinonso Ezeaka to a new 11 count charge of murder, rape, robbery, and false pretense as they sought to “consolidate” their charges.

The move, however, did not go down well with the defendants’ lawyers who described it as injustice, noting that the police merely filed a repetition of the previous charges against their clients.

“Counts number 10 and 11 are the same as that in the old charge sheet, no missing words, the same sentence, comma, full stop,” counsel to Mr. Ezeaka said.

Lead counsel to Messrs Osita and Maduakor (the pharmacists), J.N Aroh, noted that the same charges that another magistrate granted some of the accused persons bail were the same ones replicated by the police.

“All these issue of consolidation before a magistrate court that doesn’t have jurisdiction, (it) is a worthless exercise,” said Mr. Aroh.

“Because at the end of it, the DPP (Director of Public Prosecution) will decide based on the advice of the Attorney-General on who to charge,” he added.

Another lawyer, O. Dada, said that his client has been in custody for over 30 days and the police had not shown a “good cause” on why he should continue to be remanded in prison.

“This is one peculiar case, one in which the case of my client has been tried and convicted in the pages of newspapers,” said Mr. Dada, counsel to the older Mr. Ezike.

“Our application is that the second defendant (Mr. Ezike) be released until prosecution shows good cause,” Mr. Dada added.

‘LET THE CHARGES FLOW TOGETHER’

The magistrate, Olalekan Aka-Bashorun, in helping to explain the police’ decision, said that they want all their charges to “flow together.”

“That’s a neat thing to do,” Mr. Aka-Bashorun said.

“Everything is in the course of the same transaction, it’s for the DPP to decide the ones to severe,” he added.

Mr. Ezeaka and the younger Mr. Ezika – accused of receiving and selling the deceased’s Blackberry Bold 5 – had earlier been granted bail by another magistrate.

The fresh charges overrule the duo’s temporary freedom.

Mr. Ezeaka’s counsel said that his client had just met his “stringent” bail conditions only for the police to appear with fresh charges.

Counsel to the police, Chukwu Agwu, maintained that the nexus between the receivers of the property and the alleged murderers is “too thin.”

“Bail is not for the fun of it, though it’s a constitutional right,” said Mr. Agwu.

“The bail granted by your learned brother was too abysmal. You are not bound by the bail granted by your brother. Even the court can overrule itself,” Mr. Agwu told the magistrate.

The accused in court

Mr. Aka-Bashorun had ordered at the court’s last sitting, two days ago, that the prison authorities bring all the suspects to court on Friday.

When the seven of them arrived in an army green Black Maria, they were marched, quietly, into a court room already in session.

Three prison warders – one of them armed – stood over the suspects as they sat, or squatted, on the bare floor.

Another armed warder strolled leisurely outside the court room, occasionally pausing at the doorway to watch proceedings.

Mr. Aka-Bashorun noted that the fresh evidence before the court lumped all the suspects together.

“This is a new matter and a new thing altogether,” said the magistrate. “If the new charge is being substituted and it’s not read, anything you do is a nullity.

“Put your tentacles round and do your work,” Mr. Aka-Bashorun told the lawyers.

MILD DRAMA

The delay in police’s activities did not also go down well with the defendants’ lawyers.

After an order was made by the court on August 27, for the case files to be forwarded to the DPP for advice, the police counsel said that the files were only forwarded on September 24.

“We are going to forward the new charges to the DPP,” Mr. Agwu said of the fresh charges filed on Friday.

The magistrate, while urging the police to expedite action on their case, noted that every citizen – at one point or the order – had been a victim of police injustice.

One of the lawyers seemed to capitalize on the magistrate’s last speech to lash out at the police counsel saying that “nothing you do, a police man will always remain a police man.”

Mr. Agwu fought back.

“He should choose his words, he is turning this place into a market place,” the visibly enraged police counsel told the magistrate. “He should not cast aspersions in the name of legal practice or defending his client.”

Pharmacists want bail

Talking to journalists after the court rose, Chris Obiaka, one of the counsels to the detained pharmacists, said that they would explore the possibilities of securing bail for their clients at the Lagos High Court.

“By the next adjourned date they would have spent 60 days in prison,” Mr. Obiaka said.

“The PCN (Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria) gave a press briefing that this drug Rophynol is not a poison,” Mr. Obiaka said, reacting to the PCN’s position that the two pharmacists may have committed a breach of professional ethics as against a criminal offence by selling the drug used on the late Cynthia to the culprits

“The court had said the last time (to the police) give us proof of evidence, from there we’d know the extent of culpability of our clients,” said Mr. Obiaka.

Mr. Aka-Bashorun adjourned the case to November 5.

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