Court Frees Methodist Priest, Six Others Of Murder Charge In Enugu

An Enugu State High Court, has discharged and acquitted, a Methodist priest, the Reverend Kenneth Azikiwe Okafor, and six others of murder charge leveled against them.

The trial Judge, Justice Comfort Chinyere Ani, held that the 2 count charge preferred against Reverend Kenneth Azikiwe Okafor and six others did not prove the offence of murder against them before being unlawfully arrested.

The clergy and others were apprehended and remanded in Enugu Correctional Centre on 14th September, 2018 over the murder of the traditional ruler of Ogbozinne community, Igwe Stephen Nwatu in 2018 and promoting local war.

Reverend Okofor, a native of Umueze Awkunanaw in Nkanu West LGA of Enugu State, who is also of Methodist Diocese of Agbani, was apprehended along six others by operatives of the defunct, Special Anti Robbery Squad, (SARS) on September, 2018.

Igwe Nwatu had died following injuries he was said to have sustained while attempting to block the convoy of some members of the community going to the Government House, Enugu, to protest his alleged high handedness, including outrageous burial and security levies, forced labour and collection of percentage on every land sold in the community.

See also  No Division In Abia, Doris Ogala Still Interim Chairman, Warns Impostors - AGN President

Following his death, the Police swooped on the community and arrested all those that had either disagreed with the late monarch or were sighted during the crisis that caused his death.

Delivering judgment on the matter, the trial Judge, Justice Comfort Chinyere Ani, held that she did not find anything against the accused persons and exonerated them from all the charges placed against them.

Justice Ani, stated that the prosecution did not present any of the eyewitnesses of the incident to testify in the case.

“I cannot see circumstantial evidence strong enough to tie the defendants to the murder of the deceased in the face of uninvestigated alibi raised by some of the defendants.

“The Whatsapp chats relied on by the prosecution in their attempt to link the defendants to the crime were well analysed in the earlier part of this judgment. Suffice it to state that the chats while being incomplete and fragmented did not disclose conspiracy to murder and could not be specifically traced to the defendants. The law is that all ingredients of murder must coexist before the court can convict a defendant.

See also  We Are Committed To Advancing Abia Economy Through Digital Innovation --- Gov Otti

“I hold that the prosecution was not able to prove the offences of conspiracy and murder against the seven defendants beyond reasonable doubt and they are consequently, hereby discharged and acquitted,” the judge ruled.

It could be recalled that the crisis in Ogbozinne community climaxed on June 11, 2018, with a brawl at Amodu Junction between those sympathetic to the late Igwe Nwatu and those opposed to his leadership style.

Reacting to the judgment, one of the defendants, the Reverend Kenneth Azikiwe Okafor, who was the Pastor in charge of Emmanuel Methodist Church, Ogbozinne Ndiagu Akpugo, told our correspondent that he was incarcerated for an offence he knew nothing about.

Also, the Methodist Bishop of Agbani Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Udo Nmeregini, said though he was happy that the court acquitted the priest of all the charges, it was regrettedable that a man who engaged in the promotion of peace in the community, was robbed into a matter he had no knowledge about.

See also  Abians Are Recovering Their Dignity Because Of Gov Otti -Kalu

Nmeregini described Reverend Kenneth Azikiwe Okafor, as one of his finest ministers who had given so much for the ministry and spiritual developments of the people.

The Bishop maintained that the church was ready to reinstall him to continue his ministerial duties.

An indigene of Ogbozinne, Ndiagu Akpugo autonomous Community, Elder John Okoh, said Reverend Kenneth Azikiwe Okafor was friendly with members of the community and deeply committed to advancing the gospel of Christ, noting that his discharge was a victory for all.

The late monarch, Igwe Nwatu had since been buried.