The Federal High Court in Abuja has convicted and sentenced two individuals – Kelvin Oniarah and Frank Azuekor – to 20 years in prison for their involvement in terrorism and kidnapping activities dating back to 2013.
Their crimes included the abduction of renowned senior lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, at the time.
Four suspects, Kelvin Oniarah Eziegbe, Frank Azuekor, Michael Omonigho (a traditional priest) and Momoh Haruna(first to fourth defendant) were in 2014, charged on 13 counts by the prosecution.
They were said to have also kidnapped Delta State Commissioner for Higher Education, Prof Hope Eghagha, Attanasius Ugbme and his friend, Emmanuel Maka Omorogbe, and attacked five policemen and two prison warders, leading to their death.
The case dragged on from 2014 to 2023 due to several adjournments as a result of the reassignment of the matter to three judges – Justice Adeniyi Ademola, Justice Babatunde Quadri and finally Justice Binta Nyako.
Ozekhome, during his testimony in court, identified the first and second defendant and told the court he played chess with them in their den and was eventually compelled to pay N40 million (in US dollars) before he was released.
Ozekhome told Justice Nyako that he saw as an eyewitness when the suspects exchanged gunshots with security agents when the first defendant attempted to attack the prison to free the second defendant.
However, the first and second defendants testified that they were forced to make confessional statements by the Department of State Services.
In her judgement on Friday, Justice Nyako found Kelvin and Frank guilty of terrorism and kidnapping, relying on the eyewitness testimony of Ozekhome.
For the third defendant who was a priest in a shrine, the judge discharged him saying the priest has not done any wrong in giving help to visitors and the prosecution failed to connect his role as a priest to the allegations.
About Momoh Haruna who is still at large after escaping from prison custody, Nyako ordered that when he is arrested, he must be brought to court to face trial.
Subsequently, Nyako convicted the other suspects for terrorism and escaping from prison custody.
After their conviction, the two convicts pleaded for leniency citing health grounds and family.
“I have considered the plea made by the convicts, I have noted their remorsefulness. The convicts has been in custody for about ten years(in DSS), ” Binta said adding, the offense for which they were found guilty carried life imprisonment but she would use her discretion.
“I am going to sentence you to twenty years imprisonment each and it will run from the day you were arrested. This will serve as a deterrent. This is my decision,” Binta held, directing the DSS to transfer them to the Nigeria Prison Service. (Whistler)