Court strikes out murder charge against FRSC Unit Commander, another official, frees defendants

August 12, 2021
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By CHUKS EKE

An Onitsha High court in Anambra state, presided over by Justice Theophine Oguji has struck out a murder charge preferred against two officials of the Federal Road Safety commission, FRSC, Uchenna Izuakor and Paulinus Meregbe Akpotobo.

Izuakor, an officer of the FRSC attached to Onitsha Unit Command and Akpotobo, the Onitsha Unit Commander had been arraigned before the court for allegedly strangulating and killing one Emeka Ojei, another officer attached to the Unit on June 6, 2019, following a disagreement.

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The striking out of the charge from the general cause list and the discharge of the defendants by the court followed an application by the prosecution for the leave of the court to withdraw the charge pursuant to Section 163 (1) (b) of Anambra state Administration of Criminal Justice Law, 2010.

The prosecution counsel, A. K. Mojeke, Principal State Counsel who appeared for Dom Adizue, the state Deputy Director of Prosecution, had in the application for the withdrawal of the charge, explained that the nominal complainant has since 2020, absented himself from attending court proceedings, adding that information had it that the complainant has long settled the matter with the defendants and therefore no longer interested in furthering the prosecution of the case.

Urging the court to grant him leave to withdraw the case from the course list, the prosecution counsel further adduced the reasons for the application on the ground that all the efforts to get the Investigating Police Officer, IPO who investigated the case to come forward and testify against he defendants in the court had proved abortive.

In his judgement, Justice Oguji stated that since the two defence counsel, G. C. Emenike for the first defendant and Chukwuma Eze for the second defendant were not opposed to the said application, rather, both of them prayed that the case be struck out and their respective clients be discharged, the court has no other option than to strike out the charge from the general cause list and at the same time discharge the defendants in respect of the one-count charge preferred against them in the case.

In the charge No. O/67C/2019, the defendants were initially charged for Manslaughter which is punishable under Section 279 of the Criminal Code, Cap. 36, Vol. II, Laws of Anambra state of Nigeria, 1991 and the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge, but as the case progressed, the charge was amended to Murder which is punishable under Section 274 (1) of the Criminal Code, Cap. 36, Vol. II, Laws of Anambra state of Nigeria, 1991 to which the defendants also pleaded not guilty of.

In their reaction, a human rights group, Campaign for Democracy, CD described the judgement as credible and erudite, adding however that it was unfortunate that the case involved a human life.

CD’s Anambra state chairman, Comrade Ekene Nnadi recalled that they had earlier given Akpotobo a merit award as the Onitsha Unit Commander of FRSC, based on his outstanding performance which made them to have mutual trust on him, before the unfortunate incident occured.

Nnadi therefore called on the Corps Marshall of the FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi whom he described as a proactive and finest Corps Marshall in West Africa to release Akpotobo’s salaries, entitlements and promotions which were hitherto interdicted throughout his arraignment in court and trial period without further delay to enable him face his duties squarely, now that he has been discharged by a court of competent jurisdiction.

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