How Ogwashi-Uku court found accused persons guilty of Dikibo’s murder.
FOR the duo of Onyeka Emordi and Solomon Igbinedion, July 30, 2008 was a day set aside by fate to determine their innocence or guilt as to the alleged murder of the late South-South leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Alfred Dikibo.
The trial which commenced some four years ago at the Ogwashi-Uku High Court in Aniocha South Council Areas of Delta State, the locality where the supposed murder took place, finally reached climax on the aforesaid date when the duo, that is, Onyeka Emordi and Solomon Igbinedion, were both pronounced guilty of the murder charges preferred against them, in 2004. On July 30, 2008, the Ogwashi-Uku High Court presided over by Justice Anthony Akpovi, (who was also the trial judge of the murder case of late Chief Alfred Dikibo) was almost empty.
There was no sign to herald the monumental decision the court was to hand down that day, after about four years of legal tussle between the state counsel, led by the Delta State Director of Public Prosecutions, Mrs. Theodora Uloho, and the accused persons’ defence counsel, Barrister Clifford Nndego. Justice Anthony Akpovi, in presenting his judgment which lasted for about 30 minutes, went down memory lane as he reviewed the issues and points of laws raised by the opposition counsel in their examinations, cross-examinations and submissions of the accused and principal witnesses who were called during the trial. In the suit No. 0/4/04, (Commissioner of Police v. Onyeka Emordi Solomon Igbinedion and another still at large), the duo were arraigned on a five-count charge of murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery, illegal possession of arm.
During the trial, the state counsel had called eight witnesses to prove their cases, among them, the driver of the late Chief Alfred Dikibo, the investigating police officer of the murder, (IPO), female eyewitness and victim of the robbery incident that took place at the Nsukwa-Isheagu of Aniocha South which eventually led to the murder of the late South-South PDP leader, and a host of others.
Also among the witnesses called is the medical doctor who conducted the autopsy on the remains of Chief Dikibo. According to the judgment as read out by Justice Akpovi, the accused respondents did not call any witness in defence of the allegations levelled against them, but relied on their oral testimony, just as they equally did not produce any material exhibit for self-defence as is in the case of the prosecuting counsel who tendered several exhibits, including the locally-made guns and cartridges alleged to have been found in possession of the accused persons.
The accused, in self-defence, had told the court that they had no knowledge of any robbery that took place sometime in 2004, which eventually led to the killing of the Dikibo. The 2nd defendant, Solomon Igbinedion, had denied any complicity in the alleged robbery and murder of Dikibo. He had stated that he did not know the area called Nsukwa in Aniocha South Council Area of Delta State, nor was he ever taken to Abuja by the police for any reason whatsoever.
He had maintained that he was arrested in Umunede in Ika North-East Local Government Area of Delta State where he was also shot on the leg, while also maintaining that he was a student at the time of the incident.
Similar denials and alibi were also made by the accused, Onyeka Emordi. But in their statements to the police marked exhibit ‘C’, the accused persons had owned up to the act, especially the first accused’s vivid description of the sharp bend along the Nsukwa-Isheagu axis where the robbery and murder of Chief Dikibo took place, which, naturally points to the fact that the said accused person had a good knowledge of the scene of event which is a pointer to the allegation that he was at the scene of the murder, the court had noted.
Beyond this also was the testimony of Solomon Igbinedion which stated that the said Onyeka Emordi had threatened to kill him and the other accused persons still at large, if they refuse to go further in their robbery deal with him as they had jointly carried out one with him and, of course, had knowledge of his secrets. Their statement also revealed how the presence of the police drove them into the nearby bush where they shared their loot before proceeding to Nsukwa town, the home town of Onyeka Emordi’s mother.
But the defence counsel, in his submission, had observed that while the confessional statements marked exhibit ’C’ might have been obtained from the accused, it was noteworthy to aver that all prosecution witnesses, (PWs), in their averrenlents, did not directly link or identify the duo of Onyeka Emordi and Solomon Igbinedion as the perpetrators.
The defence counsel, Barrister Clifford Nndego had relied strongly on the evidence adduced by one of the PWs, a woman who openly held that she was not able to identify the duo as the armed robbers who struck on the said date, which also led to the murder of Chief Dikibo. According to her, there were sporadic shootings into the air by the armed robbers who mounted a roadblock around the Nsukwa-Isheagu axis, which led to many drivers reversing and fleeing, in a bid to escape.
While this may be so, according to the High Court judgment, the driver of the late Dikibo’s description of the event and the position of his late boss posture at the back of the car before the stray bullet struck him on the left part of the head which spilled his brain, was corroborated by the medical report of the autopsy conducted on the mortal remains of the PDP chieftain.
Also, the confessional statement by Solomon Igbinedion that he was searching the cars they had armbushed, while Onyeka Emordi gave him cover and at the same time, shooting sporadically, according to Justice Anthony Akpovi was weighty and naturally does not, in anyway, exonerate the second accused person nor the first.
The state counsel, in her submissions, had stuck to the fact that a confessional statement obtained under caution without denial makes the accused person liable and, therefore, could be relied upon in evidence as in the case on hand.
But the defence counsel had also submitted that the issue of the third count which had to do with illegal possession of firearm does not fall within the jurisdiction of a state High Court since it was a federal matter.
Nevertheless, Justice Anthony Akpovi had upheld the view, but averred that that does not exonerate the accused person, considering the fact that the guns were used for an act which falls within the jurisdiction of a State High Court. Citing relevant portions of the law, the trial judge maintained that the act itself was committed. He, however, stressed that the knowledge of the second accused that the first accused had a gun that is capable of causing harm makes both of them liable.
He maintained that all material evidences adduced by the prosecuting counsel confirm that the said accused persons actually went and robbed at the scene of the event but without any particular victim as target.
He noted that Chief Dikibo was only an unfortunate victim of the armed robbers’ sporadic shootings. Justice Anthony Akpovi held that the prosecuting counsel had proved her case beyond all reasonable doubt. He convicted the duo of Onyeka Emordi and Solomon Igbinedion on the 1st and 2nd, 4th and 5th counts but acquitted them on the 3rd. On the 1st, 2nd and 4th count charges, Justice Anthony Akpovi said: “You Onyeka Emordi, and, you, Solomon Igbinedion, (respectively), I sentence you to die by hanging, until you are dead; may the Lord have mercy on your souls (respectively).”
The final pronouncement was, however, made by Justice Akpovi after the defence counsel, Barrister Clifford Nndego, in his allocutus, had pleaded for leniency and the need to temper justice with mercy, by urging the trial judge to make a strong recommendation to the state Governor to commute the death sentence to terms of imprisonment, especially as they were young men who, from all actions and experience, had deeply repented.
He also mentioned that even the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, in newspaper reports recently, had set up a committee to investigate the murder of Chief Alfred Dikibo as he was said to have expressed displeasure over the manner the Dikibo investigation was handled. Speaking shortly after the count judgment that condemned his clients, Barrister Clifford Nndego told Sunday POINTER that not all of it judgment was clear to him.
According to him, it was unjustifiable to have condemned his clients when the witnesses called by the prosecuting counsel did not positively identify his clients as the persons who carried out the robbery acts that led to the murder of Chief Alfred Dikibo. He pledged to appeal the judgment. It would be recalled that the Chief Alfred Dikibo was murdered in cold blood sometime in 2004 on his way from his home town to Asaba, the Delta State capital, for a PDP meeting. He was then the South-South leader of the party.