A Federal High Court in Port-Harcourt has sentenced three loyalists of Governor Nyesom Wike to 17 years for armed robbery and murder.
Justice Ibrahim Watile, in a suit FHC/PH/10C/2016, found Charles Emeosiobi Nwaopei(28), Goodnews Kejeh(25) and Goodluck Wogbo(27) guilty of the charges preferred against them.
The 47-page certified true copy of the judgment was exclusively obtained by our correspondent yesterday in Port-Harcourt.
The three men were convicted for murdering two soldiers attached to 29 Brigade, Bori Camp Port Harcourt on November 23, 2015 as well as robbery of Diamond Bank Trans-Amadi Industrial layout where they made away with N100million before arrest by operatives of Federal-Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) on November 19, 2015.
Justice Watila said in the sentence: ” I have listened to the plea for mercy of the convicts and I have been guided by the provisions of the law under Sections 311, 416, 419 ACJA, 2015, the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, I hereby sentence you for the offence of conspiracy to seven years imprisonment.
“And for the offence of unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition to ten years imprisonment. The sentence will run concurrently. The sentence takes effect from November 19, 2015.”
The criminal case commenced on January 28, 2016 with two counts filed against the three men.
The presiding judge added: “From the evidence adduced so far before the court, I am convinced that the prosecution has been able to prove the case of being in possession of firearms without lawful authority.
“It is utterly baffling to this court, from the evidence led, all the defendants are from the same Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State. What a coincidence.
“There is ample evidence from the witnesses of the prosecution and the defendants themselves, linking them to the offences.
“The prosecution has proved the case against the defendants beyond reasonable doubt.
“I hereby find you guilty as charged and convict you for the offence of conspiracy to commit felony to wit, unlawful possession of firearms, punishable under Section 516 of the Criminal Code 2004 and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition, contrary to Section 3 and punishable under Section 27 (1) of the Firearms Act, 2004.”
In the police interim report of November 23 2015, the three men were accused of the murder of two soldiers attached to 29 Brigade, Bori Camp, Port -Harcourt: Lance Corporal Yohanna Kamuji (06NA/58/4456) on March 28, 2015 and Corporal Bello Lazarus (96NA/143/9888) on August 25, 2015.
Brigade’s Operations Officer confirmed the incident, saying the convicted also killed several policemen.
The three criminals, according to the police interim report, also robbed Diamond Bank Trans-Amadi Industrial Layout, Port Harcourt on October 14, 2015 and made away with N100 million before they were arrested by operatives of F-SARS on November 19, 2015.
The report added they were later identified by officials of Diamond Bank as the armed robbers that attacked the branch.
One of the criminals, Nwaoepi, disclosed that the rifle recovered from him was given to him by George, the Chief Security Officer of Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State and an indigene of Rumukanda in the same LGA while Wogbo was released from prison after serving a five-year jail term before his arrest.
But shortly after they were charged to court, the Rivers State Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the state’s Ministry of Justice, I. Otorubio, on January 8, 2016 in a six-page letter to the Rivers Commissioner of Police, with reference number: MJ/DPP/236/VOL.XLXXIV/05 requested that the charges be dropped and the suspects be released.
The Rivers DPP said: “The charge against the suspects: Charles Emesiobi Nwaoepi, Goodnews Kejeh should be dropped and they be released from prison custody forthwith.
“In the same vein, the charge against Goodluck Wogbo, the suspect not arraigned or charged to court, should be dropped and he too be released from police custody.”
Reacting, Rivers State Commander of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS), Akin Fakorede, said the sentence has vindicated him.
He recalled the convicted were set free by Rivers State Government after the crime they committed on November 19, 2015.
Fakorede, a lawyer and an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), in an exclusive interview in Port Harcourt, expressed delight justice has been served over the murder of two soldiers and other victims.
He said the landmark judgment was courageous.
Fakorede urged Wike and Rivers state government to always allow security agencies to do their jobs, lauding the prosecution team for a job well done.