Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
A High Court sitting at Ughelli in Delta State has sentenced a 40-year old farmer, Mr. Alex Obigho, to death by hanging for the murder of Mr. Okunu Diafa nearly seven years ago.
The late Okunu Diafa was until his death the personal steward/cook to the traditional ruler of Kiagbodo community in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State.
Delivering judgment on the case, trial judge, Hon. Justice A.O. Akpovi, found the accused guilty of one count charge of murder proffered against him by the State and accordingly sentenced him to death by hanging.
The 22nd June, 2012 brutal killing of the victim, Okunu, a native of Kiagbodo at the boundary between Oviri-Olomu of Ughelli South Local Government Area and Kiagbodo community in Burutu Local Government Area had heightened tension between the two peaceful communities for fear of reprisal attack; and, only the quick intervention of the traditional rulers of both communities save the situation from degenerating.
Justice Akpovi in his judgment commended the traditional rulers of both communities for handling the matter with maturity and preventing a possible escalation into a full blown crisis due to the ”unreasonable action of one man who took the laws into his hands.”
“The deceased was not armed and the level of damage was unreasonable. The accused did not report the matter to the police for investigation rather he killed the man and absconded and sold his phone. This shows that the accused is hardened. He had the option to arrest the deceased and hand him over to the police instead of taking the laws into his hands” the court ruled.
The trial Judge further declined the plea for ‘allocutus’ by counsel to the accused, who begged the court to mitigate the sentence by imposing a lesser punishment, saying that his hands were tied in the light of the overwhelming evidence before the court as the accused by laying ambush against the deceased while armed with a cutlass had the intention to kill.
In his defence, the accused alleged that the deceased was a thief responsible for stealing his farm produce, adding that on that fateful day, he caught the deceased in his farm and on sighting him, the deceased took to his heels. He pursued him and a fight ensued and in the process he inflicted severe machete wounds on the late Okunu Diafa, which led to his instant death.
Meanwhile, Justice Akpovi, in a separate judgment, discharged and acquitted one Kingsley Oyokolo on a four-count of armed robbery, membership of unlawful society, conspiracy and causing grievous harm to his victim whom he allegedly shot during a robbery operation at Ozoro, Isoko North Local Government Area.
The Judge in his verdict held that prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt ingredients of the four-count charge against the accused. He however, ordered the prison officials to take him back to prison custody to check their records to ensure that the accused was not standing criminal trial in another court before his eventual release from custody.
The prison officials, on the orders of the judge, eventually confirmed to the court that the accused was standing another criminal trial at Kwale High court, thus dashing his hope of release, until the final determination of his fate by the Kwale High court presiding over his second criminal trial.