Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, a.k.a Reverend King ,the General Overseer of Lagos-based Christian Praying Assembly, yesterday lost an eight year legal battle to save his neck from the hangman’s noose after the Supreme Court insisted he must keep a date with the executioner.King could only be spared from hanging, if the Lagos State Governor decides to commute the death sentence to imprisonment.
The apex court affirmed the conviction and death sentence given to him by the High Court of Lagos State, Ikeja, on January 11, 2007 for attempted murder and murder.
Justice Joseph Oyewole, now of the Court of Appeal, had found him guilty of setting ablaze six members of his church on July 22, 2006.
One of victims, Ann Uzoh, died 11 days later in a medical facility from the burns she sustained.
The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, in a judgment delivered by Justice Fatimo Akinbami on February 1, 2013, affirmed the judgment of the High Court.
Reviewing the case before his ruling, Ngwuta said: “It was agreed by parties that the appellant was the General Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly (CPA) with headquarters in Ajao Estate, Lagos. It was also agreed that he had a father-son/daughter-relationship with the victims of the incident. And this is the point where they depart:
“The prosecution’s case is that the appellant accused six of his people (followers) of immoral behaviour. He called them together, beat each of them with hard objects and after the beating, he assembled them downstairs, made them kneel down, hobbled together and he caused petrol to be poured on them, and he struck a match and threw same at them.
“They all sustained various degrees of burns. While five of them escaped. The sixth person, who later died, suffered 65 per cent degree burns. You can imagine what she went through in her last days at the hospital.
“The appellant denied this. But said though he punished them for immoral behaviour, the punishment was different from the incident that gave birth to the charge. He said they (the victims) sustained injuries when a generating set exploded. That was his case. But throughout the proceedings (trial), this mysterious generating set was never produced.
“The trial High Court convicted him as charged. And on each of counts one to five, he was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment which was to run concurrently. On the sixth count of murder, he was sentenced to death by hanging.
“He was dissatisfied with the judgment and appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and affirmed the judgment of the trial court. And he appealed to this court.
“Twelve issues were distilled from the grounds of appeal. The respondents had nine issues. The nine issues were encompassed in the appellant’s 12 issues.
“I decided to determine the appeal on those 12 issues. I considered each of them and at the end, I came to the conclusion that the appeal has no merit.
“Having considered all the arguments by learned counsel for the parties in addition to the records, I resolve the 12 issues formulated by the appellant against him. Consequently, I hold that the appeal is bereft of merit and it is dismissed. The judgment of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the judgment of the trial court, is hereby affirmed.
“The prison terms for attempted murder are no longer relevant and are discountenanced in view of the death penalty hereby affirmed. Appeal dismissed.”