The Hon Justice George Omereji of the High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, sentenced five accused persons to death by hanging for murder of one Anthony Okoro on Tuesday, September 8, 2020,
His father, High Chief J. N. O. Okoro says, “the only thing that will ease the pains I have been having is that the court judgement should be executed without delay.” For Chief Okoro, the bigger pain in the murder of his son, a Shell staff, was that two masterminds were persons living within same enclosure with his family at his home, No1 Okoro Street, Off Mangrove Lane, Woji, Obio Akpor Local Government Area of Port Harcourt where the crime happened.
He said, “Miracle Anamuma, one of those condemned to death, was the son of a close friend I brought from my village, Umueze II, Ehime Mbano LGA, Imo state. He used to be the houseboy serving me when I was living with my son, Anthony in the Woji home that I built. Miracle was well taken care of, I even put him in a state card school.
“Oluchi Charles, the lady accused, was my tenant. Sometimes in February 2016, I left all of them in Port Harcourt, gradually relocating to my village in Imo where I decided to settle as a retired police officer. Miracle then remained, living with my son Anthony, the Shell staff.
“On the night of 29th May 2016, Miracle, lured by Oluchi, opened all the gates for the hoodlums to come and shoot my son. My biggest regret is that he was killed for no just cause. He did not take anybody’s wife or cheated on any business with anybody. Out of sheer wickedness, my houseboy and former tenant conspired against my son. After looting his house, they even went to withdraw cash from his accounts with his ATM and still shot him.”
The gang, on invasion of the house had ransacked Anthony’s apartment, took him along with his Range Rover, Optima and Kia Carens with other valuables. Half way they discovered there was no fuel in the Kia. They abandoned it.
As police investigations progressed, it was discovered that Oluchi took the Range Rover to sell in far away Jos where she was once married to a medical doctor. She sold the car, as police found out with a fake name, Lilian Okoro, also impersonating as a lawyer.
Chief Okoro grieved that, “At the time the incident happened, I had in my statement to the police, pointed to Oluchi as prime suspect, because for eight days, she disappeared following the incident. So I wasn’t surprised when her name came up from the buyer of the Range Rover.
“When they took my son away, the kidnappers had called me for N20Million ransom, warning me not to call in the police because they had a close contact watching. I never knew the contact they referred was my houseboy, Miracle who was feeding them all information.
“I told them the money would be raised, that they should give us time and should not harm my son. They never called again. That was the end. It’s still a pain that my son’s remains were never recovered till today. I almost went crazy. It affected my health because Tony was breadwinner of the family.
Trial outcome Five out of seven accused persons in suit No PHC/324/2017, Oluchi Charles (1st Defendant), Miracle Anamuma in his 20s (2nd Defendant), Ifeanyi Simon (3rd Defendant), Koko Bassey (4th Defendant) and Uchenna Stanley Amaechi (7th Defendant), were convicted of the 10 charges preferred against them by the Inspector General of Police bordering on conspiracy, stealing, armed robbery, kidnapping and murder. Chukwudi Etete (5th Defendant) and Anthony Ugwu (6th Defendant) the two other accused were discharged and acquitted by the court.
Justice Omereji held that the prosecution proved its case that the first to fourth and seventh accused were guilty as charged. Omereji in discharging and acquitting the 5th Etete and Ugwu stated that the prosecution could not prove that the duo had knowledge of the crime, rather they, by mistake, bought property belonging to the victim, Okoro. Omereji, relying on Section 410 of the Administration of Criminal Justice 2011, sentenced the five convicted persons to death by hanging, adding that they should be held on the rope till confirmed dead.
The payer of victim’s father On the accused persons likely motive for the crime, Chief Okoro, “seem to believe they did not mean to kill. Out of stupidity, one of the kidnappers shot him. They were desperate for money. Oluchi, we were told had promised to use part of the ransom to send Miracle, my houseboy overseas.
“I am satisfied with the dispensation of justice as demonstrated in their sentence to death by the court. I have been patient for the past four years. I am sure the purpose of punishment is to deter others from committing same office.
“I am praying that the hanging should not take long time, so that justice is obtained quickly. That is what will ease the pains that I have been having.”