*Church, CPA to celebrate his birthday tomorrow
*We are not aware of apex court’s judgment – Resident Pastor
*Archbishops Ojo, Osa-Oni, Ajao residents, LASG react
By Sam Eyoboka, Clifford Ndujihe, Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Olayinka Latona & Anozie Egole
THE Supreme Court, yesterday, gave the General-Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly, CPA, Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, a.k.a Rev. King an unpalatable birthday gift: You must die!
The wordings of the Supreme Court ruling were in contrast to the adoring words Rev King’s faithful used to salute him in tens of paid newspaper adverts.
In deed, on a day that the apex court okayed death sentence by hanging for Rev King, members of his church were oblivious of the judgement and were putting things in shape to celebrate his birthday, tomorrow.
In a unanimous judgement, yesterday, a five-man panel of Justices of the apex court led by Justice Walter Onnoghen, upheld the death sentence that was earlier handed to Ezeugo by the Lagos State High Court and Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court, in its lead verdict delivered by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, dismissed the appeal the convicted clergy lodged before it.
Justice Ngwuta, who noted that “the facts of the case could have been lifted from a horror film”, resolved all the 12 issues Ezeugo raised in his appeal.
“This appeal has no merit. The judgement of the court of appeal is hereby affirmed. The prison sentence that was earlier handed to the appellant is no longer relevant in view of the death sentence passed on him”, Justice Ngwuta held.
Church, CPA to celebrate his birthday tomorrow
The atmosphere at 1 CPA Base, off Bishop Ojo Avenue, Ajao Estate, Lagos premises of the church was normal, yesterday, a few hours after the deadly verdict. Nothing seemed to be amiss as the area was having its normal evening look with passers-by going about their normal activities. The mien of the members and passers-by did not indicate that the founder of the prayer ministry had been sentenced to death by hanging just a few hours ago.
One of the residential pastors, who identified himself as Pastor Ifeanyi, told Saturday Vanguard: “We are not aware of any Supreme Court judgement. He is our founder and father in the Lord. Besides the church is organizing his birthday service on Sunday (tomorrow).
The church even held an all night programme on Thursday, as you can see we have been on with our normal worship services.”
Some residents, who pleaded anonymity hailed the verdict and urged the Federal Government to carry out the Supreme Court judgement, saying that whosoever that kills should also be killed.
“We are even surprised that the man has not been executed all these years. Men, who are servant of the devil but pretend to be men of God will learn lessons from Rev. King. Probably the population of the church members will now reduce if they get to know about the court judgement,” one of the residents said.
LASG hails judgement
The apex court’s ruling, yesterday, elicited reactions from some religious leaders and the the Lagos State Government, which hailed the verdict.
Reacting to the judgement, the Lagos State Government, through the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, said the ruling was another confirmation of the seriousness of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration to be decisive in fighting crime in the state.
The Commissioner said: “This is just another confirmation that the government of his Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is going to be very strong on fighting crime. Wherever a crime is committed, no matter how long it takes, the government of Lagos State will ensure that the perpetrators of those crimes face justice eventually.
“I salute the institution called the Supreme Court for this erudite judgement and I want to assure the public that we will continue and we will not relent in our fight to make Lagos a safer, secure and more prosperous state.”
Archbishops Ojo, Osa-Oni speak
Former National Secretary of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Archbishop Joseph Imariabhe Ojo, said the ruling was a right step in the right direction because there is no doubt that Rev King did what he was accused of.
Rev. King’s church, Christian Praying Assembly is situated on Bishop Ojo’s Avenue in Ajao Estate and by implication the former PFN scribe can be described as their landlord and may have been in close contact with the leadership of the church while he was leaving there.
“There is a law that says what you sow, you will reap. It’s only a matter of time. If the Supreme Court failed to confirm the lower courts’ verdict, if he comes back, he would only come back to do worse things because as the Bible says, seven more deadly spirits would join him to come back to do much more deadly things. May the Lord have mercy on his soul,” he prayed.
Asked why more and more charlatans spring up in every nook and cranny of the nation, the archbishop who now oversees his Calvary Kingdom Church along Lagos-Badagry Expressway in Lagos blamed the phenomenon of fake prophets on the growing rate of unemployment as a result of poor economy.
“There are many men doing worst things than Rev. King in this country and it appears there is not much we can do to arrest the development. I have said it before and I can repeat it over and over again, the economy is contributing as many people are jobless and want to do anything to earn a living. Pastoral work is extremely difficult. If there were jobs there are many people who are not called who would not dare to go into ministry.
“It is because they have nothing to fall back to, that is why you see all these things here and there. When the economy was good you don’t find all manner of charlatans who should be doing other things; they are educated but frustrated as they cannot get gainfully employed jobs; so they do all manner of manipulations to attract people to their church. You often hear things like ‘It’s happening there’. What is happening? Manipulations! Occultism! They claim somebody died and resurrected; is that the end of the gospel?
‘’They can’t preach because they are not trained to preach; so they resort to all kinds of manipulations to attract people. We are just praying for the economy to improve to have a true and Godly change so that all the charlatans will be gainfully employed in their areas of strength and not to give a wrong impression of the Kingdom of God, ‘’ Archbishop Ojo argued.
Also responding in a telephone discussion, Archbishop John Osa-Oni, the General Overseer of Vineyard Christian Centre also in Ajao Estate, also hailed the Supreme Court Judgement, saying that the apex court has amply demonstrated that there is hope for the common man in this country because the relatives of the victims of the church leader’s cruelty will be vindicated.
The archbishop added that only such judicial pronouncements can mitigated the suffering of thousands of gullible Nigerians who are easily swayed by any wind of doctrine, also arguing that the missionary work have suddenly become an all-comers game that every Tom, Dick and Harry jump into to make ends meet.
Osa-Oni, however, hoped that the execution of the verdict will not be left to the vagaries of political considerations that will open windows for Rev. King to get an ‘arranged’ parole which will put the lives of victims’ relations in danger.
According to him, it took about 10 years for the judicial process to be concluded, the spirit of the deceased will be assuaged if the execution is carried out speedily and their relatives would be able to go about their legitimate businesses peacefully.
Additionally, other people with such tendencies who abound all over the nation today would also learn a lesson or two and know that it cannot be business as usual in the country, where they had operated with such impunity as though there are no laws in the land.’’
How the death journey began
Ezeugo was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging on January 11, 2007, for the alleged murder of his church member, Ann Uzoh.
He was arraigned on September 26, 2006 on a six-count charge of attempted murder and murder.
The charge against him was at the instance of the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions.
During the trial, the prosecution had argued that the convict poured petrol on the deceased, Uzor and five others. Uzoh died on August 2, 2006, exactly 11 days after the incident.
In her judgement, trial Justice Joseph Oyewole who is now a Justice of the Court of Appeal at Calabar, said there was sufficient evidence linking the accused person to the commission of the crime.
Consequently, Justice Oyewole convicted and sentenced Ezeugo to 20 years imprisonment for the attempted murder and death by hanging for the offence of murder.
Dissatisfied with the judgement, Ezeugo took the case before the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal. in his notice of appeal dated January 16, 2007, he prayed the appellate court to set aside the judgement.
Aside 16 grounds of appeal he raised through his lawyer, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, he was subsequently granted leave to argue additional 16 grounds based on an amended notice of appeal he filed on June 15, 2008.
Ojo argued that his client did not commit the crime and was not at the scene of the incident.
He insisted that the deceased, Uzoh, had in two statements she made after the incident and before her death, stated that she got burnt in a generator accident and that the cleric was not responsible for her injuries.
Ojo said the Investigating Police Officer, IPO, had tendered statements which stated that Ezeugo was not responsible for the burns that led to Uzoh’s death.
He alleged that the trial Judge refused to admit in evidence, the statements he said exonerated Ezeugo of the crime, adding that Justice Oyewole’s refusal to admit the exhibits in evidence “occasioned a great miscarriage of justice” against his client.
Appeal court concur
After due consideration of the case, a three-man panel of justices of the appellate court, in a lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Fatimo Akinbami, dismissed Ezeugo’s appeal and upheld the high court’s verdict.
The other members of the appellate court panel, who concurred with the lower court’s verdict were Justices Amina Augie and Ibrahim Saulawa.
Determined to save his life, Rev Ezeugo lodged an appeal before the Supreme Court.
His appeal was challenged by the Lagos state government, which through its Attorney General, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem and Director of Public Prosecutions, Mrs. Idowu Alakija, urged the apex court to dismiss it and uphold the concurrent verdicts of the two lower courts.
Reverend King reigned horror on his church members, decapitating and dehumanising them in the course of his practice that was adjudged barbaric. There were also sex ordeals in his church as he abused both married and single women while claiming to be working for God.