•Acquits father, sister
•As security operatives stopped convict from escaping
By Chioma Onuegbu
An Akwa Ibom State High Court, sitting in Uyo, yesterday, has sentenced Uduak Akpan to death by hanging, for the rape and murder of a University of Uyo graduate of Philosophy, Miss Iniobong Umoren.
Umoren was declared missing in May 2021, after leaving home to meet Akpan over a potential job offer, in Akwa Ibom, and was found dead days later.
The incident caused outrage on social media, as many Nigerians called for the arrest of her killer. The Akwa Ibom Police Command arrested Akpan, after Umoren’s body was found in a shallow grave in the backyard of the convict’s house.
The convict, Akpan, a suspected serial rapist and killer, was convicted after he was found guilty on Counts 1 and 2, bordering on rape and murder preferred against him by the Akwa Ibom State government.
In his judgement, the trial Judge, Justice Bassey Nkanang, sentenced Uduak-Abasi Akpan to death by hanging, in respect of the charge of murder, and life imprisonment for the charge of rape.
Frank Akpan, his daughter acquitted
However, Nkanang discharged and acquitted both second and third defendants in the case, Mr Frank Akpan, and his daughter, Anwan-Bassey Akpan, on the ground that there was no sufficient evidence to prove the case preferred against them.
Both the second and third defendants, (father and daughter) were charged on counts 3 and 4, bordering on accessory after the fact, to murder.
Pronouncing judgment on Uduak-Abasi Akpan, Justice Nkanang said: “In respect to the first defendant, the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt the charges of rape and murder preferred against him.
“The first defendant Uduak-Abasi Akpan is, hereby, sentenced to life imprisonment for rape; that you be hanged to death for the charge of murder. This is the judgement of this Court in this case”
Attempt to escape
Meanwhile, the court premises was thrown into confusion and panic when Uduak-Abasi turned violent by attacking a lawyer in the courtroom and attempting to escape through, after the Judge pronounced the judgement on him.
The security men, especially the Policemen within the Court premises and Prison officers inside the courtroom, were quick to stop him at the door of the courtroom.
The violent convict, who was shouting ‘I am not guilty, was immediately whisked away from the Court premises, along Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo, with the prison vehicle that brought him to Court.
There was a heavy presence of police within the court premises, as early as 7.30 am, ahead of the court sitting, which commenced around 9am. Although the case was scheduled for 9am, the Courtroom of the State High Court was filled to the brim as early as 8am.
Fielding questions from newsmen shortly after the judgement, the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Uko Essien Udom, expressed happiness over the outcome of the case.
His words: “I will like to thank the learned Judge for the way and manner the case has been conducted. This trial had been conducted for nine months, it was a very complicated trial, but at the end of the day, we have a judgement that shows the justice system works, and we are very happy about the outcome of the case.
“For the first defendant, as you can see he is led into custody, the second and third defendants have been discharged and acquitted, and we intend, on behalf of the state to analyse that aspect of the judgement and take a decision on the next step in that regard.
“Let me not stop without commending the Nigeria Police Force and officers of the DSS, for the very diligent investigation that they carried out in this case.
They did a great job. And so many times we had these gentlemen vilified by members of the public, particularly on social media. You hear all kinds of stories about the complicity of the Investigators.
“But if you listen to that Judgement, you will know that without the diligence of the Police and the officers of the DSS, the evidence that we had, to bring out the conviction would not have been possible. I will also like to thank the very diligent staff of the Ministry of Justice, Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, and Solicitor General, they did a fantastic job”
On his part, Counsel to Uduak-Abasi Akpan, Mr Samson Adula, said “if you followed the judgement, you will know that the judge has done justice to the case; justice in the sense that those that are supposed to be convicted were convicted, and other two defendants were discharged and acquitted”.
Asked if he will appeal the judgement, Adula who is also the State Coordinator, Legal Aid Council responded, “It is not within my place to appeal. It is left to him,(convict) whether he wants to appeal or not. My work was to defend him at the State High Court. And as I said in the court, this case is a case that speaks volumes about the state of our youths in this country. The deceased was a 26year old graduate, and the first defendant was a 20-year-old undergraduate. “When you review the whole case it goes to show the extent of unemployment in our society”.
The family members of late Iniubong Umoren in separate remarks expressed happiness and thanked the Judge for giving their deceased sister, who was gruesomely murdered, justice in the case.