By CHUKS EKE
A group, Human Rights Justice and Peace Foundation, HRJPF, Anambra state chapter has made a passionate appeal to the Corps Marshall of the FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi to release the salaries, entitlements and promotions of two officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, Uchenna Izuakor and Paulinus Meregbe Akpotobo. which were hitherto interdicted when they were arrested, detained and arraigned in court for murder since two years ago.
Izuakor, an officer of the FRSC attached to Onitsha Unit Command and Akpotobo, the Onitsha Unit Commander had been arraigned before an Onitsha High court since 2019 for allegedly strangulating and killing one Emeka Ojei, another officer attached to the Unit on June 6, 2019, following a disagreement.
But after two years of trial, the presiding Judge of the court, Justice Theophine Oguji struck out the case from the general cause list and consequently discharged the defendants, following an application by the prosecution for the leave of the court to withdraw the charge pursuant to Section 163 (1) (b) of Anambra state Administration of Criminal Justice Law, 2010.
Delivering his judgement, Justice Oguji stated that since the two defence counsel, G. C. Emenike for the first defendant and Chukwuma Eze for the second defendant were not opposed to the said application, rather, both of them prayed that the case be struck out and their respective clients be discharged, the court has no other option than to strike out the charge from the general cause list and at the same time discharge the defendants in respect of the one-count charge preferred against them in the case.
In a press statement issued in Onitsha, yesterday, the state Chairman of HRJPF, Philip Ifemadinotu described the judgement of the court as credible and erudite, adding however that it was unfortunate that the case involved a human life.
According to the statement, HRJPF recognized Akpotobo and Izuakor as fine officers of the FRSC before their predicaments, which was why they even gave Akpotobo a merit award then and as such their arrears of salaries, allowances and other entitlements due to them throughout their arraignment in court and trial period should be released to them without further delay to enable them face their duties squarely, now that they have been discharged by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Ifemadinotu noted that based on the court verdict, Iauakor’s and Akpotobo’s hands are so clean that their rights and privileges should be restored without further delay, including their outstanding salaries and allowances, as well as promotions.
In the charge No. O/67C/2019, the defendants were initially charged for Manslaughter which is punishable under Section 279 of the Criminal Code, Cap. 36, Vol. II, Laws of Anambra state of Nigeria, 1991 and the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge, but as the case progressed, the charge was amended to Murder which is punishable under Section 274 (1) of the Criminal Code, Cap. 36, Vol. II, Laws of Anambra state of Nigeria, 1991 to which the defendants also pleaded not guilty of.
The prosecution counsel, A. K. Mojeke, Principal State Counsel who appeared for Dom Adizue, the state Deputy Director of Prosecution, had in the application for the withdrawal of the charge, explained that the nominal complainant has since 2020, absented himself from attending court proceedings, adding that information had it that the complainant has long settled the matter with the defendants and therefore no longer interested in furthering the prosecution of the case.
Urging the court to grant him leave to withdraw the case from the course list, the prosecution counsel further adduced the reasons for the application on the ground that all the efforts to get the Investigating Police Officer, IPO who investigated the case to come forward and testify against he defendants in the court had proved abortive.