Raphael Ede, Enugu
Tears of joy flowed, on Tuesday, as an Enugu State High Court, discharged and acquitted five young men of Umunnegene, Umuaniabor family in Amechi-Awkunanaw, Enugu South council area, who had been on trial for murder since May, 2015.
The former accused persons Jeremy Onah, George Onovoh, John Agwu Timothy Onah and Chief Patrick Ukwu had faced a two-count charge of conspiracy to commit murder and murder of three of their kinsmen in the suit No. E/102c/2015 between the State vs Jeremy Onah and 4 others.
They were accused of killing three of their kinsmen, Nnaemeka Agbo, Nnamani Ikpa and Sunday Nnamani on May 1, 2015 at an expanse of land situate at Akanishinne believed to belong to the three families Umunogo, Umunwakum and Umunnegene which has been in dispute since 1981.
Delivering judgment, on Tuesday, the trial judge, Justice Ngozi Orji of Court 9, declared that duo were not guilty, saying that the Prosecution had failed to establish that the accused persons actually killed or conspired with the intent to kill the diseased or any other person or persons on the fateful day.
The court said that the Defence was able, through alibis and witnesses’ testimonies, to prove their innocence of the said offence.
Reacting to the judgement that came out in favour of his clients, Counsel to the accused, Prof. Richard Achara, popularly known as RACE Achara, thanked God and the judge for standing with the truth.
He said that what happened was unfortunate that human lives were lost over land.
“It is an unfortunate situation. It is unfortunate in an attempt to rope my clients, they allowed the murderers to go free. I am however grateful to the court for setting my clients free.
“We have mixed feelings. My clients are sad that their brothers died. They are doubly saddened by the fact the malicious attempt to rope them in for something they did not commit has had the consequence that the real murderers have escaped. If the family members had put resources together, they could have helped the police to find the real culprits.
“On the other hand, my clients are overjoyed that the judgement has established the blatant falsity of the allegations against them which could have led to their wrongful execution for something they did not do,” Achara said.
Speaking on behalf of the four other accused persons, Jeremy Onah expressed joy that they were left off the hook and have been vindicated.
Onah said, “Our freedom today is a beginning of a new life in my life because I cannot imagine myself a Christian thinking of going to kill because of land especially my blood brothers,” he.
Onah, however, said that the land had been in dispute since 1981.
“We had been disputing this land since the 1980s before some of the boys that died were born,” he also said.
He said that he was the Secretary of Umunnegene and he knew so much about the disputed land that attempts were made by Umunwakum and Umunogo people to eliminate him. He said that he felt that the other family members were marginalizing Umunnegene in their community land at Akanishinne.
Onah narrated that unfortunately, one of their kinsmen, Chief Joseph Nnamani called them for a meeting in his house on April 25, 2015 with a view to resolve the lingering land dispute and pleaded with “us that nobody should go to the land to do anything that on May 2nd, 2015, he will call a meeting of the whole Umuaniabor to settle matter after the burial of Chief Sunday Ezeoha, the immediate past chairman of Umunwakum family on 30th April, 2015. We all agreed.
“On April 28, 2015, we went to the office of the police public relations officer who also asked us to steer clear of the land. He said that we should come back on 4th May to see the Commissioner of Police, saying that they would hasten investigation before that 4th April.
“My Umunnegene family agreed that we should stop work on the land forthwith. We were surprised that on May 1, 2015, Umunwakum and Umunogo youths went to the land where they had combat with cult people that were having their meeting there.
“Even in their statements they said that it was cult boys that came out from the bush and started shooting at them. I think that it was in order to eliminate us and claim the land that they accused us of masterminding the attack and the killings,” Onah narrates while proving their innocence in the murder allegation.
The prosecution counsel declared comment on the judgment when his reaction was sort.