From Tony Osauzo, Benin
An Edo Criminal High Court of Justice has sentenced to death by hanging, a dismissed Police Constable, Joseph Omotosho, attached to the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squared, SARS, of Lagos State Police Command.
Omotosho was found guilty alongside Corporals Adeleke Adedeji, Abena John, Oniyo Musa and Henry Shobowole after undergoing trial on an eight-count charge bordering on Conspiracy to Steal, murder and alleged car theft incident that happened in 2015.
He was accused of conspiring in the extra-judicial killings of a car dealer, Benson Obodeh, alongside the four others who were said to have escaped during the Benin Jail breaks occasioned by the EndSARS protest.
The five policemen, then attached to the defunct Special Anti-robbery Squad, SARS, of the Lagos State Command, were on May 19, 2015, on a mission in Benin City to carry out arrest on suspected criminals, where 26-year-old Benin based car dealer, Benson Obodeh, was said to have been listed among suspected criminal gangs who allegedly stole a Peugeot car in Lagos for their raids.
Benson Obodeh was reportedly arrested at his home on May 21, 2015 and same day after his arrest, the news of his death filtered in, after he was suspected to have undergone a subjected torture that led to his death at the custody of the five Policemen.
His corpse was later dumped at the Specialist Hospital, Benin City, with a different name tag on his lifeless body.
The policemen who committed the murder also stole an unregistered Peugeot 306 car from the late Benson Obodeh, stole the sum of N200,000 cash from him, made away with the wallet containing his identity cards and two ATM Cards belonging to First Bank and Eco bank with which they withdraw the deceased’s money to the tune of N330,000.
After an orderly room trial conducted by the police authorities, the five police Cops were found liable and dismissed from the service to face further court trial.
Consequently on February 12, 2021, the presiding Judge, Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele, delivered judgment on the fifth defendant, Joseph Omotosho, who was the only one present in Court while suspending the sentencing of the four absconded Criminal Policemen.
Justice Ovbiagele described testimonies provided by the Prosecution as firm and almost unchallenged, adding that the judgment is based on “Absolute fact which the Court absorbed as presented by the prosecuting counsel and all witnesses that appeared before the court”.
He pointed out that the accused couldn’t substantiate a counter evidence against Charges leveled against them.
The court therefore, sentenced the fifth defendant, Joseph Omotosho, to death by hanging or with chemical infusion as alternative on Conspiracy to commit murder.
Besides, he was also handed alongside the death sentence, another seven years for his role in the stealing of the deceased’s monies in his bank accounts.
For the Four others who were absent from the court, Justice Ovbiagele relied on Section 352(5) of the State Criminal Code which implies that you can’t pass judgment in absence against an offender.
He noted that the court may not be able to pronounce sentences for the four dismissed Cops as provided in the section above.
Speaking shortly after the judgment, Abraham Oviawe standing in for the Prosecuting Counsel, said, “what has happened today is a confirmation of the Biblical position that says the wages of Sin is death. So when one conspire to take the life of another man”, with an overwhelming evidence, the court has no option than to reach the verdict it reached.
He backed the court for suspending the judgment on the four others who took to flight, describing it as a constitutional procedure taken by the court .
On his Part, Counsel to the defendant, Lede Pique, said they will appeal the judgment.
After five and a half years of waiting for justice, the family of the murdered Benson Obodeh expressed delight, but disappointed with the first to fourth defendants who were absent and couldn’t be served justice.