By OLAKUNLE OLAFIOYE
THE name of Reverend King still sends a chill down the spine of his followers. He came, disgruntled, to Lagos with the name Chukwuemeka Ezeuko but altered ‘Ezeuko’ to read ‘Ezeugo’ ostensibly to give his personality and identity the aura of dread that has become part of his life. Notwithstanding his change of name, the nomenclature Reverend King stuck to him more and supplanted his real name.
His mission was to start his own Christian ministry, after he fell out with authority at All Christian Practical Praying Band, Ufuma, where he was said to see visions for people. So he birthed the Christian Praying Assembly, CPA, located in Ajao Estate, Lagos. Since it came on board, Reverend King’s CPA has grown not only in name and fame but also in scandals.
Reverend King, perhaps understands better why he chose the path of infamy as findings show that he was raised in a disciplined and God fearing setting, according one of his uncles, Mr. Aaron Ezeuko.
Shortly after the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment in 2013, his uncle told the media back then that Reverend King resorted to living a weird lifestyle after leaving Anambra for Lagos some years ago.
“You know when you send your child to school, a good child, you may not know what he will turn out to be and I think that is the case with Emeka. But you can see that our family is a disciplined one, you can still go around and ask. I want to tell you that we do not know what he is doing there,” said Aaron.
Reverend King plays God and his followers play along with him. This possibly explains why many of his weird doctrines and practices went unquestioned until his cup got to the brim 10 years ago. A cruel fate stares the founder and General Overseer of CPA in face after he failed to convince the Supreme Court of Nigeria on why the death sentence slammed on him by a Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Joseph Oyewole on January 11, 2007, should be upturned. The judge convicted and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment for attempted murder and death by hanging for the murder of one Ann Uzoh.
The late Ann and six other members of his church were accused of fornication and in punishing them for their alleged offence King reportedly set them ablaze on June 24, 2006 after they had been sprayed with fuel. Although the other victims survived, Ann died 11 days after the incident as a result of injuries sustained in the fire.
During the trial, witnesses, who were mostly his church members, gave heart-rending accounts of how Reverend King turned them to sex toys. The principal witness in the matter, Kelechi King, in her gory account narrated to the court how she had aborted four pregnancies for the convict. She also revealed how Reverend King made her denounce her family and how she served him as his maid, attending to him naked.
While giving their different accounts on the incident that led to the death of Ann, almost all the prosecution witnesses corroborated the fact that Ezeugo actually set them on fire by pouring fuel on them. They also told the court that on the fateful, Rev. King gathered them together in his house over allegation that they were committing fornication in his house, an allegation they all denied.
Prior to his murderous outing in 2006, signs of King’s imminent fall to ignominy had multiplied. Rumours of alleged escapades of the CPA founder were rife but many of those at the receiving end of the pastor’s misdeeds obviously lacked the courage to spill the beans except a few. One of the courageous few was a businessman, one Edwin Akabue whose wife, Ebele had sought dissolution of their 13-year marriage after she reportedly absconded from her matrimonial home in 2005. Mr. Akabue who was the respondent in the matter in an affidavit alleged that Reverend King was having an amorous affair with his wife. He also accused the pastor of orchestrating his wife’s desertion of their matrimony home.
“That trouble started in my marriage when the said Rev. King started having an adulterous affair with my wife and I protested against such act from a self-styled man of God,” the respondent pleaded. He said prior to the appointment of his wife as a woman leader in the church, he was made a leader of the Grace Ministries in the same church and also in ‘Group B,’ which necessitated his spending hundreds of thousands of Naira for the church.
“When it became apparent that my wife was having sexual relations with the Rev. King, I stopped going to the church and asked my wife to also quit the church. That was when my wife absconded from our matrimonial home on November 17, 2005, in protest to my demand that she should quit the church. That my wife, the petitioner, was instructed by Rev. King to abscond from our matrimonial home and the said Rev. King had earlier instructed her to stop wearing her wedding ring.
“Immediately my wife absconded, the Rev. King and my wife’s brother conspired and sent a bus to my house to pack my belongings and my five children away to an unknown destination,” Akabue had stated at the material time in an affidavit in a matter before an Igbosere Chief Magistrate Court, Lagos.
While the case lingered, Reverend King was caught neck deep in major criminal case which necessitated his incarceration in the last 10 years and culminated in his being sentenced to death by the Lagos High Court in January 2007.
Reverend King was held culpable for the death Ann Uzor on August 11, 2006. During the trial, another prosecution witness, Olisa Chiejina, told the court how the accused operated a “Lord Army”, an outfit he said Rev. King used to intimidate and harass members of his church.
Relying on the overwhelming evidence against him, Justice Oyewole (then of the Lagos High Court) in his judgment said sufficient evidence had linked the accused person to the commission of the crime and consequently convicted him.
Ezeugo later appealled the judgment. But while his appeal lasted, the G.O of Christian Praying Assembly who was remanded in Kirikiri was embroiled in another controversy when he was accused of having sexual intercourse with female guests even in prison. The allegation subsequently led to his transfer to Kuje Prisons in Abuja before he was moved to Kaduna Prisons over allegation of instigating insurrection in the prison. Prison authorities would later transfer him from Kaduna to Katsina Prisons for allegedly causing undue tension at the Kaduna Prison.
Reverend King failed to get the verdict of the Lagos High Court upturned when the Court of Appeal in Lagos ruled in 2013. Affirming the judgment of the Lagos High Court in a unanimous judgment, the appellate court held that the evidence of the prosecution, during the trial was overwhelming and damning and proved beyond reasonable doubt that he committed the crimes for which he was arraigned.
Not satisfied, Ezeugo approached the Supreme Court to get the verdict quashed but there was no reprieve for the acclaimed man of God as the apex court sealed his fate, affirming the death sentence. In a unanimous judgment on Friday, February 26, 2016, a seven-man panel of justices of the apex court led by Justice Walter Onnoghen, upheld the death sentence earlier slammed on him by the Lagos State High Court and dismissed his appeal.
Reverend King’s incarceration in the last 10 years seems not to have diminished his revered image amongst his followers as several members were said to have continued marking his birthday even in absentia. In 2014, a report claimed that CPA members placed advertorials in national dailies to eulogize him, hailing him as the light of the world.
Since penultimate Friday’s affirmation of the Lagos High Court verdict by the apex court, the propriety of executing the court judgment or otherwise has been the major topic for discussion among Nigerians. While many have called on the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode to sign the death warrant of the condemned pastor, others have called on the state governor to temper justice with mercy.
Speaking in an interview with Sunday Sun reporter, a lawyer and former chairman of Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Onyekachi Ubani noted that world’s opinion is against death sentence. According to him, keeping the convict in the custody perpetually is deterrent enough. “The man to be executed may turn a new leaf tomorrow. If I were in the governor’s shoes I won’t carry out the execution,” Ubani said.
Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN, however expressed a different opinion on the matter. According him, continued incarceration of the convict means that the state would have to continue feeding him with taxpayer’s money. “I believe in death penalty. In appropriate circumstances death penalty should be given. The man should be executed. A man who had the guts to pour kerosene on ladies has no business living in the society,” he said.