A Lagos State High Court in Igbosere on Thursday ordered the hanging of Okwumo Nwabufo and Olisaeloka Ezike who were charged with the murder of a post-graduate student of Nasarawa State University, Ms. Cynthia Osokogu.
The judge said the convicts should be hung by the neck until they are dead.
Osokogu had been lured from Abuja to Lagos on July 21, 2012 by Nwabufo, whom she had met and befriended on Facebook.
Nwabufo had paid for the deceased’s flight ticket from Abuja and lodged her in Room C1 at Cosmilla Hotel, Lake View Estate, Festac Town, Lagos, where he later, in collusion with Ezike, murdered her on July 22, 2012.
In the hotel room, the convicts had drugged Cynthia, who was 25 years old, by putting Rohypnol in her Ribena drink after which they chained her hands to her back and secured same with a padlock.
Rohypnol is legally prescribed for medical use in more than 50 foreign countries for the treatment of insomnia and as a pre-anesthetic. It may cause drowsiness, confusion, impaired motor skills, dizziness, disorientation, dis-inhibition, impaired judgment, and reduced levels of consciousness.
The deceased’s legs were also chained while her mouth was stuffed with a handkerchief and part of the weave-on that she had on her head.
A tape was thereafter fastened across her mouth to secure the materials stuffed in her mouth.
The convicts then made away with her two Blackberry mobile phones, jewelry, a sex toy vibrator, her international passport, and a pair of shoes.
After the murder and their apprehension, the Lagos State Government on February 8, 2013 arraigned Nwabufo and Ezike on six counts of conspiracy, murder and stealing, contrary to Sections 231, 221 and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.
Arraigned along with them was a pharmacist, Orji Osita, who was accused of dispensing Rohypnol to the convicts without a doctor’s prescription.
Also arraigned was the second defendant’s brother, Nonso, who was accused of being in possession of the two stolen Blackberry mobile phones.
In a judgment delivered on Thursday, almost five years after the crime, Justice Olabisi Akinlade convicted Nwabufo and Ezike as charged by the state.
She, however, discharged and acquitted Osita and Nonso on the grounds that the state did not prove the charges of recklessness and negligence pressed against them beyond reasonable doubt.
In convicting Nwabufo and Ezike, the judge relied on the oral evidence of 10 witnesses and the 17 exhibits tendered by the prosecution, as well as the confessional statements of the accused persons.
Among the witnesses were two receptionists at Cosmilla Hotel, who booked the convicts into the hotel on the night of July 21, 2012. Also called was the hotel manager and a pathologist, who gave the cause of Cynthia’s death as asphyxia, and the policemen who investigated the case.
In her judgment, Justice Akinlade held that though there was no direct eyewitness, the circumstantial evidence placed before the court by the state were “cogent, complete, unequivocal, compelling and leads to the irresistible conclusion that the accused persons and no one else committed the crime”.
“The first and second defendants were positioned at the scene of the crime at Cosmilla Hotel. The circumstantial evidence against the first and second defendants is compelling and cogent and leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that they killed the deceased.
“It is on record that the first and second defendants made a confessional statement describing how they caused the death of the deceased,” the judge held.
After pronouncing them guilty, she sentenced them to 14 years imprisonment for conspiracy, three years imprisonment for stealing, and imposed the death sentence by hanging for the offence of murder.
Before handing down the sentences, the judge asked the defendants if they had anything to say.
Counsel for the convicts, Mr. Victor Opara and S. Eze, urged the judge to temper justice with mercy.
Opara said Nwabufo was a first-time offender, adding that the convict was a young man who had “tremendous energy to do something worthwhile with his life”.
“I urge this court to grant him a reformative sentence,” Opara pleaded.
But in her response, Justice Akinlade said: “I have listened passionately to the allocutus of counsel.
Section 221 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State says clearly that a person who commits murder shall be sentenced to death.
“In judgment, justice is required not only for the victim, but also for the society.
“In their attempt to steal Cynthia’s property, they stole her life. They were not even remorseful.
“But for the efforts of the police and the Ministry of Justice, we wouldn’t have been able to do anything. This court cannot change the law.”
Concluding her ruling, the judge said: “I pronounce the judgment of this court upon you, Okwumo Nwabufo and Olisaeloka Ezike, that both of you be hung by the neck, until you are dead. May God have mercy on you.