…family members lauds judgment
By: Okosun Dennis
After over five years of judicial battle by the family of a 26-year-old, Benson Obodeh to get justice over conspiracy to kill, stealing and extra judicial murder of their son, a High Court sitting in Benin City, Edo state on Friday found the five policemen guilty for murder and sentenced one of them to death by hanging.
The convicts, Corporals Adeleke Adedeji, Abena John, Henry Shobowale, Oniyo Musa and Constable Joseph Omotosho were attached to the debanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Lagos State Police Command.
Delivering his judgment, Justice Ohimai Obviagele found the five dismissed policemen guilty on eight-count charge bordering on conspiracy to steal and murder of Benson Obodeh over allegations of a car theft in 2015 without substantiating their claims with tangible evidence of proof.
Justice Ovbiagele described the testimonies provided by the claimant as firm and almost unchallenged, adding, “therefore, his judgment was based on “Absolute fact” which the Court absorbed as presented by the prosecuting counsel and all witnesses that appeared before the court”
Ovbiagele pointed out that the accused couldn’t substantiate a counter evidence against charges leveled against them.
The fifth defendant, Joseph Omotosho was, therefore, sentenced to death by hanging or with chemical infusion as alternative on conspiracy to commit murder.
Joseph Omotosho was also handed alongside the death sentences, another Seven years for his role in the stealing of the deceased moneys in his bank account.
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 absenting 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.
Police Authority Frustrates Investigations
It was learned that the police had initially tried endlessly to thwart the family from getting details of the murder after it refused giving the family any information regarding the boy’s whereabouts even after several petitions were sent to the Inspector General of Police’s office.
However, due to the intervention of the former IGP Solomon Arase and the media who constantly dug deeper into the case, the family would have still been in the dark as there was alleged grand plan by the then Edo State Commissioner of Police, Samuel Adegbuyi, the O.C. Legal, Edo State Command, DSP Kenneth Dika and DSP Solomon Omatseye to frustrate the family while instructing the then State Police Public Relations Officer, Stephen Onwochei to be silent on the issue.
It was further revealed that the policemen who committed the murder also stole an unregistered Peugeot 306 car from the late Benson Obodeh, the sum of N200,000 cash and made away with his wallet containing his Identity cards and two ATM Cards belonging to First Bank and Eco bank.
Abraham Oviawe, Prosecuting Counsel Reacts
Shortly after delivery the judgment, the Prosecuting Counsel, Abraham Oviawe, said, “What has happened today is a confirmation of the biblical injunction that says, “the wages of Sin is death.” So, when one conspires to take the life of another man”, with an overwhelming evidence, the court has no option than to reach the verdict as pronounced.
He, however, backed the court for suspending the judgment of the four others who took to flight following the jail-break during #ENDSARS protest, 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.
Family Respond To Judgment
Since the judgment was passed on Friday, members of the family were thrown into estacy even though the landslide judgment cannot bring back their deceased brother but it proved the dictum that: “Everyday for the thief, one day for the owner.”
Speaking with our correspondent, Solomon Obodeh, elder brother to the late Benson Obodeh who beared his mind, thanked God for granting the family the fortitude to bear the murder of their last born by police especially his aged mother.
Solomon explained, “After a long fought legal battle that lasted almost six years against these abhorrents of humans and murderers of mankind, I can now say that this is a landmark judgment.
“One that would hopefully, partially palliate the pains in the heart of my aged mother and the Obodeh’s family at large. It is a judgment that is reflective of the inalienability, indissolubility and indestructibility of the age long axiom that says, “the victory of evil over good is only but ephemeral”.
“Today, with this judgment, the battle between light and darkness has ended, and light has conquered,” Solomon reiterated.
How Benson Obodeh Was Arrested
Mr Benson Obodeh, a 26-year-old car dealer hails from Ubierumu Oke, Idensaba, Uromi, in Esan North East Local Government Area of Edo State was arrested in Benin City on the May 21, 2015 and killed the same day by SARS operatives from the Lagos State Command, Ikeja.
He had handed himself to the police following the arrest of his landlord by combined men of the Special Anti-robbery Squad in Edo state for allegedly receiving stolen cars.
He was tortured and eventually died from injury sustained leading to heart and kidney failure as revealed by autospy carried out at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, and his corpse was dumped at the Specialist Hospital in Benin City with a different name.
The elder sister, Mrs Izehi Osaruwa in 2015 told our correspondent that his younger brother was with a cash of N200,000, two Automated Transaction Mechine (ATM) cards (First and Eco banks ATM respectively); his business I.D card, wallet and an unregistered 306 Peugeot car (ash colour) given to him by a friend to sell when he was arrested.
Investigation had revealed that the police took the suspect’s First Bank ATM card; after forcefully obtained his pin number before his death and withdrew N330, 000 from his account within four days in Port Harcourt, Rivers State leaving a balance of N1, 754.15.
According to a bank statement obtained by the family from the bank in Lagos, revealed that on the 23 May, 2015; two days after Benson was killed in Benin City, an ATM transfer of N30, 000 was made at the First Bank, Artillery branch Port Harcourt, about 11:04 pm to one Fasasi Adesina Kazeem with Account Number: 0011009936 with Guaranty Trust Bank.
On May 24, 2015, they also withdrew money three times between 7:45pm to 7:50pm totalling N100,000. Also, on May 25, 2015, withdrawals of N100,000 was made with ATM at the FCMB branch, No: 642 Ikwere Road, Rumuokoro, Port Harcourt, five times of N20, 000 each.
The last ATM withdrawal was done on the May 26, 2015 at Rumuokoro, Port Harcourt of N100,000 done five times of N20, 000 each.
While investigating the matter, the ATM picture obtained from the First Bank where the first ATM cash transfer was made revealed that one of the police officers allegedly carried out the transaction.
However, when the owner of the account number (Fasasi) the money was transferred to was confronted, he denied knowing the person that transferred the money but didn’t make any report to the bank of illegal transfer of N30,000 to his account by an unknown person.
On May 30, 2015, bank deducted N84.00 from the account being SMS alert charges between 23 April and 22 May, 2015. However, his Eco bank account was intact as there was only N831.25 balance as at May 2015.
How Benson Was Killed vs Police Extortion Prowess
In order to consolidate their extortionist tendencies, Benson Obodeh’s landlord, Mr Monday Omosigho, was also arrested but regained his freedom after paying N100,000 as bail to the police.
In 2015, Omosigho told our correspondent in graphic details how Benson was killed by the five SARS operatives at the Edo State Police Command, Benin City.
“He was handcuffed while his two hands were tied to the back and legs. They inserted an iron rod between his hands and back before he was tied to a tree. Not done, they put three blocks on his back,” he narrated.
Due to constant prodding , after 64 days after he was arrested, the former Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Command, Deputy Superintendent of Police Kenneth Nwosu, in company of another spokesperson, DSP Patricia Amadin and the then Officer Commanding SARS, Adejobi, disclosed the death of the victim at the Headquarters, Lagos State Police Command, Ikeja.
Nwosu told our Correspondent, that the death of Benson Obodeh occurred as a result of mob attack when he was arrested by neighbours in Benin City.
“It was a case of mob action and the police had to rescue him, on the way to the hospital, he died and the corpse has been deposited at the mortuary in Benin City. We are investigating the circumstances that led to his death as well as the result of the autopsy.
“What I can tell you now is that he was an armed robber. We arrested his gang; some of them are still in our custody,” DSP Nwosu explained.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian Police couldn’t produce any arrested suspect during the trail that lasted almost six years to collaborate DSP Nwosu’s statement about the arrest of the victim’s gang.
When the family were able to trace his corpse to the Specialist Hospital, Benin City, it was discovered that one Corporal Oniya Musa deposited his remains with the name: “Agwu instead of Benson Obodeh.
Investigation revealed that Benson, met his death in the hands of Corporals Adeleke Adedeji, Abena John, Henry Shobowale, Oniyo Musa and Joseph Omosigho, Who had arrived Benin City in a milk coloured Toyota Highlander Jeep.
The officers were dismissed after they had confessed to the crime of extra judicially killing Benson Obodeh and withdrawing the said money from his account at the office of the then Inspector General of Police, IGP Solomon Arase who instituted an investigative panel of inquiry into the murder.
Edo State Launches Manhunt For Fleeing Dismissed Policemen
The Government of Edo State has launched manhunt for the fleeing inmates and prisoners that escaped from the two Correctional Facilities in the state during the last #ENDSARS protest that rocked the state and other parts of Nigeria.
The facilities are the Oko Maximum Prison and the other located along Sapele Road both in Benin City were attacked and inmates set free including the four dismissed policemen who have not been found guilty for murder.
As a reward, a bounty of N250,000 was placed on each fugitive that has failed to embrace the government grace period to return to the Correctional Facility.
In addition, Nigerians have been urged to call any of the underlisted telephone numbers: +2348001235111, +2348002200110 to report any inmate or such information can also be sent via Email: [email protected]