The ruling of Rivers State High Court which sentenced a bus driver, Emeka Mbachu, to death for killing Clifford Azubuike, a special marshal of Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC has been upheld by the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt.
Azubuike was killed while on patrol on November 3, 1995, at the 1st Artillery Junction, along Aba-Port Harcourt highway in Rivers State.
The driver, Mbachu, was consequently sentenced to death by the Rivers State High Court on July 15, 1999.
In his lead judgement, Justice E Eko, JCA, dismissed the appeal filed by Emeka Mbachu against his earlier conviction and sentenced him to death.
“On the whole, there is no substance in the appeal. In my candid view, the appeal deserves to be, and it is, hereby, dismissed in its entirety,” Justice Eko stated.
“The conviction and sentence of the Appellant in the charge No.PHC/3C/96 for murder punishable with death on July 15, 1999 are hereby affirmed.”
Similarly, the other two Justices in the panel, namely Justice C.E Nwosu-Iheme, JCA, and Justice Stephen Jonah Adah, JCA, agreed in entirety with the reasoning and conclusion of the lead judgment.
FRSC spokesperson, Mr. Jonas Agwu, recalled in a statement: “On November 3, 1995, at the 1st Artillery Junction, along Aba/Port Harcourt, Highway, Port Harcourt, one Clifford Azubuike (hereinafter called “the deceased”) was on a routine traffic control duty.
“The deceased was checking vehicles and controlling the busy traffic along with other Special Marshals. The bus driver, Emeka Mbachu drove his blue bus from Oyigbo (Aba) end of the highway to where the Special Marshals were”.
“The deceased with other special marshals controlling the traffic at the road junction, noticed that the vehicle, driven by the bus driver, Emeka Mbachu, had only one headlamp.
“The deceased, who was about to book the bus driver, drew his attention to the defective headlamp. As the deceased was examining the head lamp, the bus driver moved the vehicle and knocked down the deceased.
“The bus driver immediately sped off and dragged the deceased on the road for some distance and eventually ran over the deceased who later died on the spot.
“A criminal proceeding (Suit No: PHC/3C/96) proffering charge of murder against the bus driver was instituted at the Rivers State High Court. At the end of the prosecution, the trial court on the 15th of July, 1999, after evaluating the evidence of the prosecution, convicted and sentenced the bus driver, Emeka Mbachu to death.
“Thereafter, the bus driver instituted an appeal (Appeal No. CA /PH/243/2004) at Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt against the final judgment of the trial court which convicted and sentenced him to death.
“The Counsel for the Appellant, Ayodeji Adedipe who appeared with Akinola Akinyanju and Miss I. Briggs appealed to Court of Appeal on only one issue, to wit: Having regard to the intrinsic and divergent evidence produced by the prosecution on the immediate facts of this case, was the charge of murder proved against the Appellant beyond reasonable doubt as required by law?
“The Appeal Court convicted and sentenced the bus driver, Mr Emeka Mbachu, precisely on May 17, 2013, as Hon. Justice E.Eko (JCA) in his lead judgment dismissed the appeal. The Hon. Justice stated that “On the whole, there is no substance in the appeal.
“In my candid view, the appeal deserves to be, and it is hereby dismissed in its entirety. The conviction and sentence of the Appellant in the charge No.PHC/3C/96 for murder punishable with death on 15th July, 1999 are hereby affirmed.” In the same line, the other two Justices in the panel namely Hon. Justice C.E Nwosu-Iheme, JCA, and Hon. Justice Stephen Jonah Adah, JCA, in entirety concurred with the reasoning and the conclusion of the lead judgment.
“The wages of sin is death. And he who kills must die as enshrined and provided for in Section 319 (1) Criminal Code CAP, LFN 1990 that any person who commits the offence of murder shall be sentenced to death.””
Reacting to the judgement, the Rivers State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Dr. Kayode Olagunju, hailed the decision of the Appellate Court, and that he believes however long, justice will prevail as it had taken the State about fourteen years to get to this level.
He therefore warned motorists and other road users who engage in violent conducts while interacting with the men of the FRSC, while they perform their legal duties to have a rethink, as the Corps will always ensure justice is secured to punish such illegal conducts. He stated that “the FRSC will always pursue legal means to bring the culprits to book”.