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Rev. King must die by hanging, Supreme Court orders

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The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the death sentence passed on the General-Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly, Chukwuemeka Ezeugo (aka Rev. King), by a Lagos High Court in Ikeja on January 11, 2007, for murder and attempted murder of some of his church members in 2006.

A five-man bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice Walter Onnoghen, in its unanimous judgement, dismissed the appeal by Ezeugo challenging the verdict of the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal, which had affirmed the conviction and the sentence passed on him by the Lagos High Court.

Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, who read the lead judgement of the apex court, resolved all the 12 issues raised by Ezeugo in his appeal against him and dismissed the entire appeal for lacking in merit.

He said, “In his appeal to this court, 12 issues were distilled from the grounds of appeal by the appellant. The respondent had nine issues. The respondent’s nine issues were encompassed in the appellant’s 12 issues and, in spite of the imperfection in the appellant’s issues, I decided to determine the appeal on those issues. I considered all of them and at the end I came to the conclusion that, the appeal has no merit.

“Having considered all the arguments proffered by the learned counsel for the parties, in addition to the records, I resolve all the 12 issues formulated by the appellants against him. Consequently, I hold that the appeal is bereft of merit and it is hereby dismissed.

“The judgement of the Court of Appeal which had affirmed the judgement of the trial court is hereby affirmed. The prison terms of attempted murder are no longer relevant and discountenanced in view of the death penalty hereby affirmed. Appeal dismissed.”

The judgement dealt a final blow on the last effort by Ezeugo to free himself of the death sentence which has been hanging around his neck for over nine years.

The condemned cleric was arraigned before the Lagos High Court in Ikeja on September 26, 2006 on six counts of murder of a member of his church, Ann Uzoh, and attempted murder of five other members.

He was said to have poured petrol on the deceased and the five other victims and set them on fire for allegedly committing fornication.

Uzoh died on August 2, 2006, 11 days after the incident, as a result of the injuries which she sustained from the burns.

She was said to have been 65 per cent burnt in the fire incident. The trial judge, Justice Olubunmi Oyewole (now a Justice of the Court of Appeal), had in his judgement delivered on January 11, 2007 convicted Ezeugo and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment on each of the five counts of attempted murder and death sentence for murder.

Dissatisfied with Justice Oyewole’s judgement, Ezeugo appealed to the Court of Appeal.

But the Court of Appeal affirmed his conviction and the sentence passed on him.

He further appealed to the Supreme Court which also on Friday dismissed his appeal and affirmed the judgements of both the Lagos High Court and the Court of Appeal.

In his opening remarks, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, who read the lead judgement, said, “The fact of this case could have been lifted from a horror film.

“At all material times, both parties agreed that the appellant was General Overseer of Christian Praying Assembly, Ikeja, Lagos. It was also agreed that he had a father-son and father-daughter relationship with the victims of the incident.

“The prosecution’s case was that the appellant accused six of his people of immoral behaviour. He called them together, beat each of them with many hard objects and after the beating, he assembled them downstairs, made them to kneel down and he caused petrol to be poured on them and a struck match thrown on them.

“They all sustained various degrees of burns. While five of them escaped, the sixth of them who later died sustained 65 per cent degree burns. You can imagine her last day in the hospital.

“Appellant denied this incident, saying though he punished them for immoral behaviour, the punishment was different from the incident that gave birth to this charge.

“He said they sustained injuries when a generator exploded. That was his case. But throughout the proceedings, this mysterious generator was never produced.”

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government on Friday hailed the verdict of the Supreme Court. The State Government, through the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, said the judgement was another confirmation of the seriousness of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration to be decisive in fighting crime in the state. A statement signed by the Deputy Director, Public Affairs Office, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Bola Akingbade, quoted the commissioner as saying, “This is just another confirmation that the government of his Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, is going to be very strong on fighting crime. Wherever a crime is committed, no matter how long it takes, the government of Lagos State will ensure that the perpetrators of this crime face justice eventually.

“I salute the Supreme Court for this erudite judgement and I want to assure the public that we will continue and we will not relent in our fight to make Lagos a safer, secure and more prosperous state.”

In December 2015, the apex court, presided over by Justice Walter Onoghen, had adjourned for judgement after entertaining arguments from counsel to prosecution and defence in the matter.

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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