‘Aluu 4’ which has become a Nigerian household phenomenon is the unfortunate killing of four undergraduate students of the University of Port Harcourt in questionable circumstances in 2012 at Aluu community, Choba area of portharcourt River state. Five years on after several litigious battle, the courts finally made a pronouncement, sentencing three persons which includes an ex-police sergeant to death. However, Rivers Correspondent of the Nigerian Pilot Weekend, Alice Onukwugha, gives an insight of the judgment and the tortuous journey to justice five years after.
As early as 8.00am, the court was full with lawyers, family members, the press and with heavy security presence to control the crowd and any breach of peace; all waiting the arrival of the judge. It was the long-awaited judgement for the trial of the gruesome murder of four University of Port Harcourt undergraduates, Lloyd Toku Mike, Ogonna Obuzor, TekenaElkanah and Chiadaka Biringa, at Umuokiri community, Aluu in Ikwerre local government area of Rivers State.
The victims, who were all first sons and one only son of the family, were said to have been paraded naked and tortured before being burnt to death at Coca-Cola Road in Omuokiri community. The death, which drew wide condemnation both from location and international community, has been described as the height of jungle Justice in Nigeria, as none of the security agencies, including the Police, Joint Task Force, JTF, or the C4i could rescue the boys, who were at their prime.
It was gathered that the victims had gone to demand debt being owed them by one Bright, another student, around 4am on that fateful day of October 5, 2012; and rather than settle them, the debtor decided to shout for help, alleging they were thieves. For the community, it was a period when crime and criminality, including armed robbery and rape was at its peak. It was therefore, an opportunity to use the victims as scapegoats.
The long journey to Justice for the victims started, when on October 17, 2012, the then Commissioner of Police in the State, CP Mohammed Indabuwa paraded 13 persons in connection to the crime. Those paraded included; David ChinasaUgbaje, Chogozie Samuel, Ekpe Daniel, Alhaji Hassan Welewa, the traditional ruler of Umuokiri community, Ozioma Samuel Abajuo, Ex-Sergeant Lucky Orji, Endurance Edet, Gabriel Oche, UwemAkpabio, George Mwadei, LawalSegun, Ikechukwu Louis Amadi and Cynthia Chinwo. The accused persons were later arraigned before Chief Magistrate Emmanuel Woke, under charge number PMC/2009C/2012 on two count charges, bordering on felony and murder, punishable under section 324 of the Criminal Code Cap 37 Laws of Rivers State
The accused were then remanded in the Port Harcourt maximum prison custody by Woke, who declined jurisdiction and sent the case file to the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP for advise. The case was later assigned to Justice T.O Orji, who declined to try the matter as one of the victims was related to her.
The actual trial commenced in August 2013, before Justice LetamNyordee of the Port Harcourt High Court, where 12 persons were arraigned with 8 count charge. While four persons, including the traditional ruler were charged with neglect and failure to prevent felony when it was being committed, the others were charged with felony, to wit, murder, pursuant to sections 319 and section 515 of the Criminal Code, respectively.
Throughout the period of the trial, the judge, reminded both the prosecution and defense Counsels that they were all on trial as the matter was of international interest. The trial, which became popularly known as Aluu 4, was however characterised with adjournments, one of the bane of Nigeria’s justice system.
Another setback to the trial, was the closure of court’s in Rivers State for almost two years due to the political crisis in the state that crept into the judiciary. Another glaring setback to the trial, was when in 2015, Governor NyesomWike, appointed the then Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Rufus Godwins, who was personally prosecuting the matter, Head of Service.
Godwins, had promised the International community, including Amnesty International that the state was capable of prosecuting the matter and get Justice for the slain four.
However, in January this year, five of the accused, including the traditional ruler, Alh Hassan Welewa, Okoghiroh Endurance, Abajuo Samuel, Chigozie Samuel Evans and SegunLawal were discharged and acquitted by the court after their Counsels filed a no case submission.
In delivering the judgement which lasted over two hours, five years after, Justice Nyordee stated that the boys were victims of circumstance, as their actiom was during odd hours. The judge did not spare the security institution as he regretted that none of those on duty, including the Police at Aluu, the DPO that ordered the withdrawal of the patrol team, the reinforced team, the JTF and the C4i team were either arrested or prosecuted.
He said: “The death of the victims is most condemnable and cannot be justified. The victims had great hopes for their families and society at large. The candles of their lives were put out. The law is unmindful to hand down a sentence in a clear case of murder. The killing of the four victims is a combination of several societal ignorance and shameful failure of security institutions to protect lives as shown in the statements of the defence.
“No explanation can be seen as valid why security team from Isiokpo, the reinforcement team, the C4i, the JTF and the Police in Aluu could not individually, or shared intelligence prevent the death of the boys. It also clearly shows how security agencies were not arrested to face Prosecution.
“To those sentenced and convicted, they should know that human life is sacred.
In the determining the issues, which included; whether there is death; the cause of death, whether accused persons caused the death and whether the actions of the accused persons were intended to cause the death of the four victims, Justice Nyordee held that the offence of murder is self evident in section 316 of the Evidence Act.
On whether Prosecution has proved his case, the judge held that the burden of proof is on the Prosecution, which includes facts and cause of death, which is unlawful and attributable to the defendants. The statements of the first defendant, Ex -Sergeant Lucky Orji were contradictory and unreliable, according to the judge, while the 2nd and 3rd defendants, Ikechukwu Louis Amadi, a.k.a. Kapoon and David ChinasaOgbada, respectively, made self confessionary statements liking them to the crime.
The judge said the case of murder against the three convicted persons were overwhelming. “I am therefore satisfied that their roles in the killing of the victims is unjustifiable and unlawful. Their actions are intended to kill the victims,” he said.
Justice Nyordee also held that throughout the trial, nobody presented themselves as victims of robbery by the four boys, adding that it was a mob action. Justice Nyordee further held that the prosecution did not bring any eyewitness to the actual killing of the boys, except for the video and confessional statements obtained during investigation, by the PW1, Supol Raphael Uzaechi, which was admitted in court as evidence and which corroborates the findings of the Coroner test conducted by Dr Seleye Fubara, a Pathologist.
He, therefore, found a police officer, Ex-Sergeant Lucky Orji, Ikechukwu Louis Amadi, a.k.a. Kapoon and David Ogbada, who were the 1st to 3rd defendants guilty and sentenced them to death. He also discharged and acquitted the 4th to 7th acquitted defendants, namely; Abiodun Yusuf, Joshua Ikpe, Cyril Abang and John Ayu.
Given that judgment has been delivered, can one rightly say that the victims and their families have gotten Justice for their untimely and painful death. Like the judge rightly regretted; where is the false alarmist, Bright, who was at alarge during the arrests and investigation? Why was the Isiokpo Divisional Police Officer, DPO, at the time not arrested and prosecuted for ordering the patrol team out of the crime scene? Why were the JTF and C4i team not also prosecuted?
For the parent of one of the victims, MrToku Mike, while he wished that all the 12 accused persons were convicted and sentenced, the names of the four victims have been cleared of any crime. Mike, who spoke with newsmen shortly after the judgment, said: “I am partially happy in the sense that the gament of armed robbery, the garment of criminality has been erased from the four children that were murdered in Aluu.. It is crystal clear that they are innocent. They didnt steal, they didn’t rob, they only went there to demand money they were owed and they were falsely charged and killed. So that is my happiness.
“I would have been more happy if the 12 of them were convicted and sentenced. But the court did not see it that way, and only three were convicted and sentenced. One thing I want to say again is that I thank God. After all the trauma we went through, the case lingering up to five years, it’s now over.”
For the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, MrIbikiriOtorubio, the law has no time limit if the Police can still arrest those that were at large during the trial. He said: “Justice has been done and we are glad. To those who are still at large, there is no time limit for the law. If the Police arrest them we will still prosecute. We did our best. This is one case that put me on my toes. It was not an easy battle.”