A High Court sitting in Asaba, Delta State has discharged and acquitted Mrs. Sunday Nwanze and Chiedu Ofuani, of charges of conspiracy and arson.
The defendants who had been standing trial since 2012 were alleged to have burnt down the house of one Nwafor Agbadinunor in Akpuma Camp, Issele Azagba, Delta State on 1st November, 2011 at about 12 midnight, an offence punishable under Sections 516 and 443 of the Criminal Code Cap C21 Vol. 1, Laws of Delta State of Nigeria, 2006.
In his final written address, Counsel to the defendants, E. C. Ikenwe, Esq urged the court to hold that the PW1’s evidence was unreliable and creates doubts in the prosecution’s case, having regards to manifest avalanche of material inconsistencies and contradictions in his evidence during cross examination.
He further urged the court to hold that the prosecution had clearly failed to discharge the burden of proving its case beyond reasonable doubt as required by law and consequently should discharge and acquit the defendants.
On the contrary, Counsel to the State and Assistant Director M. A. Oranyeli, Esq. submitted that the prosecution proved the two count charges of conspiracy to commit arson and arson beyond reasonable doubt against the persons having regards to confessional statement of the 1st Defendant (Sunday Nwanze) where he stated that he sent the 2nd Defendant (Chiedu Ofuani) to burn the house of PW1. He stated that this corroborated PW1’s evidence that it was the 2nd Defendant and his cohorts that burnt PW1’s (Nwafor Agbadinunor) house.
Delivering judgement, Justice Cletus Emifoniye queried the prosecution on why the PW1 initial statement made at the Issele-Uku Police Station was not included in the proofs of evidence while new sets of statements by PW1 and PW2 made at C.I.D Police Headquarters were attached, which were made 3 weeks after the incident.
The Learned jurist also chided prosecution for not presenting to the court recovery record of any burnt item from the scene of the crime, photographs of the burnt house, and omission of PW3 to investigate the alibi raised by 2nd defendant (Chiedu Ofuani) at the police station.
Justice Emifoniye observed that it was more curious that the wife of PW1 who witnessed the incident that ought to be a star witness was never fielded throughout the trial, and this according to him, was fatal to the prosecution’s case.
The Court noted: “So, I see that PW1 is a tainted witness, being the tenant of PW2 another tainted witness. And all of this explains why there is so much missing links in this case. This case is shrouded in so much mystery that I find that it is unsafe to believe the selected and prepared evidence provided by the prosecution in proof of their case against the accused persons. The 2nd count consequently, fails.”
Justice Emifoniye concluded that it was unsafe to find the defendants liable for the destruction by fire of PW1’s house, asserting that there was no iota of evidence credible enough to find any of the defendants guilty of conspiracy to commit arson against PW1’s property.
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