MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
After a series of adjournments, the trial of the accused persons in the case of the abduction and murder of Ubulu-Uku monarch, His Royal Majesty, Obi Akaeze Edward Ofulue III, opened for hearing on Tuesday at the Asaba High Court One, temporarily sitting in nearby Ibusa.
Though the four accused persons, three suspected kidnappers and the person from whom the Police recovered the late king’s telephone handset were brought to court, the case was adjourned almost as soon as it was called.
This time, the exact mode in which the oath was to be administered on the Medical Doctor who did the autopsy on the late Obi Ofulue, was disputed. The Pathologist refused to take the normal oath that is usually administered on court witnesses on religious grounds because he is a member of the Jehovah Witness Christian denomination.
He vehemently refused to swear on the Bible arguing that the Bible has warned Christians against swearing oaths but simply to tell the truth. Thus, he said he would affirm that he would tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.
The counsel for the Defence had at first agreed that the Pathologist should affirm to tell the truth instead of swearing an oath on the Bible, but he objected when the Pathologist insisted that he would not raise his hand up, as is usually done in court, while making the affirmation.
As the Defence lawyers quoted legal authorities to oppose that sort of affirmation from the Pathologist, and the Delta State Director of Public Prosecutions also countered by adducing reasons why a variation, especially on religious beliefs, would not be alien to law and court practice, the trial judge adjourned hearing to early November this year to rule on this side issue.
The late Obi of Ubulu-Uku and his companion, Pastor Afam Ugboh, were abducted in February 2016 at Obior town, a few kilometers from his domain, his car was abandoned by the road side. Weeks later, his sole companion escaped from the kidnappers but the monarch’s body was found in the bush around Umunede town, by a combined team of the Police and Ubulu-Uku vigilante team.
Fortunately for the Obi’s distraught family and Ubulu-Uku town, the Police made a breakthrough in the case when it tracked the late Obi’s telephone to somebody who was using it. That breakthrough led to the arrest of four persons suspected to be directly involved in the kidnapping.
The trial has advanced considerably. The Obi’s companion, Pastor Ugboh, who was kidnapped with him and who escaped from captivity has been led in evidence. He identified the accused persons who kidnapped them, and gave vivid details about them, the way they were treated and how and why he was able to recognize them; they were not masked. He too has been cross-examined.