An Akwa Ibom State High Court, Uyo, presided over by Justice Joy Unwana on Tuesday sentenced seven persons, including three policemen and a woman to death for their involvement in kidnapping.
The woman, who was hired by the gang for N50,000 to cook for the victim – Deaconess Ime Ekanem – while negotiation for her ransom was ongoing, was also sentenced to death.
The state instituted Suit No HU/13c/2012 against eight members of the gang in 2012.
They included Cpl Emmanuel Charlie, Ekaette Moses, Fidelis Jeremiah, Cpl Bassey Sunday (377812), PC Mfon Bassey (478463), Ndu Johnny, Unyime Etukakpan, and Itohowo Akpakwa.
The culprits were all convicted on three counts of conspiracy to commit felony, kidnapping, aiding and sponsoring of kidnapping.
According to the confessional statement of the 8th accused, Mrs Itohowo Akpakwa, which was admitted as an exhibit, she confessed to visiting her friend in a bar at Idakeyop Aka, where she gave the 7th accused – Unyime Etukakpan – money to buy drugs.
It was learnt that the victim was dragged out of the Toyota Sienna car driven by the husband in front of the family house at about 6.30pm and whisked away in a Volvo Wagon car to Afaha Udoeyop in the Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area, where she was kept in an isolated building pending payment of ransom.
The anti-kidnapping unit of the state CID was said to have swung into action as telephone negotiations between the kidnappers and the victim’s husband brought down the initial demand from more than N20m to about N1.8m to be paid in two instalments.
Plain-clothed operatives of the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department were said to have been shocked to discover that the first persons who approached the Afaha Ibesikpo Market Square, venue for the ransom delivery, were their colleagues at the SCIID.
Shortly after the encounter, the change in venue for delivery of the ransom was relayed to the husband of the victim by phone.
The police investigation report stated, “After changing the venue thrice, the first instalment of N800,000 was delivered at Itam, in another LGA.”
Though Akpakwa denied knowledge of the plot to kidnap her friend and neighbour, no fewer than three other members of the gang told the court that they did not know her name at the time she visited for the final meeting at Aka.
They insisted that she was the one who identified her friend and gave directives to her house in Obio Etoi village, Uyo.
It was gathered that a member of the gang, who at the time of the sharing of the ransom was in the Uyo Prison on a different criminal matter, returned home to discover that he was short-changed.
He then gave details of the plot and how it was carried out to the police, and later became a witness for the state.
The 8th and only accused who escaped the capital punishment, Mrs Itohowo Akpakwa- a worker of the University of Uyo, was earlier granted bail.
The court was of the view that there were no grounds to convict her, and accordingly discharged and acquitted her.
The other seven accused were, however, convicted.