The murder trial of former counselor in Oruk Anam Local Government Area, Mr. Friday Obonoh came up again Thursday, November 16, 2017, before the Uyo High Court presided over by Hon Justice G. E. Archibong. The defence team led by former Attorney General of Akwa Ibom state, Mr. Ekpenyong Ntekim had at the last adjourned date, indicated to the court that the defence was ready to enter a no case submission in the trial within trial ordered by the court after the five accused persons had objected to the admissibility of the alleged confessional statements credited to them.
At the trial of the substantive case, the Investigative Police Officer, who investigated the case, Sgt. Imo Ekpe during his evidence in chief testified to having recorded the statements of the accused persons. The prosecution thereafter sought to tender the confessional statements through the IPO, but the defence counsel to the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th accused persons objected to the admissibility of the statements on the grounds that they were not obtained within the means prescribed by law. In a similar vein, the counsel to the 2nd accused person, Ekere S. Ebong Esq, also objected to the admissibility of the statement credited to the second accused person on similar grounds.
The court had to adjourn for a trial within trial to ascertain the voluntariness of the confessional statements.
At the Voir Dire Proceedings, the prosecution, who had through the IPO, Sgt Imo Ekpe, sought to tender a set of 16 documents alleged to be the confessional statements of the accused persons, was called upon to prove that the statements were obtained in line with the provisions of Section 29 (2) of the Evidence Act that forbids the recording of statements through oppressive means.
The prosecution called two witnesses during the trial within trial, made up of the IPO, Sgt Imo Ekpe and the O.C Anti-Kidnapping Unit, ASP Ezra Yuguda, whp testified as PW2 at the substantive trial. The prosecution, however, did not tender any documents.
In the main, the prosecution witnesses tried to show that the confessional statements were voluntary and devoid of any form of oppression, either in inducement or through torture of any form of force.
It was their case that the 3rd accused person was the first to be arrested for a different case all together, the kidnap of one Rev. Fr Felix, but in the course of interrogation, he confessed to the murder of Mrs. Rosemary Friday Jacob, who was allegedly abducted on July 17, 2009, at No 34 Abak road Uyo and taken to Obonohs Ewet Housing residence, where she was said to have been tortured and finally died. It was the 3rd accused person that led them to the arrest of the other accused persons.
The prosecution witnesses testified that all the accused persons were officially charged and cautioned before statements were taken from them, without any oppression. They further testified that to confirm their confessions, the accused persons were taken to the then Commissioner of police, Mr Don Awunah, who after interview with them ordered that further statements be recorded from them. The police statements sought top be tendered were obtained from the accused persons from 13th to 27th of March 2017.
During cross examinations, however, the PW1 admitted, contrary to his testimony that he was not present during the March 27th statement recording as he was out of the state.
The PW2 could not explain why the statements of the 4th accused person was recorded in English language and interpreted in English language.
The prosecution witnesses were also not able explain why the time for the commencement and end of recording of statements were not reflected on the statement forms.