I Always Shudder Anytime I Remember How, If Not For The Nigerian Judiciary, I And My Children Would Have Been Stigmatised For Life -Nnewi Bizman
BY OKECHUKWU OBETA, Nnewi
An Nnewi-based businessman, Mr. Bethrand Onwunzo has relived how the Nigerian Judiciary save him and his children from spending the rest of their lives being stigmatised.
Mr. Onwunzo who is popularly known as, “Betimore” among his admirers, especially his business associates recounted that the incident happened in 2009.
He said that he was in Paris with members of his family, including his wife and children holidaying, one of his town’ man, Mr. Bennet Izuegbunam, his wife, Agnes, and, daughter, Chiamaka went and lodged complaint at the police Area Command, Nnewi against him.
He said that one day after. he had returned from the Oversea trip he went to at an Nnewi Magistrate Court where he had matter in the Court was confronted by about two men in mufti who attempted to arrest him. He said that it was his lawyer who aided him to escape from the arrest, otherwise, the men wanted to put hand-cuff on him and take him away.
The apparently bewildered Onwunzo said that the shocker was, however, later to be revealed to him when he went to the police Area Command Nnewi, and, was told that a petition was lodged against him by one of his town’s man, Mr. Bennet Izuegbunam, his wife, Agnes and daughter, Chiamaka.
He said that the trio viciously and maliciously lied to the police that he attempted to kidnap Mr. Bennet; that they lodged a complaint that on September 1 and 2, 2009, he made attempts to kidnap Mr. Bennet.
Onwunzo recalled that Bennet, his wife and daughter in their petition alleged that on September 1, at about 8.30pm, that he invaded their house with six hefty men who covered their faces on a mission to kidnap Bennet. They stated in their petition that when Onwunzo and his men arrived their house that night, that it was Chiamaka who met them at the gate ” and, that after she told Mr. Onwunzo when he inquired about the whereabouts of their father that he had gone to his place of work at the Magistrate Court where he is a security guard, he handed a threatening message to her to driver to her father before storming out furiously with his men. He narrated that Chiamaka told the police that he told her to warn her father that if he did not concede the piece of land he is struggling with him that he will kill him.
Onwunzo further narrated that Bennett also told the police that at about 5.20am the following day after he visited his home with his boys that he stormed his work place at the Magistrate Court with his six hefty men, but, that on sighting them, he escaped, and, hid inside a nearby bush, and, remained there until day break proper.
Interestingly, however, the story of Mr. Bethrand Onwunzo in the hands Mr. Bennet Izuegbunam, his wife, Agnes, a civil servant (primary school teacher) and Chiamaka eventually turned out as a case of the hunter who became the hunted.
This is because each of the trio of Bennet, his wife and daughter were later to be pronounced guilty of giving false information to the police against Mr. Onwunzo after the matter was charged to the Court. Each of them bagged a Court sentence for giving false information to the police against Mr. Onwunzo.
For instance, while Bennet was sentenced to 30 days community service, his wife, Agnes who was the first to be sentenced by the Court was thrown into prison for six months. Chiamaka on the other hand was sentenced to prison for two months with an option of N20,000 fine.
Three Justices of the Court of Appeal, Enugu division: Justices Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, Tom Shuabu Yakubu and Misituba Omodere Bolaji-Yusuff on July 19, 2018 affirmed the conviction and sentencing of Bennet to 30 days community service by an New High Court presided by Justice C. C. Okaa. Justice Okaa sentenced Bennet after setting aside the ruling of Magistrate Erinne O. N who earlier discharged and acquitted Bennet, but, pronounced her daughter, Chiamaka guilty of the false information charges. Erinne delivered his ruling on February 23, 2016, on charge No. NMC/24c/2010 and sentenced Chiamaka to three months imprisonment with an option of N20,000 fine. The charge was between Commissioner of Police vs Bennet Izuegbunam and Chiamaka Izuegbunam.
The Appeal Court, Enugu judgment which affirmed Justice Okaa ruling was delivered by Justice Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, and, concurred by Justice Bolaji-Yusuff.
Justice C. C. Okaa’s ruling was based on appeal brought to the Court against the judgment delivered by
His Worship, O. N. Erinne who discharged and acquitted Bennet Izuegbunam on the charges of conspiracy and giving false information in a. No. NMC/24C/10: commissioner of police vs Bennet Izuegbunam and Chiamaka Izuegbunam.
Notedly, while the Appeal Court, Enugu which affirmed the sentence handed to Bennet was marked: Appeal No. CA/E/60c/2017 between Benneth Izuegbunam (Appellant) and Commissioner of Police (Respondent) the Justice C. C. Okaa of Nnewi High Court ruling was on an appeal marked: Appeal No. HN/2CA/2016, Charge No. NMC/24C/2010, and was delivered on July 19, 2017. His Worship Erinne, O. N ruling on charge No. NMC/24C/2010 between Commissioner of police and Bennet Izuegbunam and Chiamaka Izuegbunam.
It was His Worship Obidike Obiora of an Nnewi Chief Magistrate Court who sentenced Agnes to six months imprisonment without option of fine in charge marked No.NMC/23c/2010, delivered on May 8, 2015.
More chilling about the entire saga, Mr. Onwunzo, however, recalled was that the kidnap allegation was leveled against him shortly after a law was promulgated by the Anambra state making kidnapping a Capital Offence.