BREAKING: Rapist, murderer of Akwa Ibom job seeker to die by hanging- Court

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The State High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, has sentenced Uduak Akpan to death for raping and murdering a female job seeker, Iniubong Umoren, in the state last year.

The judge, Bassey Nkanang, in his judgement on Thursday, said the convicted man will be put to death by hanging.

Mr Nkanang also found Mr Akpan guilty of rape and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

The judge said the prosecution has proved beyond doubt the case of rape and murder against Mr Akpan.

He, however, discharged and acquitted the father and sister of Mr Akpan, who were the 2nd and the 3rd defendants in the case.

After the judge read out the judgment, the convicted rapist attempted to escape from the courtroom but was overpowered by security officials.

Mr Nkanang took over two hours to finish reading the judgement.

Background

Ms Umoren went missing on 29 April 2021 after she was lured out of her home in Uyo with a fake job interview by Uduak Akpan.

The victim’s friend, Uduak Umoh, said she heard her scream for help when she established contact with her on the phone.

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“She sent me a 1sec audio record on WhatsApp and I had to call her back to know if she wanted to say something to me but immediately I called her, I heard her screaming,” Ms Umoh had tweeted during the search for the slain woman.

Several Nigerians deployed the Twitter hashtag #FingHinyUmoren to see how they could track the missing woman’s location or uncover the identity and location of the person she went to meet.

The police later exhumed Ms Umoren in a shallow grave on 30 April, 2021, a day after she was raped and killed at Mr Akpan’s family compound.

Her gruesome murder ignited international and nationwide outrage over increasing rape cases in Nigeria.

Ms Umoren, before her death, was a fresh Philosophy graduate of the University of Uyo. She was waiting for her deployment for the mandatory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) Programme.

Ms Umoren did not live to see her mobilisation letter for the programme or even her final-year result – she graduated as one of the top students in her department.

Trial, testimonies

The convict, Mr Akpan, first appeared in court on 26 July 2021 and pleaded guilty to murder, and not guilty to rape.

The court, however, entered a not-guilty plea for the murder of Ms Umoren.

The Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom State, Uko Udom, who led the prosecution team, told reporters, “For a capital offence, an accused person pleading guilty is neither here nor there. As far as the law is concerned, he is not guilty until we (prosecution) prove our case.”

“So if an accused person pleads guilty in a capital offence like this, the court normally would enter a plea of not guilty for him,” Mr Sam had said.

Mr Akpan later made a U-turn during his trial and denied raping and killing Ms Umoren.

He told the court that he had a “fever” the day he pleaded guilty and that it was the influence of his “IPO in the court” that made him plead guilty.

He also denied the confessional statements he made to the police and added that a similar statement he made to the State Security Services (SSS) was done under duress.

But Ama Okeke, a call data analyst with the SSS, who testified before the court, presented a video recording of Mr Akpan’s interview session which countered his claims. The court admitted the video as evidence.

Mr Okeke also told the court that from the agency’s call record analysis, Mr Akpan and Ms Umoren were at the same cell record and coordinate (location) in Nung Ikono Obio in Uruan Local Government Area.

He further told the court that SSS investigations led to the arrest of Mr Akpan’s sister, who is the 3rd accused person, Bassey-awan, in Calabar, Cross River State.

Besides his confessional statements to the police and the SSS, Mr Akpan, while he was paraded at the police headquarters in Uyo, told reporters how he lured and killed the victim.

In his testimony before the court to justify his son’s innocence, Frank Akpan, the father of the convict, told the court his son had a mental disorder and was an outpatient at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital.

Bassey-awan, in her testimonies, admitted her brother visited her but she said as of the time of the visit, her brother was accused of kidnapping Ms Umoren, from what she had learnt on Facebook.

She told the court she had asked the brother to go back to Uyo and clear his name.

Defence counsel’s final submission

Sampson Adulla, a lawyer from the Legal Aid Counsel, provided free legal services to Mr Akpan.

Mr Adulla, while adopting his final written address, prayed the court to rely on “weak facts” presented by the prosecution to discharge and acquit his client.

He asked the court to discountenance Mr Akpan’s confessional statement because “there was no witness to testify that his client committed the murder”.

On Mr Frank and Ms Bassey-awan, Mr Adulla had urged the court to discharge and acquit them because there was no evidence before the court that the duo knew that Mr Akpan was being accused of murder.

He had argued that at the time Mr Akpan visited her sister in Calabar, his alleged offence was kidnapping and not murder.

Prosecution’s submission

The prosecution counsel, Friday Itim, a deputy director of public prosecution in the Ministry of Justice, Akwa Ibom State, had reminded the judge how Mr Akpan pleaded guilty to the charge of murder, but not rape, on his first court appearance in July last year.

Mr Itim had also drawn the court’s attention to the fact that they (prosecution) had proven that there was communication between Mr Frank and her daughter (Bassey-awan) via text message on the day of the incident.

The court had admitted the phone and text message as evidence.


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