The gruesome murder of Iniobong Umoren, a job seeker in Akwa Ibom State is generating anguish on social media, as details of her death continue to emerge
A suspect, Uduak Frank Akpan, 20 years old, has been arrested for the crime and according to the police, Akpan lured the suspect to a house under the guise of providing the victim a job after she answered an advert on Twitter.
While the police have exhumed the victim’s body for an autopsy, the Police Public Relations Officer in the State, SP Odiko Macdon, said the suspect confessed to the crime.
However, the family of the deceased is demanding the release of her body, despite the police claiming it is essential to the ongoing investigation.
A State Prosecutor at the Kwara State Ministry of Justice, Babatunde Banigbe said the confessionary statement of the suspect was not sufficient to ensure successful prosecution, he noted that the police needs the body for proper investigation.
He added that the police ought to keep the family informed of all investigations.
The Lawyer noted that the main challenge for the case is time, using the instance of the Kidnap kingpin, Evans an example.
Evans Chukwudi was arrested in 2017 for kidnapping and currently facing 56 count charges. However, despite the initial confession, the case is still at the trial stage.
Citing Section 6(2b) of the administration of the criminal justice act he explained that the act provides that a suspect should be made to write his statement in the presence of his lawyer.
To Banigbe, this little technicality is more important than releasing the corpse. It could taint the entire case.
“Akwa Ibom already domesticated the ACJA, so the question should be, was a lawyer there when he made the confessionary statement? Because he can claim the statement was made under duress.
“His lawyer or family members must be there when he was making that statement,” he said.
He explained further that the controversy over the body of the deceased person is not needed at the moment.
“The family should allow the police to conduct the autopsy, the statement is not enough. They can sue the police to demand the body, but if the police should tell the court that they are still conducting the investigation, the court will allow them.”
The time of trial is also a huge problem as far as trial is concerned. Mr Banigbe said trials could last for years due to insufficient judges to handle cases.
“Some criminal cases can last up to 10 years at the High Court due to our system. The judges are not much and each judge handles like 100 cases at a time. The lacuna in our laws is also a serious issue.
“Although with good lawyers, he could drag the case by buying time. Even if you should file a case now from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court, you won’t get a date till 2023.
“The case could be dragged for 6 to 7years at the High Court, another one year and 6months at the Appeal Court.”
Incidentally, a bill to rectify this was rejected by the House of Representatives, last month, it was the constitutional alteration bill sponsored by Luke Onofiok from Akwa Ibom State.
The bill proposed that certain cases not get to the Supreme Court due to the limited number of Justices at the Apex Court. However, the bill was rejected.
Another legal practitioner, Henry Kelechukwu argued that the crime is against the state, therefore, the state has the right to investigate.
“Crime is against the state, even though there is a nominant complainer. The state has the right to protect the life of every citizen, including the girl before she was killed by the boy.
“The state’s duty to protect life is what the state is doing. The state (Police) must also decide if a family is not even involved in the crime.”
While the risk of delay is significant, the legal experts opined that the chances of Mr Akpan not getting maximum sentence is slim, but the danger is still ahead especially with the fight over her corps.