After three years of litigation, a State High Court sitting in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, and presided over by Justice Uwabunkonye Onwosi on Monday sentenced a mother of three, Mrs. Agnes Nwefuru to death by hanging for killing her co-wife and seven children.
Mrs. Agnes Nwefuru of about 38 years a native of Ohuuhu village in Ogboji Eguotu Ezzaegu community of Ishielu Local Government Area of the state was sentenced to death by hanging for causing the death of her pregnant co-wife and her seven children in 2017.
Mrs. Agnes was said to have removed all her belongings and that of her children and took them to a safe place outside the compound before setting her own house ablaze that night to cover up her evil.
Delivering the judgment recently, the trial judge declared that the plaintiff had proved its case beyond all reasonable doubts and that the defendant was guilty of the murder charge leveled against her.
Consequently, she was sentenced to death by hanging.
In a suit numbered HAB/13C/2017 having Ebonyi State Government as the Plaintiff, the defendant Agnes Nwefuru was accused of setting ablaze, the house of her co-wife, Felicia Nwefuru which led to the death of the woman and her seven children.
“Nwefuru Agnes is found guilty of murder and is hereby convicted. The term of her sentence is that she be hanged by the neck until she is dead”.
Recall, that the pregnant deceased Felicia Nwefuru and her children were engulfed and burnt beyond recognition during an early morning inferno.
The mysterious fire razed down the thatched house of the deceased at about 3am in Ogboji community in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State and burnt to death eight members of the family.
The convicted was proved to have ignited with the aid of substance suspected to have been the premium motor spirit which razed down two thatch houses in the compound comprising three to four rooms respectively within a twinkle of an eye.
Only two persons survived the inferno among the supposed victims, the husband Mr. Sylvanus Nwefuru who had a separate hut and Miss Ukamaka Nwefuru, one of the deceased woman’s daughters who passed the night in her friend’s compound.
The plaintiff contended that the accused also burnt her own house during the evil act as a cover-up after having taken all her valuables and children to safe grounds.
Justice Uwabunkonye Onwosi, in the judgment which lasted for about 2hrs, declared that the appellant proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of the murder charge against her.
“Nwefuru Agnes is found guilty of murder and is hereby convicted. The term of her sentence is that she be hanged by the neck until she is dead”, the judge ruled.
However, sampling opinions of some stakeholders from the community about the judgment, their town Union Chairman, Barr Emmanuel Nwite and Mr Christopher Ngwuta, the immediate past Bursar of Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, opined that the judgment was not enough when compared to the gravity of the offence, the number of persons killed and the bad image the act gave to natives of the area.
They advised people to stop indulging in polygamous kind of family and described the act as one of the ills of polygamous homes.
“The law has taken its course. But considering the quantum of damages suffered by both immediate family and the community, the judgment is not proportionate. Because it is now one life against 8 innocent human lives plus other properties damaged. That is the ratio of 1:8. But what is important here is that finally, the court has made a pronouncement.
“I am sure it will serve as a lesson and deterrent to other persons who may be nursing such evil acts. It was a very bad experience, first of its kind in my place. My people are very peaceful. So when this happened it came to us as a surprise, but I also appreciate the security agencies for the swiftness put in their investigations. I commend the prosecution for leaving no stone unturned in that matter.
“The worse is the level of psychological trauma the act has caused the husband, Mr. Silvanus Nwefuru. I must tell you that the man is one of the peaceful persons we have in our community the much I know about him. I don’t really understand why such evil should befall an innocent person.
“It also sent a message to people that inasmuch as you have a right to decide the kind of marriage to indulge in; you should try as much as possible to stay away from polygamy because this is the kind of thing you see in places where a man is polygamous.
“In summary, the law has taken its course even though as a lawyer I know the convict can appeal the judgment delivered. But I am doubtful if any court confronted with the avalanche of evidence upon which the trial court acted upon would do otherwise.
“I pray that the good Lord will grant the old man, Mr. Nwefuru the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss. Because it is too big that nobody can quantify it. It is first of its kind in my place, that a woman could harbour such ill feeling against her co-wife, children and husband. It is quiet unfortunate”