Barely 24 hours after the Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence passed on a Lagos-based pastor and the General Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly, Rev. Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, aka Rev. King, some of his neighbours have asked for his immediate execution.
The landlords appealed to the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, to sign Rev. King’s death warrant to hasten the process.
A five-man bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice Walter Onnoghen, in its unanimous judgement, had on Friday dismissed the appeal by the cleric challenging the verdict of the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal, which had affirmed the conviction and the sentence passed on him by the Lagos High Court.
Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, who read the lead judgement of the court, resolved all the 12 issues raised by Rev. King in his appeal against him and dismissed the entire appeal for lacking in merit.
The judgement dealt a final blow on the last effort by Rev. King to free himself from the death sentence, which had been hanging around his neck for over nine years.
A next door landlord in Ajao Estate where the church is based applauded the Supreme Court for the judgement, saying he expected it.
The landlord, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Now, we need the governor to quickly sign the papers, because if he does not, we are in trouble.
“The church members had been saying they would take over our houses and they had been threatening to deal with some of us. They ask us to just wait for his return and see what would happen.
“That was why immediately we heard the news of the judgement, we were happy. In fact, if I cannot talk for others, I can tell you that I am very happy. I am happy because it marks the end of a group constituting a nuisance to us.”
Another landlord, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said he wants Ambode to sign the death warrant as soon as possible.
“I hope the governor will not be afraid of signing it. He should do it on time.
“The truth is that the church has not impacted the community in any way. We are waiting for what will happen next after this.
The Lagos State Government, in a statement on Friday through the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, said the judgement affirmed the seriousness of the state government in fighting crime.
Church members sad
We learnt that the news of the apex court judgment shook the membership of the church, as many of them wailed openly.
A resident, Chidi, said many of the church members could not contain their grief and disappointment.
He said, “It was a bad news for the church. Most of them have been boasting that we would see what would happen when he returns but I saw many of them crying openly after the news broke (that his death sentence had been upheld), while others tried to hide their grief.”
However, despite the judgment, it was gathered that the church would hold its Sunday service at 7am today.
A resident, Kola Ajao, said the church’s choir members had their rehearsals on Saturday.
“Yes, they will still have their service today (Sunday). Their choir members were in church today and they had their practice,” he said.
Our correspondent also observed some of the choristers, wore long faces, leaving the church premises.
Ajao, however, explained that the church’ attendance hard dropped ever since Rev. King started his trials.
He said, “Since the trial started, the church’s growth had slowed down and their members have been leaving in droves.
“When the pastor was around, they used to hold their Sunday service at 7am and they will not end till 10pm. But now, at most they end 12 noon.
“Also, the long queues of cars on the street have disappeared. People are leaving on a daily basis and with this, the number will likely drop further.”
We observed that what used to be a colourful eve of the birthday celebration of Rev. King was gloom on Saturday.
It was learnt from the convict’s neighbours that a cow was usually killed on the eve of his birthday amid other preparations.
King’s followers, who were preparing for his birthday celebration and thanksgiving service on Sunday should the court upturn his death sentence, had been thrown into sorrowful mood.
Apart from the absence of a cow, there was nothing in sight to indicate that the birthday would be as lively as usual. The banner displaying image of the G.O was of the 2015 event.
The entrance gate of the church was almost shut but our correspondent who peeped into the church saw well arranged lines of empty chairs with a low-tone praise song oozing out from the premises.
‘Rev. King lives forever’
Meanwhile, Rev. Kings’s followers have expressed their disappointment with the Supreme Court judgment, saying that despite the death sentence, the convict will “live forever.”
Julie King, who expressed her disappointment in series of posts on her Facebook page since Friday, faulted and dismissed the death sentence on Rev. King.
She said, “I am crying for Nigerians, especially those that vowed that an innocent man will not be because what you (Nigerians) are dealing with is far above you and whatever you think you know.
“Dr. Rev. King is from above and he that is from above is above all things. He came from heaven but the world did not know him because their deeds are evil. Onye ga echere chi ya mgba? (Igbo words which summarily mean ‘who can wrestle his God?’
“Nigerians, enough is enough, God will arise and all his enemies must scatter. Those that are for us are far greater than those that are against us. Our G.O is greater than the greatest. I love Him and must follow him all the days of my life because there is no regret in God. King forever!”
Also, Janeka Sikwu King, wrote on her Facebook page, “Today the 26th day of January 2016 is the day. Happy birthday to my lovely and sweetest Daddy G.O, his holiness, the most honourable, Dr. Reverend King. The man of the moment, every moment and the final moment.
“The last preacher of the world, the light of the world; he that will judge this world. Whether the world believes it or not, it can never be changed. The love of my life, the peace that brought peace to me, the man that singly (sic) destroyed the kingdom of darkness. The name that spirits and humans fear; the name that saves when it seems all hope is lost.
“What am I without my Daddy G.O? I thank God for your coming into this world and you must live and reign for ever for us in Jesus’ name, amen. Happy birthday daddy.”
However, Desmond Onye, who commented on her post, had said, “I think you see him as a god and not a pastor. #SMH (abbreviation for ‘shaking my head’). May the Almighty Creator deliver you from the bondage of Reverend King in Jesus’ name. Amen. Truth is bitter it takes a dear friend to tell you that.”
Similarly, Cynthia Nwafor commented, “A pity, for your so-called god to die by hanging as I heard yesterday. God have mercy!”
The condemned cleric was arraigned before the Lagos High Court in Ikeja on September 26, 2006, on six counts of the murder of a member of his church, Ann Uzoh, and attempted murder of five other members.
He was said to have poured petrol on the deceased and the five other victims and set them on fire for allegedly committing fornication.
Uzoh died on August 2, 2006, 11 days after the incident, as a result of the injuries which she sustained from the burns.
The trial judge, Justice Olubunmi Oyewole (now a Justice of the Court of Appeal), had in his judgement delivered on January 11, 2007 convicted Ezeugo and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment on each of the five counts of attempted murder and death sentence for murder.
Dissatisfied with Justice Oyewole’s judgement, he appealed to the Court of Appeal, which also affirmed the sentence passed on him.
He further appealed to the Supreme Court which dismissed his appeal and affirmed the judgements of both the Lagos High Court and the Court of Appeal.