Uganda’s Court of Appeal sentences Nigerian kidnapper to 24 years in jail

By Christopher Kiiza   

The Court of Appeal, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera, has re-sentenced and increased the jail term of Ugochukwu Joachim Onyeako, a Nigerian national convicted of kidnapping with the intention of obtaining a ransom and kidnapping with the intention of confining a person.

On March 26, 2024, the three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, including Buteera, Justice Christopher Gashirabake, and Justice Oscar John Kihika,  re-sentenced Ugochukwu to 24 years in jail.

Ugochukwu had been sentenced to 17 years in prison by the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Kampala in 2021.


Between July and August 2013, it was alleged that Ugochukwu lured an American engineer and an Australian businessman into Uganda, confined them in a house in Seguku, and demanded significant amounts for ransom.

The Australian businessman was freed following a ransom payment of 10,000 euros by his family and friends remitted via Western Union. He was then dropped off at Entebbe International Airport, where he was found by officers of the Uganda Police Force.

He successfully led the police to the house in Seguku where he had been held hostage.

The police arrested Ugochukwu and rescued the American.

The accused (Ugochukwu) was accordingly charged with two offenses under the Penal Code Act.

In 2021, the International Crimes Division of the High Court found Ugochukwu guilty of one count of kidnapping with intent to obtain a ransom and one count of kidnapping with intent to confine.

The court convicted him and sentenced him to 17 years’ imprisonment. 

Being dissatisfied with this decision of the trial court, Ugochukwu filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal.

“Upon evaluation of the evidence and the judgment of the trial court, the Court of Appeal decided that the trial judge’s decision to proceed with one assessor in the absence of the second assessor was not wrong,” the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) announced this Tuesday.

The DPP added that the trial judge could preside over the matter as she was not involved in any plea bargain involving the appellant.

“The Court observed that mere mention of interest in a plea bargain by an accused person in court does not mean a judge has participated in a plea bargain.”

The Court of Appeal also determined that the appellant (Ugochukwu) was placed at the scene of the crime, and the trial judge’s decision was based on testimonies from the victims and the appellant’s co-accused.

However, the Court noted that the trial judge did not consider the period the appellant spent on remand while sentencing the convict and over sentenced him in respect of the second count, hence deeming the sentence of 17 years’ imprisonment illegal.

Subsequently, the Court proceeded to re-sentence the appellant on both counts.

“On count one, the appellant was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment, and the 8 years that the appellant spent on remand were deducted,” the DPP announced.

On count two, the appellant was sentenced to the maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, and the 8 years that he spent on remand were deducted.

“The sentences are to run consecutively, with effect from November 16, 2021, the date of conviction.”

The term “the sentences are to run consecutively” means that the convicted individual will serve one sentence after the other, with each sentence beginning only after the previous one has been completed.

Based on the re-sentencing by the Court of Appeal, Ugochukwu will serve 22 years for count one and 2 years for count two, bringing the total revised sentence for both counts to 24.

He will be deported to Nigeria once he has served his sentence. 

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