Appeal Court Upholds Death Sentence

Date: 2006-01-11
Attempt by the duo of Bayo Ajia and Olayinka Are, both arch supporters of former Governor Muhammad Lawal of Kwara State to escape from the hangman"s noose received a jolt as the Appeal Court has upheld the death sentence passed last year on them by a High Court of Justice in the state.

Accused of murdering Abdul Yekini Gobir and Abdul Ganiyu Hussein at a night party at Deens Motel, Ilorin the lower court with Justice Jopseph Fola Gbadeyan had found the two accused persons guilty and pronounced death sentence on them or in the alternative receive the amnesty of the state governor, Bukola Saraki.

The duo were said to have invaded the venue of the party in unmarked cars and after dispersing the crowd shot the two men to death allegedly for being supporters of the former governor"s political opponents and ensured that they were dead before taking leave of them.

Ajia and Are had been charged for criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide which led to the death of Gobir and Hussein at a wedding party at Deens Motel along Western Reservoir Road, Ilorin on June 30,2002. 

Apparently dissatisfied with the judgment, the two had approached the Appeal Court for a review but in a unanimous decision, the appellate court threw out their prayers and instead upheld the decision of the lower court on the matter. 

The appeal court decision, read by Justice John Ikomgbeh said the defence of alibi raised by the two accused persons could not be sustained and that the evidence of the two prosecution witnesses had in no way been faulted while the brother of the slain Gobir who was the PW1 during the trial in particular could not be treated as a tainted witness as demanded by the appellants.
The appeal court also said the trial judge treated all the evidences adduced before it by both parties with caution and there were no reasons to uphold the appellants" position on the matter. 

Ikomgbeh was supported by his brother judges, Justice Muhammad Coomasie and Justice Tojani Abdullahgi in the decision.

At the trial court, Justice Gbadeyan had said the court was convinced by the arguments of prosecution that the accused were responsible for the death of AbdulYekin Gobir and Abdul Ganiyu Hussein on June 30,2002.and convicted them of criminal conspiracy and
culpable homicide punishable with death, contrary to Sections 221 and 97 of the Penal Code.

"I see them as first offenders as there is no record against them, but this first time is too serious" the judge had said after he had listened to the plea of allocutus by defence counsel Hussein Buhari who wanted the maximum punishment reduced to imprisonment.

The court said further: "The court will be failing in its duty if it allows fanciful defences to prevail in matters like this. Punishments are prescribed to be imposed. These are young people, I cannot say they
are misguided. I se them as first offenders but this first time is too serious. Hence the law has to take its course. The two convicts are sentenced to death.

They are to be hanged until they be dead and may God have mercy on their souls."

While the prosecution called three witnesses; the brother of one of the slain and the two policemen who handled the case, the defence called two witnesses. 
The accused persons also gave testimony for themselves in which they denied involvement in the crime.

The judge stated that the onus of criminal cases rests on the prosecution and citing several resolved cases, added that the ingredients of the offence must be proved to secure conviction. These conditions, he
noted were met by the prosecution as he also noted that the defence counsel did not controvert the eyewitness accounts of PW1 with the alibi of his clients 

On the first charge of criminal conspiracy preferred against the accused, the lower court judge said that the burden is on the prosecution to prove the rudimentary nature of the offences with the marriage of the mind of the accused and the ingredients of their complicity. 

He said: "It is certain that there was a night party and that the accused persons carried guns and fired shots. I find the testimony of PW1 credible and since there was no effort to controvert his testimony, I
find it to be truthful."

On the second charge of culpable homicide, the judge upheld the prosecution"s submissions that the actions of the accused were responsible for the death of the deceased. He held that the defence of alibi by the accused was not worthy of any credibility.

"It has been established beyond reasonable doubt that the actions of the accused persons caused the death of these two people. The gunshots could not be said to be accidental discharges. They were intentional and well directed."



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