By Okeke Jane
A coalition of Civil Society Organizations has faulted the judgement delivered by Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Abuja High Court which convicted
Group faults Maryam Sanda’s conviction for culpable homicide based on circumstantial evidence.
The group in a statement Wednesday in Abuja said that it is curious why a judge would trifle with an offence of culpable homicide which attracts death by choosing to draw conclusion of guilt of Maryam based on hearsay.
According to the Emmanuel Onwubiko, National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria,”Last Monday, Justice Yusuf Halilu OF THE Abuja High Court convicted Maryam for the death of her husband based on circumstantial evidence whereas it is the law of this nation that the charge of murder or culpable homicide must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
“It is curious why a judge would trifle with an offence of culpable homicide, which attracts death by choosing to draw conclusions of guilt of Maryam based on hearsay.
“We must point out that no witness testified to seeing Maryam stabbing her husband, no murder weapon was tendered by the police in evidence, no confessional statement was made by Maryam or anyone else for that matter and no two of the six Police witnesses corroborated each other’s testimonies to the effect that Maryam killed Bilyaminu.
“So, what evidence did justice Halilu rely on to convict Maryam apart from circumstantial evidence? This is not the position of the law.
“The law is that no person shall be convicted for the offence of murder, which attracts capital punishment based on circumstantial evidence.
“In fact, it was the evidence of all the Police Witnesses that none of them knew exactly what and who killed Bilyaminu.
“However, PW 1 (Ibrahim Mohammed) and Maryam agreed that she had a serious quarrel / fight with Bilyaminu, whom he took a knife from three times when she wielded it against her husband.
“In his evidence, he did not say on any of the three occasions he took the knives from Marvam, he got cut.
“No. what does that suggest? It simply means she did not plan to hurt anyone at all, talk more of her husband whom she loved jealously. Yes, she was jealous, yes, she was angry.
“But if she did not hurt PW1, who is her husband’s friend when he got the knife from her on three occasions, how could she have planned to hurt her beloved husband.”
Onwubiko noted that you that Justice Halilu breached the letters and process of the law in reaching a decision to convict Maryam Sanda on the charge of taking her husband’s life.
He said that Maryam had filed a preliminary objection, challenging the competence of the charge and the jurisdiction of the court to try her, but the judge misdirected himself by refusing to even deliver a ruling.
Instead, he treated Maryam’s preliminary objection with disregard and proceeded to deliver his judgment.
“This action by the judge has denied the judgment of any legitimacy because it is tantamount to abuse of due and lawful process.
“If properly weighed, that decision to ignore Maryam’s objection shows prejudicial sentiments and bias of the judge against Maryam and amounts to her being denied her constitutional right to fair hearing.
“The judge committed a fatal blunder when he failed to consider the preliminary objection and rule on it one way or the other before delivering his judgment.
“We advise them to make this a number one ground of appeal as I believe it is a settled principle in our law that without fair hearing a proceeding is flawed and incurably defective.
“We sympathise with Justice Halilu for having the unenviable task of making a decision without substantial evidence and blamed the police for doing a very shoddy investigation,” he said.
The Human Rights Activist pointed out that the failure of the police to do a better job should not be an excuse for the judge to descend from his exalted bench to assume the role of an Investigating Police Officer by going outside evidence before the court to reach a decision to convict Maryam Sanda.
He said specifically, in Page 76 of his judgment, Justice Halilu held thus: “I have a duty thrust upon me to investigate and discover what in any particular case will satisfy the interest and demands of justice.
“The judge clearly misdirected himself and assumed the position of an IPO whereas the only job he was paid to do was look at the various evidence before him and evaluate them to make a decision. This is a good ground for Maryam to file an appeal,” stressed.
He also noted that the judge also misapplied the doctrine of ‘last seen’ when he ruled that Maryam was the last person to see her husband alive.
According to him, going by the evidence of some of the Prosecution Witnesses, the judge is wrong because Prosecution Witness 2 (Hamza Abdulahi) testified thus: “I heard the voice of Bilyaminu. I Came out quickly from room and and met him laying down.”
“This evidence shows that somebody else apart from Maryam saw him last. So, the
judge was wrong and misapplied the doctrine of last seen incorrectly.”
Also speaking, the Advocacy Lead, Society for Civic Education and Gender Equity, Mary Ogochukwu Aniefuna said that the two little children of Bilyaminu and Maryam should be considered.
“When we think of the two little kids of Bilyaminu and Maryam both under two years, all we think of is the doctrine of double jeopardy. we know that in our laws double jeopardy is prohibited.
“The kids have lost their father in an unfortunate circumstance, should they lose their mother too? Can we think about these kids selfishly for a moment.
“Do we know the psychological trauma and the psychosocial problems that having both parents killed in this manner would have on them.
“We appeal to our common humanity. Let us put thiese children first in our consideration,” she appealed.