Tension in Ibadan court over case of lawyer accused of killing husband
• DPP withdraws from trial,state appoints prosecutor
• Anti-violence group demands justice for victim
There was palpable tension yesterday at the State High Court, Ring Road, Ibadan, the venue of the hearing of the murder case involving an Ibadan lawyer, Yewande Oyediran, who was alleged to have murdered her husband, Lowo Oyediran, a France-based businessman earlier in the year.
While the case was going on inside the court room, some members of an anti-violence group, Women Arise, led by their President, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, stormed the court premises to demand justice for the deceased.
The members, drawn from the Oyo State chapter of the group, carried various suggestive placards, with branded vests, with “Justice for Lowo” inscribed on them.
At the start of the proceedings, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Tajudeen Abdulganiyu, announced his withdrawal from the case and told the court that his place would be taken over by a state-appointed public prosecutor, Sanyaolu Akinyele. Akinyele immediately took over the prosecution of the case.
While the family’s counsel, Yomi Aliu, who led five others to the court did not object to this, the lead defence counsel, Bioye Ashanike, who led seven other counsel to the court, deferred to a junior counsel on the defence team, Bayo Adegbite, who immediately objected to the appointment of a public prosecutor by the DPP.
According to Adegbite, the DPP is just a title and that only the state attorney-general has the legal backing to appoint a prosecutor.The prosecutor at this juncture told the court that Adegbite’s objection was baseless, saying that he knew of three specific cases in which he (Adegbite), as a state counsel, had argued in favour of such an exercise in the past.
The presiding judge also said he was familiar with certain cases in which he (Adegbite) had been in favour of such an exercise when he was in the employment of the state.
However, Ashanike cautioned the prosecuting counsel against attacking his colleague personally, but to instead address the merit of the case at hand.
Adegbite thereafter told the court that his objection was that the initiation of the charges did not follow due process.The prosecutor, in his submission, cited two cases involving the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his case against the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) and that of Gen. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) in his case against the Federal Government to buttress his argument that there cannot be a vacuum in the absence of the attorney-general.
The defence argument is that in the absence of an attorney-general in Oyo State, the DPP cannot appoint a prosecutor.However, the sitting judge, Justice Muktar Abimbola, who condemned an attempt by the defence team to bring an unnecessary controversy and delay into the case, cited the necessary legal authorities, especially that of the late former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, to arrive at his decision to overrule the objection of the defence.
The lead counsel, Ashanike, further objected to the appearance of Mr. Bola Alabi for Women Arise.He said that the group’s interest was curious, as its rights had not in anyway been infringed on by any of the actors in the case and that the judge was bending over backward to accommodate them.
Justice Abimbola, however, overruled his objection, saying that the organisation just like in some cases involving some human rights organisations, has the right to be represented.
“The principle of application is that anybody who believes that his or her rights are being breached can appear. The principles have many dimensions to them. So, I am not bending over backward to accommodate them.”
He warned both parties that he would not tolerate any attempt to delay the case and that he would like to conclude the hearing before July.
“There is sufficient proof of evidence. That the DPP cannot prosecute is new to me. The argument of the defence counsel is forceful, but not convincing enough.
“However, I won’t entertain any delay tactic any longer and if the prosecution is ready, I will like to proceed now,” the judge said.The prosecutor proceeded to continue the case. The accused, Yewande, pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder read to her and told the court that she understood the charges being read to her.
The prosecutor later told the court that he would call eight witnesses in the case and pleaded with the court to grant him some time to assemble his witnesses and apprise himself with more details about the case, as he was only told of his appointment yesterday morning.
In the absence of no objection from the defence counsel to the family of the deceased and the Women Arise group, the presiding judge adjourned the case till June 23 and 27, 2016 for trial.
Meanwhile, a statement by Dr. Okei-Odumakin released to journalists after the court proceedings, reads in part: “Injustice to one is injustice to all. It is also important to stress that justice has no gender, just as the crime committed had no gender. Hence, to achieve lasting peace and ensure trust in our judicial system, justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to have been done.”
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