BY: SAYO AKINTOLA
As the orgy of corruption ravaged the nation’s judiciary over the past week, many Nigerians who have sensitive cases in courts are now apprehensive of possibility of not getting justice as they may not be able to afford the kind of money that judges in Department of State Security service DSS net were found with. Investigation revealed that the fear of cash and carry justice had always been ubiquitous in the nation’s judicial system, but the Pandora of filths associated with discoveries in the DSS search of the residences of some judges across the country further reinforces the fear. Raw cash in different currencies running into millions of naira were found in the apartments of the judges. The trial of a female lawyer, Yewande Oyediran who allegedly killed her husband, Oyelowo, over infidelity, has continued to generate a lot of controversy and increasing suspicion from the family of the deceased and the general public. The suspicion, according to investigation was due to the way the case has been dragging with adjournment upon adjournment each time the case had come up for mention at the court 1 of the Oyo State High Court, Ring road, Ibadan.
The defendant, Yewande is an employee of the Oyo State Ministry of Justice, a development that further oils the growing suspicion that justice might be hard to come by in the case. It was also gathered that unprecedented privilege is being given the accused at both Agodi prison where she is being kept and by the judicial personnel. Yewande has been appearing in court like a masquerade using veils to conceal her identity, a development both family of the deceased and members of the public had condemned but to no avail as the presiding judge; Justice Muktar Ademola gave express permission for her to appear in court in veils when the private prosecution lawyer made his objection known in court.
Many observers have also brought to the fore the unprecedented protection usually accorded Yewande by the prison officials each time photo journalists endeavour to take her photographs outside the court premises. Many, it was gathered, have had their cameras damaged by the over-zealous prison officials. Yewande, an influential lawyer, is being tried at the same Ibadan High Court where she works as a prosecutor. Sources at the court say she is enjoying tremendous sympathy from her colleagues. Most of her colleagues, it was gathered have resolved to stand by her in the trial, fuelling doubts that professional prosecution would be possible in the case.
Further findings suggest that various antics are being allegedly employed by the defence counsel, Abioye Asanike, to frustrate the court on the trial. The court, which is being presided over by the State’s Chief Judge, Justice Muktar Abimbola, had previously stated that judgment would be given by August at the latest. On July 27, however, he adjourned further hearing to October 24 following the absence of the defendant in court.
On June 23, Justice Muktar Abimbola adjourned the case till June Monday 27 sequel to the request by the private prosecutor, Sanya Akinyele, that the medical report conducted by a medical personnel on the deceased and the statement of the co-tenant with the defendant were missing on the evidence list. The development further fueled suspicion of a compromise on the part of both the police prosecuting officer and the state director of prosecution. When the case however, came up for hearing on June 27, the defense counsel told the court that his client, Yewande was not feeling fine, hence she could not appear in court. Interestingly, no medical report was presented to the High Court, where the defendant works as a prosecutor, in support of the claim. This inevitably forced the judge to adjourn the case to October 24 for further hearing. It was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to get the State director of prosecution when our reporter visited the State Ministry of Justice at the Secretariat, Ibadan. After repeated trips to his office, a staff of the ministry who begged for anonymity confided in our reporter that there was an official directive from the office of the director of public prosecution banning official comments on the case. He said ‘’given the sensibility of the case, there is a standing order that nobody should comment on Yewande’s case’’, adding that many people have read wrong meanings to the position of the ministry in the matter. The story was a little different at the office of the Oyo State Chief Judge at the High Court Complex, Ring road, Ibadan. The secretary to the state chief judge, who doubles as the presiding judge in the case chuckled at the sight of our reporter. She said Justice Abimbola would not be disposed to speaking with our reporter. She however, directed our reporter to the office of the Director of Litigation. At the office of the director of litigation, an official of the court who simply identified herself as Biodun said Nigerians should be rest assured that justice would not only be done in the matter, but be seen to have been done. She opined that the state chief judge must have decided to handle the case by himself to ensure that this was achieved. She disclosed that Justice Abimbola is an expert in criminal matters, stressing that she could vouch for his professionalism in handling the case. According to her, no matter how straight forward a case might appear on the surface to the uninitiated in the legal profession, all legal processes and procedures have to be followed to ensure that there is no miscarriage of justice. She said Nigerians should avoid jumping into conclusion in the matter, adding that if the outcome of a matter is already sacrosanctly pre-determined, then there may be no need seeking the court intervention. He however, said being a case already in court the only person authorized to comment on it is the presiding judge during trial, stressing that our reporter should avail himself of the opportunity on October 24, when the matter will also come up for hearing. On the issue of delay aimed at frustrating the deceased family, she said the judge of the caliber of Justice Abimbola would not be a party to such unholy antics. She explained that judges just returned from about two months annual break, stressing that many of them just resumed last Monday. He said while on leave, all cases are put on hold to give the judges time to refresh and rest. ‘’There may be one of two bad judges as we have in other professions, but I can vouch for the judge handling Yewande’s case as an incorruptible judge’’, she said.
Yewande, a lawyer with the State Ministry of Justice, is facing a charge that she stabbed her husband to death at their Abidi Odan Akobo home on February 2. She reportedly stabbed her 38 year-old husband twice. The first time, she hit the husband on the shoulder, missing his heart. When the husband returned from hospital, she attacked him again, this time hitting him fatally on the neck. Oyelowo bled to death. According to family sources, the argument between husband and wife had started over the husband’s proposed business trip to Europe.
According to family sources, “Lowo was to travel to Europe for business purposes and then stop over to visit his child from another woman who’s living in France with the mother. “This didn’t go well with Yewande, I suppose and the squabble continued into late in the night. In the process Yewande stabbed her husband Lowo on the shoulder missing his heart by just few inches. “Their neighbour-the Landlord intervened in the matter and took Oyelowo to a nearby hospital for treatment as he bled profusely.
After treatment he was released to return home and instructed to rest as he had lost a lot of blood. On arriving home, the Landlord’s son offered Lowo his room to pass the night to pave the way for his wife’s fury to subside. But he declined the offer stating clearly that ‘all was fine as he trusted his wife and believed she didn’t mean to harm him’. “Few hours later, a shout was heard again: it was the cry of a man in agony. Oyelowo was battling for his life, blood gushing out of his neck and mouth. His wife Yewande had used a knife to stab him once again; unfortunately it was in the neck, a very delicate part of the body. He was whisked to the hospital where he was certified dead on arrival”.