Tony Osauzo, Benin
Twenty-three years after they were sentence to death for the murder of an eight-year-old child, two siblings, Onome Inaye, 63 and Victor Emenuwe 49, are to face trial afresh for the same offence.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Benin ordered the re-trial yesterday in appeal in which it held that the siblings were not properly arraigned and their plea taken.
They were said to have committed the offence in 1995 when they allegedly drowned their victim in a stream after a failed ritual attempt.
The duo were said to have taken their victim to Ijebu-Ode for the purpose of money ritual but could not raise the N20,000 demanded by the herbalist.
Consequently, they reportedly drowned the child in a stream to cover their track and were arrested on suspicion that they travelled on the day the child went missing.
The brothers were said to have confessed their crime during police investigation and took the police to the stream where the body of the child was recovered.
They were found guilty of conspiracy and murder by an Edo State High Court and subsequently sentenced to death in 2014.
But the Court of Appeal while delivering judgment on the appeal filed by their Counsel, President Aigbokhan, Justice S. Oseji, declared the whole trial of the lower court a nullity for not complying with provisions of the law.
In the appeal, the convicts sought the court’s determination whether they were rightly arraigned.
In the judgment read by Justice S. Oseji, the court held that there was no where in the ruling of the lower court which showed that the convicts were first arraigned and their plea taken.
It further held that for there to be a criminal trial, there must be an arraignment and the charges read to the accused persons in the language they understood.
The Appeal court, therefore, declared the whole trial at the High Court null and void and ordered retrial of the case.
Reacting to the judgment, the appellants Counsel, President Aigbokhan, said the court should have upturned the judgment of the lower court since the convicts have spent over two decades in incarceration.
“The court agreed with us and ordered a retrial but what the court has succeeded in doing is to convert convict to awaiting trial after 20 years. That is not justice after 20 years. We are going to appeal this ruling”, he said.