From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal, on Friday, upheld the conviction and death sentence passed on Maryam Sanda, daughter-inlaw to a former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Mohammed Bello Haliru.
In a unanimous judgment, the appellate court, held that there was no cogent grounds before it to warrant the setting aside of the judgment of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Justice Yusuf Halilu of the FCT High Court had in his judgment of January 27, 2020, found her guilty of stabbing her husband, Bilyamin Bello, a real estate developer to death at their Abuja residence in 2017.
However, in her appeal against the judgment of the trial court, the convict insisted that the judge was bias and relied on circumstantial and hearsay evidence, to sentence her to death by hanging.
But a three-man panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice Stephen Adah, held that the 20 grounds of appeal Maryam filed to challenge her conviction and sentence lacked merit and deserved to be dismissed.
Justice Stephen Adah who delivered the judgment said it was not in doubt that the appellant killed her husband.
Nevertheless, the appellate court, faulted the trial court judge for his failure to rule on the notice of preliminary objection filed by Maryam before he delivered final judgement in the matter.
Consequently, the Court invoked its powers under section 6(6) (a) of the 1999 Constitution,( as amended), and dismissed Maryam’s pending preliminary objection for want of merit.
Thereafter, the court held that the trial judge was right in his verdict, stressing that the offence of culpable homicide committed by the appellant, is punishable by death under section 221 of the Penal Code.
The court noted that there was evidence that the appellate murdered her husband during a fight that ensued after she saw a nude picture of a girl on his phone.
The trial court had based its judgement on circumstantial evidence before it, Maryam’s testimony during the trial and her statement before the police, which it said established that she fatally stabbed her husband to death in Abuja on November 19, 2017.
The court ordered that the convict should remain at the Correctional Center in Suleja till she exhausts her right of appeal.
She had argued that there was lack of confessional statement, absence of murder weapon, lack of corroboration of evidence by two witnesses and lack of autopsy report to determine the true cause of her husband’s death.
Insisting that the trial court’s judgment occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice against her, Maryam, begged the appellate court to discharge and acquit her of the culpable homicide charge that led to her conviction.
She argued that the failure of the trial judge to rule on a preliminary objection she filed to challenge the charge against her and jurisdiction of the court to entertain same based on evidence of bias and lack of fair hearing she raised, rendered the judgement a nullity.
According to her, “the trial judge erred in law when having taken arguments on her preliminary objection to the validity of the charge on the 19th of March, 2018 failed to rule on it at the conclusion of the trial or at any other time.”
She further alleged that the Judge erred and misdirected himself by usurping the role of the police when he assumed the duty of an Investigating Police Officer (IPO).
She quoted the trial Judge to have said: “I wish to state that I have a duty thrust upon me to investigate and discover what will satisfy the interest and demands of justice.”
The convict had through her counsel, Joe Kyari- Gadazama (SAN), maintained that the trial judge failed to restrict himself to the evidence that was adduced before the court.
The police had in the charge marked CR/15/17 which it filed pursuant to section 109(d) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, alleged that Maryam stabbed her husband to death with a broken bottle, at their Abuja residence.
The prosecution told the court that Bilyamin died as a result of several stabs on his chest and neck.
Police maintained that the defendant attacked her husband with the knowledge that her act was likely to cause his death.