• Victim’s wife, mother hail judgment
The premises of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, Lagos was temporarily thrown into pandemonium on Wednesday, February 6, 2019, when the presiding judge, Justice Olabisi Akinlade sentenced a chairman of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to death by hanging. The condemned man, Saheed Arogundade, formerly, Chairman of Boundary-Aiyetoro Unit and Branch B Secretary of the union in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area, was found guilty of the murder of a police officer, Late Gbenga Oladipupo Ogunfile, on April 10, 2010.
Upon hearing the judgment, two wives and relations of Arogundade who were inside the courtroom burst into tears, creating a tumult that compelled the judge to order security operatives to send them out. The ensued melee galvanized warders who brought the defendants to the court premises to quickly tightened their hold on the condemned man.
Arogundade, found guilty of a murder that took place at Barra junction along Baale Aiyetoro Street, was originally arraigned in 2011 alongside Mustapha Layeni, Adebayo Abdullahi, Seyi Pabiekun, Sikiru Rufai and Yusuf Arogundade. The six suspects arraigned on a two-count charge of conspiracy and murder were accused of stabbing Ogunfile to death while he was on his way to see his mother at Layinka area of the locality. The victim was reportedly stabbed for encouraging the operation of tricycles in Aiyetoro area, which Arogundade said affected the income accruing to the purse of NURTW unit under his charge.
Ismaila Lukmon, the motorcyclist, who testified during the trial, gave a chilling testimony. According to him, the deceased had called him for a ride to his mother’s house. On their way, four men approached them and dragged the deceased down from his motorcycle. With the three of the men holding the victim, the fourth person reportedly brought out a knife and started to stab him.
“As that was going on, I ran away to raise the alarm, when I returned, the other three men were hitting him with their fists. I could see the faces of the three men clearly because I was focusing on the one who was stabbing him and found out that he has bow legs and marks on his face. When I moved closer, I discovered that Ogunfile had been badly stabbed all over his body and was bleeding severely.”
Mrs Rotimi Odutola, Assistant Director, Attorney General’s Chambers, Ministry of Justice, Alausa, Ikeja, representing Lagos State had earlier urged the court to hold that the offence of conspiracy to murder had been proved beyond reasonable doubt against the six defendants and therefore convict them as charged.
However, Justice Akinlade held that the prosecution was not able to prove its case against the other defendants, saying that the evidence of the sixth prosecution witness, Adewale Akinola, could not be admitted to convict the second to sixth defendants because he was not directly at the scene of the crime, but was standing in front of his residence, and also, the object he described as being used by the assailants on the deceased was different from the weapon described by the pathologist. The pathologist report said a machete was used to inflict mortal injuries on the deceased. “So, I hereby rule that the PW6 is not a reliable witness; therefore, I hereby discharge and acquit the second to sixth defendants in respect of the charges,” proclaimed Justice Akinlade who said the only evidence the court will rely on would be that of PW2, whose evidence was cogent, convincing and has been able to prove beyond reasonable doubt the ingredients of conspiracy and murder against the first defendant.
“The first defendant is guilty, as charged. Therefore…You, Saheed Arogundade, will be hanged in the neck until you are dead. May God have mercy on your soul,” Akinlade declared.
The deceased’s mother, Alhaja Mojisola Martins, praised the Lagos State judiciary for ensuring that those who perpetrated the act were brought to book even after eight years.
Martins, who is the Iyalode of Aiyetoro in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government and Chairperson of the Oshodi Park at Boundary, said: “I know that my son will not come back to life, but the sentence on Saheed Arogundade is a relief to me. As for the other acquitted defendants, I am glad that they spent eight years in detention as that would serve as deterrence to others. Many people have been killed in that manner and nothing happened, that is why they feel that they can kill anyone and go free.”
She further declared that all those who had hands in the death of her son, direct or indirectly, would be haunted until they meet their own deaths.
Titilayo Basirat Ogunfile, the wife of the deceased, also hailed the judgment, expressing satisfaction that those who murdered her husband eight years ago have finally been brought to book.
“He (Arogundade) deserves the penalty given to him because he is wicked. As for those who joined him to perpetrate the act, God will not allow them to have peace of mind until they die,” she said.