Fred Itua, Abuja
Weeks after Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Abuja High Court convicted Maryam Sandra over the death of her husband, some civil rights groups have faulted the judgment, describing it as a miscarriage of justice.
Emmanuel Onwubiko, National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association and Mary Ogochukwu Aniefuna, Advocacy Lead, Society for Civic Education and Gender Equity, made this claim at a press briefing in Abuja.
Onwubiko, who spoke on behalf of others, said: “Based on circumstantial evidence whereas it is the law of this nation that the charge of murder or culpable homicide must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. it is curious why a judge would trifle with an offence of culpable homicide, which attracts death by choosing to draw conclusions of guilt of Maryam based on hearsay.
“We must point out that no witness testified to seeing Maryam stabbing her husband, no murder weapon was tendered by the police in evidence, no confessional statement was made by Maryam or anyone else for that matter and no two of the six police witnesses corroborated each other’s testimonies to the effect that Maryam killed Bilyaminu.
“So, what evidence did Justice Halilu rely on to convict Maryam apart from circumstantial evidence? This is not the position of the law. The law is that no person shall be convicted for the offence of murder, which attracts capital punishment based on circumstantial evidence.”
He added: “In fact, it was the evidence of all the police witnesses that none of them knew exactly what and who killed Bilyaminu. However, PW 1 (Ibrahim Mohammed) and Maryam agreed that she had a serious quarrel/fight with Bilyaminu, whom he took a knife from three times when she wielded it against her husband.
“In his evidence, he did not say on any of the three occasions he took the knives from Maryam, he got cut. No. what does that suggest? It simply means she did not plan to hurt anyone at all, talk more of her husband whom she loved jealously.
“Yes, she was jealous, yes, she was angry. But if she did not hurt PW1, who is her husband’s friend when he got the knife from her on three occasions, how could she have planned to hurt her beloved husband?
“When we think of the two little kids of Bilyaminu and Maryam both under two years, all we think of is the doctrine of double jeopardy. We know that in our laws double jeopardy is prohibited. The kids have lost their father in an unfortunate circumstance, should they lose their mother too?
“Can we think about these kids selfishly for a moment? Do we know the psychological trauma and the psychosocial problems that having both parents killed in this manner would have on them? We appeal to our common humanity. Let us put these children first in our consideration.”