Kogi Court acquits Miyetti Allah secretary, another of kidnaping

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A Division of the High Court of Justice of Kogi State sitting in kabba and presided over by Hon. Justice O. S. A. Obayomi has discharged and acquitted the Secretary of the Ikole branch of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Abdullahi Ibrahim Riku, 25, and one other person.
While Riku was charged in the case with number HCL/31/2019, Sani Muhammed a.k.a General and Samaila Isiaka a.ka Illa were charged in the case with number HCL/47/2019.
The three defendants were alleged in the two separate cases to have committed, within the court’s judicial division, the offences of criminal conspiracy contrary to Section 97(1) of Kogi State Penal Code and kidnapping punishable under Section 4(3)(b) of the Kogi State Kidnapping and Other Related Offences (Prohibition) Law, 2015.
Riku was prosecuted alone for the kidnap of two persons on 29th March, 2019 at Iyara in Ijumu LGA of Kogi State while Sani Muhammed a.k.a General and Samaila Isiaka a.ka Illa were alleged to have kidnaped a 15 years old, at Odo-Ape in kabba/Bunu LGA of the state sometimes in January 2019.
However, during the trials, the prosecution relied solely on the statements said to have been made by the defendants, which they denied making in the open court, and the evidence given by the Investigating Police Officers who were the prosecution witnesses.
At the hearing, the defendants pleaded not guilty just as the witness who said he knew both the complainant and the defendant in Riku’s case gave evidence that they lured the defendant out of his hiding to kabba where he was arrested and he subsequently made confessional statement.
However, counsel to defendant, Chief Tunji Ologbonyo, informed the court that the defendant told him that the statement was obtained under threat and duress and therefore objected to the admissibility of the statement on the ground that it was not made voluntarily.
By this objection, the stage was set for trial-within-trial which held with the same IPO as witness who was cross-examined after his evidence. He stated in his evidence that his team of investigators visited the scene of crime at Iyara together with the defendant and other suspects.
He admitted that the four suspects arrested before the defendant made statements at their office adding that apart from Babuga, no other suspect implicated the defendant. He also told the court that his team, including himself, went to Aiyedun-Ekiti with the defendant for on-the-spot search but there was nothing incriminating found on him or his house.
On the part of the defendant, he gave evidence and called two other witnesses for his defense. He disclosed that he lives at Aiyedun in Ikole LGA of Ekiti state, a farmer and cattle breeder. He denied knowledge of the offences alleged against him.
He told the court that he is the Secretary of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association in Ikole LGA and that one of those arrested for the crime that was said to have died in police custody was once driven from their community for lack of identification. He said he was asked at the SARS office about the person and he said all he knew about him and also told them he knew nothing about the criminal allegations against them.
That he was tortured and shot at the leg to confess to an offence he did not commit and spent two months in police cell after he was shot. He showed the court the scar he sustained from the gun shot and that he was not the one that made or signed the statement tagged Exhibit P1.
Chief Ologbonyo in his lone issue for determination wanted the court to determine “whether the prosecution has proved the alleged offences to warrant the conviction of the defendant” submitting further that the confessional evidence (Exhibit P1) relied upon by the prosecution was denied by the defendant.
He also stressed that the exhibit “was made by the PW1 when he was taken into the interrogation room bound, tortured, shot in the foot and threatened with death but that he never signed or was taken before a superior police officer for attestation. He stresses that the statement of the defendant made on 8/4/2019 was torn on 9/4/2019.”
In determining the case, the trial Judge of the court, Hon. justice O. S. A. Obayomi stated that: “it is trite law that the burden of proof in criminal trials is not beyond all shadows of doubt or with mathematical precision.
It simply means that the prosecution shall prove every element or ingredients of the offences beyond reasonable doubt and to the satisfaction of the court.
“I wish to state that the prosecution in proof of the two count charge against the defendant called only one witness (the police IPO) and tendered Exhibit P1 which they heavily relied upon.
“In the instant case, when Exhibit P1 which the prosecution called confessional statement was to be tendered, it was objected to on the ground that it was not voluntarily made and that moved the court to conduct a trial-within-trial. In the trial-within-trial the prosecution called one witness and closed its case.
“The denial of the defendant in my considered view has cast doubt as to whether he made Exhibit P1. The prosecution would need to clear this doubt by calling the other officer who was present at the interrogation room when the defendant was alleged to have made Exhibit P1 to tell the court exactly what happened with respect to the making of Exhibit P1……without the evidence of that officer, there is doubt that the defendant made Exhibit P1, which doubt should be resolved in his favour….The net effect is that, the defendant did not make Exhibit P1and I so hold.”
Justice Obayomi further held that having arrived at the decision that the defendant did not make the confessional statement, the prosecution could not be said to have proved its case beyond reasonable doubt since it relied on the statement and proceeded to acquit the defendant when considering the merit of the case in both charges. He said:
“It is my considered view that having held in this judgment that the defendant did not make Exhibit P1, the offence of criminal conspiracy alleged against the defendant has not been proved particularly that the evidence of PW1 not being an eye witness of the alleged crime is not credible enough to sustain the charge. Accordingly, the defendant is discharged and acquitted on this first count-charge and I so hold.
On the second criminal allegation of kidnapping, he said:
“By sections 28 and 29 of the Evidence Act, 2011, a confessional statement that is relevant and that can be used against the defendant must be the one that admits the full details of alleged offence…..Accordingly, Exhibit P1 is not relevant against him to warrant his conviction in the absence of any other credible piece or pieces of evidence against him.
“Again, I have used the six factors to test the veracity of a retracted statement and it is my considered view that Exhibit P1 does not pass the test
“Finally, it is my considered view that the prosecution was not able to adduce any credible evidence in proof of the two count-charge against the defendant beyond reasonable doubt. Consequently, the defendant is hereby discharged and acquitted.”
In the same manner, Justice Obayomi discharged and acquitted Sani Muhammed a.k.a General where the second defendant, Samaila Isiaka a.ka Illa, was said to have escaped from Koton-karfe Correctional Centre during the last jailbreak. The prosecution had also relied heavily on the defendant’s statement which he denied.
The Judge said: “the charge and confession/admission of the first defendant must agree or tally in all material respects to be able to return a verdict of guilt against him but this is not the position in the instant.” He went further to say that: “It is clear from the records that the complainant, victim of the offences and the police officer that arrested the first defendant were not called to testify in this matter. The failure of the prosecution in this regard is fatal to their case and…it is my considered view that the prosecution has failed to adduce credible and convincing oral or documentary evidence to prove the two count charge against the first defendant beyond reasonable doubt. Accordingly, I hereby discharge and acquit the first defendant.”

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