The Court of Appeal Sitting in Akure has discharged and acquitted a prophet, Alfa Babatunde, who was sentenced to life imprisonment over the mysterious disappearance of a one-year-old boy, Gold Kolawole, from his church.
Justice Hamma Barka delivered the judgement on Friday and set aside the judgement of an Ondo State High Court which sentenced Babatunde.
Babatunde, who founded Sotitibire Praising Chapel in Akure, was arrested by officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) after Gold was said to have disappeared during service in November 2019.
He was later taken to court along with six members of the church over allegations that they conspired to kidnap the boy.
The clergyman and the other suspects have since been remanded at the Olokuta Correctional Facility in the Ondo State capital while the case continued.
In October 2020, Justice Olusegun Odusola of the high court in Akure sentenced the prophet and five others to life imprisonment.
The seventh person was discharged and acquitted as the court held that the prosecution counsel could not prove any case against him.
The defendants were sentenced on two counts of kidnapping, as well as aiding and abetting to kidnap, based on the evidence provided by the prosecutor.
Those charged along with Prophet Babatunde were Olayinka Omodara, Margaret Oyebola, Grace Ogunjobi, Motunrayo Egunjobi, Esther Kayode and Peter Anjorin.
Four months after he began his jail sentence, Babatunde approached the Court of Appeal in February to prove his innocence in the crime.
When the case resumed at the appellate court, the presiding judge, Justice Rita Pemu, reserved the judgement to a date to be communicated to all relevant parties.
At the resumed sitting of the court on Friday, Justice Barka set aside the judgement of the high court on the ground that the evidence presented was not strong enough to convict the prophet.
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Suspended Accountant General Idris, Three Others Seek Plea Bargain – EFCC
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) heard on Wednesday that suspended Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris and three others have reached out to the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) with a plea-bargain proposal in relation to their trial for alleged N109billion fraud.
Idris, his Technical Assistant, Godfrey Olusegun Akindele; a director in the office of the AG-F, Mohammed Kudu Usman and a firm linked with Idris – Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited – were arraigned on July 22 on a 14-count charge bordering on money laundering, stealing and criminal breach of trust.
Lead prosecuting lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) said Idris reached out to him through a third party for a meeting to work on ways to achieve a plea bargain arrangement as a way out.
Jacobs added that since Section 270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) provides for plea bargain, he agreed to meet with the defendants at an office of the EFCC, but on the condition that their lawyers and EFCC’s investigators (who handled the case) must be in attendance.
He said the meeting planned for the previous day (Tuesday) failed to hold because the defendants came without their lawyers.
Jacobs added that a lawyer from the first defendant’s (Idris’) legal team, who he identified as Kanayo, later came to where they were to meet to complain that they (the defendants’ lawyers) were not carried along.
“The first defendant sent a third party to me that he wanted a plea bargaining meeting and he wanted to meet me. That was (Tuesday) in the morning. And I replied that I can not meet the defendants in the absence of their counsel.
“I added that by the nature of our calling, we must be opened and transparent. Section 270 of ACJA allows plea bargain. I told them to come with their lawyer and let us meet at the EFCC office and that I will also invite the investigators to be at the meeting.
“Kanayo, one of the counsel in the legal team of the first defendant, came to meet me at the EFCC office in Wuse 2 and protested that they were not carried along and that his clients would not come for the meeting.
Read Also: Alleged N109b fraud: Suspended AG-F Idris gets N5b bail
“I spoke with Chief Chris Uche, SAN (who heads the first defendan’s legal team) for about 30 minutes to let him know that we (the EFCC) did not invite them and that the planned meeting was at their instance.
“None of the defendant entered EFCC’s office. So, they did not attend any meeting at the EFCC office,” Jacobs said.
The prosecuting lawyer spoke in response to complaints by lawyers to the defendants, who claimed that the EFCC invited their clients the previous day and prevented them from meeting with the defendants, who they further claimed were at the office of the EFCC for the better part of the day.
Lawyer to Idris and Gezawa (1st and 4th defendants), Gordy Uche (SAN), at the commencement of proceedings, objected to an application by Jacobs to tender some statements made by the first defendant.
Uche argued that Jacobs should not be allowed to tender the statements because he (Uche) was yet to interview his client in relation to the documents.
He said: “I was to interview the first defendant on Tuesday, but I learnt he was in the office of the EFCC. We were, as counsel, not carried along.”
Uche argued that it was disrespectful of the court for the EFCC to invite the defendants without their lawyers’ knowledge when the case had already been charged to court.
He contended that the EFCC was expected to have concluded it’s investigation before charging the defendants to court.
Uche denied that his clients proposed plea bargain to the prosecution as claimed by Jacobs.
He said the standard practice was for the lawyer toa defendant to initiate such arrangement, not for such move to be made behind the lawyer to the defendant.
Uche prayed the court for adjournment to enable h confer with the first defendant .
Lawyers to Akindele and Usman (2nd and 3rd defendants) – Peter Abalaka and Ibrahim Isiyaku (SAN), who said there shared Uche’s position, also prayed for an adjournment to enable them confer with their clients.
Although Jacobs objected to the defence’s prayer for adjournment, Justice Jadesola Adeyemi-Ajayi acceded to the defendants’ request and adjourn further hearing till October 4 this year.
Earlier, the judge ordered the revocation of the bail granted to Usman when, at the mention of the case, he was not in court, forcing the judge to suspend proceedings.
Later, before the day’s proceeding Ender’s, his lawyer applied orally that the bail be restored, stating that his client, thought arrived the court late, was held back by traffic.
Isiyaku claimed that a truck fell on along the Airport Raod, which occasioned heavy traffic and prevented his client from arriving c
Ruling, Justice Adeyemi-Ajayi granted Isiyaku’s application and restored Usman’s bail.
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You’re Absolutely Wrong, Akeredolu Disagrees With CDS Over Kuje Prison Escapee, Idris Ojo
Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, the Governor of Ondo State has clarified the situation surrounding the arrest of Idris Ojo, who was one of those allegedly responsible for the attack on the Saint Francis Catholic Church in Owo on June 5.
Akeredolu on Wednesday claimed that there was an error in the statement made by General Lucky Irabor, the Chief of Defence Staff, when he was revealed on Tuesday that the attackers had been apprehended.
According to a statement issued by Richard Olatunde, the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Idris Ojo, who was listed as the 14th wanted escapee from Kuje Prison, was apprehended at his brother’s home in Akure, the state’s capital.
Idris Ojo, a prominent member of the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) who escaped from Kuje Prison, was arrested at Aiyetoro in Ondo State, according to Irabor, who made the disclosure of the arrest on Tuesday.
Given that the tragic incident at Kuje Prison on July 6 came after the horrific event of the June 5 attack in Owo, Akeredolu acknowledged in the statement the uncertainty the development had caused the public.
“Idris Ojo, who is number 14 on the wanted list of the Kuje Prison Escapees was arrested in his brother’s house in Akure. His brother, Jimoh Rasheed Ibrahim, received and accommodated him after his escape from Kuje prison.
“He was thereafter moved and kept in the custody of the security operatives at the same time the attackers of Owo Catholic Church were arrested and brought into custody. Hence, the mix-up.”
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Don’t Return Rivers To Dark Days Of Fear, Intimidation, Abe Tells Wike
The 2023 governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in Rivers State, Senator Magnus Abe, has urged the state governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike not to return the state to the dark era of fear and intimidation in the forthcoming general elections.
He also asked other politicians in the state to eschew politics of bitterness and antagonism that would portray the state in a bad light.
Abe made these declarations when members of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Forum and Middle Belt Forum who are residents in the state paid him a solidarity visit in PortHarcourt, Rivers State capital.
But the former lawmaker’s reaction followed Wike’s state broadcast last weekend where he expressed fears and reservations about politicians allegedly meeting cultists in Hotels, bars, resorts and other entertainment centres to wreak havoc in the state.
In his words, “I was particularly disturbed when I saw the name of my party the Social Democratic Party- (SDP) mentioned in that broadcast.
“My own concern and prayer is that this election cannot return Rivers State to the old place of fear, to the old place of challenges and crisis that we used to have in previous elections.
“I want to appeal to His Excellency, that he is our Governor, whether we are members of SDP, APC, PDP or whatever political parties we belong to; we are all Rivers men and women and our objective is to choose a leader for our people that will carry us forward, not to bring cultists and fight one another.”
However, Abe suggested a security summit, where all political leaders would be invited to share their ideas on how to have peaceful elections before, during and after the 2023 elections in the state.
“If there are genuine concerns about security in the state, I will expect the governor as a friend and father of the State, to call all of us to sit down together and share ideas on how to go forward into this election in a peaceful, convivial atmosphere in which everybody will be free to participate.
“Whether the governor likes it or not, it is the responsibility of the governor to provide a peaceful and conducive atmosphere for all for all of us and I will plead that we come together and talk to one another”.
“I will appeal to my fellow politicians, the governor has expressed his security concerns, let us not begin to attack one another on the basis of that, instead let us sit down and look for solutions that will enable us cross these challenges without hitches.
“Our state will be peaceful. I believed that Rivers people know that without peace there can be no progress, without peace, there can be no prosperity, without peace, there is no future”.
But Leader of the group, Samuel Adamu said they came to pledge their support to Senator Abe and to assure him that they would galvanize the support of all their members for him in the 2023 general elections.
148 total views, 148 views today
- Suspended Accountant General Idris, Three Others Seek Plea Bargain – EFCC
- You’re Absolutely Wrong, Akeredolu Disagrees With CDS Over Kuje Prison Escapee, Idris Ojo
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