A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has dismissed the alleged certificate forgery suit filed against the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed dismissed the suit filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a chieftain of the party, Williams Edobor, against the governor, in a judgement delivered on Saturday in the nation’s capital.
The APC and Edobor had filed the suit alleging that Governor Obaseki presented a forged certificate to seek re-election in the Edo State governorship election held on September 19, 2020.
According to the plaintiffs, the said document was purportedly issued by the University of Ibadan, while the governor presented same to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which conducted the poll.
In his judgement, Justice Mohammed held that the plaintiffs relied on the photocopied document presented by Governor Obaseki without getting in touch with the university to verify the authenticity of the said certificate.
He added that no iota of truth was brought before the court by the plaintiffs who alleged forgery, saying it was a criminal matter, but the claimants were unable to prove their case.
The judge noted that the Deputy Registrar (Legal) of the University of Ibadan had given evidence in the suit that the university duly issued the certificate to Governor Obaseki.
According to him, the governor was duly and properly admitted to study Classics which was later renamed Classical Studies in 1976 and graduated in 1979.
Justice Mohammed concluded that the plaintiffs failed to prove their allegations of forgery against Governor Obaseki and, thereby, dismissed the case.
He, however, did not award any cost against the plaintiffs.
Before the judgement was delivered, counsels to both parties in the matter had closed their cases after they presented witnesses and evidence to the court.
During proceedings on Thursday, lawyer to the Plaintiffs, Akin Olujimi, adopted his final written address.
He urged the court to affirm their position that the governor presented a forged certificate to the electoral umpire and was unfit to occupy the office.
This was, however, rejected by Governor Obaseki’s counsel, Ken Mozia, who asked the court to dismiss the suit over what he described as the plaintiff’s failure to prove their case.
Governor Obaseki contested and won the governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in a bid to extend his stay in office by another four years.
Although he was elected into office for the first term on the APC platform, the governor later defected from the party after he was screened out from the party’s primary which saw Mr Osagie Ize-Iyamu emerging as the APC flagbearer for the election.
This came in the middle of a lingered dispute between the governor and his predecessor and immediate past APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
After defecting from the APC, he got the PDP’s ticket and went ahead to defeat Ize-Iyamu for the second time to claim the governorship seat in what can be described as a dramatic switch of political parties.
Governor Obaseki had defeated Ize-Iyamu as the APC candidate in the 2016 governorship election while the latter was the PDP candidate.
Four years later, he secured 307,955 of the total votes, 84,336 more votes than Ize-Iyamu who got 223, 619 votes
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State presented before a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday series of documents, including the original copy of the Bachelor of Arts certificate he claimed was issued to him by the University of Ibadan (UI) in 1979, to support his claim that he graduated from the school
Also, a senior official of the University of Ibadan was in court to tender more documents for Obaseki and confirmed that the certificate the governor submitted was the actual copy issued to him by the university.
Obaseki opened his defence on Tuesday in the case brought against him, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its member, Edobor Williams.
The plaintiffs, who want Obaseki disqualified as candidate in the last governorship election in Edo State, alleged that the governor forged his first degree certificate; he claimed to have obtained from U. I. and which he submitted to INEC as part of his educational qualification.
They are contending that a photocopy of the degree certificate attached to nomination form submitted to INEC did not contain the signature of the Registrar of the university and the date the certificate was issued.
But, from evidence led on Tuesday, Obaseki demonstrated that absence of the Registrar’s signature and date of issue on the copy of the certificate he submitted to INEC because it was not properly photocopied, which made both features, contained in the original copy, to be cut off.
The UI official, Abayomi Samuel Ajayi, (Deputy Registrar, Legal), who was in court confirmed that the university made a demonstration on being informed of the Obaseki case and confirmed that it was possible to have the signature of the bottom of the original certificate, containing the Registrar’s signature, date of issue and part of the Vice Chancellor’s signature, cut off where a photocopy is not properly done.
Ajayi, who testified as the second witness of the first defendant, said the Minister of State for Education had sent a copy of Obaseki’s certificate, which the plaintiffs claimed was forged, to the school in November last year for verification.
Shown some copies of the disputed certificate and asked by PDP’s lawyer, Razak Isenalumhe if the photocopies already tendered in court could be considered as forged, as claimed by the plaintiffs, the witness said no.
“I will not regard the photocopies as forged, but incomplete photocopies, because the certificate issued by the university is larger than the paper size on which the photocopy was done, and in the process the date of issue and the signature of the Registrar – S. J. Okudu were cut off. Also the last part of the signature of Prof Tekena Tamuno, the then VC, was cut off.
“I am not seeing these documents for the first time. The Minister of State for Education had sent the documents to the university in November for confirmation, we demonstrated it by making photocopy with an A4 paper and the same result was what we got,” he said.
The witness said different results came out when the university demonstrated, using A5 paper, A3 paper and a reduced format to photocopy a similar certificate in Classical Studies issued to Issac Adekeye Abiona, because “we did not have access to the original copy of the 1st defendant’s certificate.”
The witness tendered CTC copies of the same certificate demonstrated with different papers sizes – A4 (not reduced), A4 (reduced), A5 (not reduced) and A3 (not reduced)
Under cross examination by plaintiffs’ lawyer, Akin Olujinmi (SAN), Ajayi said he joined UI on May 2, 1995 and that he was not in the university during the period Obsaeki claimed to be a student of the school.
He added that demonstration by the university revealed that the photocopy, which cut off some information in the actual certificate was not properly done.
Earlier, while being led in evidence by Obaseki’s lawyer, Ken Mozia (SAN), Ajayi tendered other documents, including the first defendant’s application, addressed to the Registrar to collect his certificate, 5 March 1980 and proof that he collected.
He also tendered certified true copies (CTC) of the relevant pages of UI’s Congregation for Admission to Degrees, Award of Diploma and Certificates and 31st Foundation Day Ceremony, with the name of the first defendant indicated in page 2.
The witness also tendered UI’s Calendar containing admission requirements for 1976 to 1977 and Obaseki’s application that led to his admission.
He also confirmed as original, the copy of the Bachelor of Art degree certificate issued to Obaseki by the school, which was earlier tendered by the first defendant’s first witness, Charity Aiguobarueghian, a lawyer.
Testifying earlier, Aiguobarueghian, who said he is Obaseki’s Advisor, told the court that he accompanied the governor to the PDP secretariat in Abuja where he filled his nomination form and submitted to the party’s National Secretary, in whose office the documents were uploaded onto INEC’s portal.
The witness claimed responsibility for the error in the photocopied certificate and said he did not realise that part of it was not captured until the suit by the plaintiffs was filed.
He said the lower part of the certificate, containing the signature of the Registrar and the date of issue were cut off because A4 paper was used to make the photocopy, which was smaller in size than the original copy.
The witness said the document was not forged.
When asked by the PDP’s lawyer why he was the one sent to make the photocopy, the witness said “apart from being a political associate of the first defendant, I double an informal advisor on matters of this nature.”
Under cross-examination from Olujinmi, the witness admitted that the photocopy he made did not contain all the information in the original copy of Obaseki’s degree certificate.
When asked to confirm whether the copies of the certificate already tendered in court were the same as the one he referred to, he said “the documents are the same to the extent that the bottom is not fully captured.”
Earlier, while being led by Mozia, the witness tendered some documents including Obaseki’s Secondary School certificate issued in June 1973, his Higher School Certificate issued in 1976 and his Primary School certificate issued in July 1971
The witness also tendered the original copy of the Bachelor of Art certificate issued to Obaseki by UI in July 1979 and Masters of Business Administration certificate issued also to the governor by Pace University in New York in Sept 1994.
Isenalumhe and lawyer to INEC, M. A.Bawa did not object to the admissibility of all the documents tendered on Tuesday by Obaseki’s through his witnesses. But Olujinmi objected and said he will make his argument at the address stage.
At a point in the proceedings, Olujinmi informed the court that one of the plaintiffs’ witnesses, who testified the previous day as the fifth plaintiffs’ witness, Gabriel Iduseri, was attacked and shot his house in Benin City.
The trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, at the commencement of proceedings, drew parties’ attention to the fact that the case will lapse on Saturday and urged lawyers in the case to cooperate with the court by avoiding delay.
Obaseki is expected to continue his defence on Wednesday by 10am.
Human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, has sued the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed for arbitrarily amending the Broadcast Code and hiking the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5 million. In the originating motion filed before a Federal High Court in Lagos, Barrister Effiong challenged the imposition of N5m fine on Nigeria Info 99.3FM Lagos and the threat by the minister to punish other broadcast stations in the country over alleged hate speech.
The suit comes barely days after Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, fined Nigeria media for granting an interview to a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, who claimed that an unidentified northern governor was a Boko Haram commander.
The minister had threatened that any TV or radio station that allows elected officials to be insulted on its platform would be fined N5m or shut down. The Lawyer had also alleged that Lai Mohammed hijacked the responsibility of the NBC and unilaterally hiked the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5 million without consultation.
Barrister Effiong in his supporting affidavit told the court that the actions of the Minister of Information and Culture had gravely affected his freedom of expression and that of broadcast stations, broadcasters and other Nigerian citizens who also appear as guests on radio and television stations to express critical views about the government and public officeholders. The lawyer argued that “abusing” or “insulting” the government cannot be criminalized in a democracy. He contended that the expression “hate speech” is not defined under any written law and cannot be invoked or penalized based on the capricious expectations of the Respondents.
He said that to do otherwise “will amount to setting fire to the constitution” and that “those who are paid with taxpayers money cannot be insulated or shielded from insults and abuse by those who pay them (the citizens)”.
The activist reminded the court that “Nigeria has passed the era of colonialism and military dictatorship”. He said that Lai Mohammed, was “seeking to subvert Nigeria’s constitutional democracy with the attendant liberties and foist a civilian dictatorship on the country.”
The lawyer, therefore, prayed the court to make “a declaration that broadcast stations in Nigeria, broadcasters, guests and callers during radio and television programmes are entitled to a fair trial before a court of competent jurisdiction as guaranteed by Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. A9 L.F.N. 2004 before a sentence of fine or other penalties can be imposed on them over comments, views or opinions expressed on radio and television”. He further prayed the court to make an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Minister of Information and Culture from imposing fines or other penalties on broadcast stations in Nigeria for comments or opinions expressed by citizens during radio or television programmes.
The lawyer also asked the court to nullify and set aside the penalty of fine or other penalties imposed on broadcast stations by the minister. Barrister Effiong equally asked that the court should set aside the provisions of the extant National Broadcasting Code and any amendment made thereto, which purports to prohibit, criminalize or penalize comments or views expressed by citizens about the government and public office holders considered by Lai Mohammed and the Federal Government to be “abusive”, “insulting” or “hate speech”.
An Ikeja Special Offences Court on Monday remanded two businessmen, Isita Oprah and Anthony Nosy, in custody of Correctional Centres over alleged theft of N100million.
<p class="has-drop-cap has-vivid-cyan-blue-color has-text-color" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Their remand followed their not guilty plea to the alleged theft.Their remand followed their not guilty plea to the alleged theft.
The Economics and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) had on Monday arraigned the businessmen before the court for allegedly stealing N100 million from Virgin Forest Energy Limited.
The two defendants were arraigned on a two count charge alongside their company, Homeland Overseas Limited before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo.
According to EFCC Counsel, Ananah, the defendants on February 3, 2016, dishonestly converted the said sum to personal use.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Following their not guilty plea, the defendant counsels, Mr. Henry Ifieawe and Mr. C.H. Nwuk urged the court to grant their clients bail in a liberal term.
They told the court, that bail application has been filed and copies served on the prosecutor.
Responding, EFCC Counsel, A. Ananah opposed the bail application saying that the commission would be responding to that effect.
Delivering ruling after entertaining submission of counsels, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo ordered the defendants to be remanded at the EFCC Custody pending determination of their bail application.
Subsequently, the Judge adjourned till December 4 to rule on their bail application.
A federal high court in Abuja has granted the request of the Central Bank of Nigeria to freeze the accounts of 19 individuals and a public affairs company linked to the #EndSARS protests, Channels Television learned on Friday.
The request, granted by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, was filed by the CBN on October 20.
Some of the affected individuals include Bolatito Racheal Oduala, Chima David Ibebunjoh, Mary Doose Kpengwa, Saadat Temitope Bibi, Bassey Victor Israel, Wisdom Busaosowo Obi, Nicholas Ikhalea Osazele, Ebere Idibie, Akintomide Lanre Yusuf, Uhuo Ezenwanyi Promise and Mosopefoluwa Odeseye.
<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Others are: Adegoke Pamilerin Yusif. Umoh Grace Ekanem, Babatunde Victor Segun, Mulu Louis Teghenan, Mary Oshifowora, Winifred Akpevweoghene Jacob, Victor Solomon, Idunu A. Williams, and Gatefield Nigeria Limited.Others are: Adegoke Pamilerin Yusif. Umoh Grace Ekanem, Babatunde Victor Segun, Mulu Louis Teghenan, Mary Oshifowora, Winifred Akpevweoghene Jacob, Victor Solomon, Idunu A. Williams, and Gatefield Nigeria Limited.
The court order, addressed to the head offices of Access Bank, Fidelity Bank, First Bank Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Bank, United Bank of Africa, and Zenith Bank, directed the banks to freeze forthwith all transactions on the 20 accounts on the list annexed to the CBN’s application as Exhibit A and all other bank accounts of the defendants/respondents for a period of 180 days pending the outcome of investigation and inquiry currently being conducted by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Gatefield Nigeria Limited had earlier sued Access Bank Plc for allegedly blocking an account used to promote media coverage of the #EndSARS protests.
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Wednesday warned parties not to fall into contempt after police officers allegedly attempted to arrest the embattled Managing Director of HealthPlus Ltd, Bukky George, on the court’s premises.
<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Mrs. George is Plaintiff in a suit involving HealthPlus Ltd, HealthPlus Africa Holdings Ltd, Dr. Ayo Salami, Ms. Afsane Jetha, Mr. Zachary Fond and Mr. Deji Akinyanju.Mrs. George is Plaintiff in a suit involving HealthPlus Ltd, HealthPlus Africa Holdings Ltd, Dr. Ayo Salami, Ms. Afsane Jetha, Mr. Zachary Fond and Mr. Deji Akinyanju.
The alleged arrest attempt occurred after Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo had already adjourned the suit till November 16 for ruling on who should represent the first defendant.
The judge had also fixed 27th November for hearing of the substantive suit, with parties dispersing.
George and her lawyer, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde SAN, who had already left the room, rushed back in.
They informed the judge that the police were outside and attempted to arrest George, contrary to an earlier undertaking by the defence.
According to them, defence counsel Mr. Oluseye Opasanya SAN had made an undertaking to the effect that no such step would be taken, adding that he held a duty to court and to his clients.
Ruling on Ayorinde’s application for the court’s protection, Justice Oguntoyinbo ordered the parties to maintain status quo.
The judge said: “I have listened to learned Senior Advocate Of Nigeria Chief Bolaji Ayorinde that in contradiction of the undertaking made by the defendant, the police still attempted to arrest the Paintiff.
“The court will not fold its arms and allow anarchy in a case pending before it.
“Consequently an order of status quo is hereby made. Nobody should take any step that will undermine the decision of this court. If anybody does so, such will be in contempt of court.”
In the suit marked, FHC/L/CS/609/2020] George is seeking to stop her removal as CEO announced by the Board of HealthPlus Limited on September 25, 2020.
The company announced a change in its management with Chidi Okoro, joining as Chief Transformation Officer.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has said that the body and 302 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo and the leadership of the National Assembly over the hike in electricity tariff and fuel price.
SERAP made this known in a tweet via its Twitter handle on Sunday.
The rights body said it wants the Federal High Court in Abuja to declare the recent hike in electricity tariff and fuel price by the Federal Government as ‘illegal’.
“We’ve together with 302 Nigerians asked the Federal High Court, Abuja to declare illegal & unfair the hike in electricity tariff/fuel price because top level public officers cannot continue to receive the same salaries while asking poor Nigerians to make sacrifices,” SERAP tweeted.
“Joined in the suit as Defendants are President Buhari, the Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
“In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/330/2020 filed last week, we’re seeking: “an order directing & compelling the RMAFC to cut the salaries, allowances & other emoluments payable to the Defendants, in line with current economic realities & principles of justice, fairness & equality.
“The Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] makes it clear that the authorities should harness Nigeria’s resources to promote and ensure the maximum welfare, prosperity, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality.
“The country’s resources ought to be harnessed and distributed to serve the common good, and not to finance a life of luxury for politicians.
“Increasing electricity tariff and fuel price in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is antithetical to the public interest, the common good, and a fundamental breach of constitutional oath of office.
“Public money is spent as security votes without transparency, and to pay for lavish lifestyles for top public officers including lawmakers, who continue to buy expensive new cars at the expense of taxpayers, the poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians.
“@nassnigeria is also set to spend N27bn to renovate the National Assembly Complex.
Public duty means showing leadership by example and commitment to the ideals of public service, including by reducing salaries and allowances of top public officers like the Defendants.
“The court, being the last hope of the common man, must come to the aid of poor Nigerians by granting the reliefs sought by SERAP & 302 concerned Nigerians. Unless the reliefs are granted, the Defendants will continue to breach the constitution at the expense of the poor,” it stated.
It was gathered that those arrested were presently being detained at the state police headquarters in Eleweeran, Abeokuta, and are been denied access to lawyers.
About 15 Nigerian youth were on Saturday arrested in Ogun State after men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad unleashed violence on peaceful #EndSARS protesters.
It was gathered that those arrested were presently being detained at the state police headquarters in Eleweeran, Abeokuta, and are been denied access to lawyers.
Demonstrators At The #EndSARS Protest In Abeokuta On Saturday
SaharaReporters learnt that they will be arraigned on Monday in court by the police for murder.
Among those arrested are Akinbayo Damilola, Adeniyi Marcus, Akinola Ibrahim, Adele Sodiq, Ifedayo Orimolade, Aikomo Oluwatobi, Damilola Odolowu and Oladepo Olateju.
Others include Olayinka Dayo, Omogbolahan Oladayo, Adelaja Emmanuel and Olatoye Olalekan.
About five vehicles abandoned by the protesters when they were attacked by SARS officials were seized.
Also different types of phones especially iPhones were also taken away by the policemen.
One of the arrested protesters
One of the protesters, who spoke with SaharaReporters, accused Governor Dapo Abiodun of fabricating lies to deny the protesters their rights.
“They are at the state police headquarters now and the police wants to charge them for murder. A Toyota 2005 Camrybig, and a Lexus car were part of the cars the protesters abandoned and were taken away by the policemen.
“Earlier in a tweet, the governor of Ogun State termed the peaceful protest as violent and assured that he won’t tolerate peaceful agitations.
“Shortly after that, a blog loyal to the Ogun State Government said the peaceful protesters ambushed the deputy governor. However, it was all fabricated lies to deny the protesters their rights.”
Notorious cultist sentenced to death by hanging for murder. While delivering his judgment, Justice Abiodun Adesodun said the prosecutor was able to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt against the accused.
An Ekiti State High court sitting in Ado-Ekiti on Tuesday, September 29, sentenced 29-year-old Gbenga Aluko, to death by hanging for involving in Cultism and killings of three residents in the state.
“The penalty for the offence committed and established against the accused is death, he is hereby sentenced to death by hanging. May the Lord have mercy on your soul.”
According to the charge against the accused, he was found to be a member of a prohibited secret society of Eiye Fraternity, contrary to section 4 of the Secret Cult (Abolition and Prohibition) First Amendment Law No.6, Laws of Ekiti State of Nigeria, 2017.
In his confessional statement, Gbenga said he and his cult members in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital masterminded the killings of some people who were believed to be cult members.
To proof his case, the prosecutor, Julius Ajibare called two witnesses but tendered no exhibit while the accused called no witness but spoke through his counsel Femi Adetoye.
Gbenga and three others members of Eiye Fraternity, Ayodele Ayodeji, 31, Olamide Olurunsola, 43 and Adewale Adekunle 23 (PICTURED) all from Ifaki Ekiti, were arrested in February 2019, by Special Anti-Robbery Squad, for alleged involvement in the killings of members of Black Axe ‘AIYE’ Confraternity, a rival secret cult group, in Ekiti and Ondo states.
Pictured is Gbenga and the other three suspects being paraded by the then Ekiti State Commissioner of Police, Asuquo Amba in Ado Ekiti. Items recovered from them include one cutlass, charms, one Dell laptop, a foreign woman’s photograph, two Ipad phones and one Infinix phone.
Ilechukwu Uchechukwu Chukwudi was acquitted in the High Court in 2014 and convicted in the Court of Appeal in 2015 He was accused of trafficking in at least 1,963.3g of methamphetamine The apex court reversed their decision on Thursday after it found that Ilechukwu had experienced some post-traumatic stress symptoms when giving statements to authorities
SINGAPORE — In a rare move, the Court of Appeal on Thursday (Sept 17) reversed its own decision to convict a Nigerian man of a capital drug trafficking charge, almost a decade after he was arrested.
Ilechukwu Uchechukwu Chukwudi is now a free man after being held in remand since his arrest in late 2011.
The apex court ruled 4-1 to acquit him with Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang dissenting. Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Senior Judge Chao Hick Tin, and Judges of Appeal Judith Prakash and Andrew Phang ruled in Ilechukwu’s favour.
The four appeal judges found that he had suffered from post-traumatic stress symptoms arising from a childhood trauma when he gave statements to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in 2011.
This could have led to him giving “unsophisticated and blatant falsehoods” to the authorities.
Ilechukwu was acquitted after a trial in the High Court in 2014 but the apex court then reversed that decision in 2015 and found him guilty of drug trafficking.
His lawyers — Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, Mr Suang Wijaya and Mr Johannes Hadi from Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, as well as Ms Jerrie Tan from K&L Gates Straits Law — then successfully argued for the decision to be reviewed.
In a statement, the lawyers said: “It has been a long and hard-fought pro bono case, involving specialist psychiatric evidence and issues of cross-cultural sensitivities… We are delighted that justice has prevailed to acquit our client this morning.”
This is the second time in the last two years that a Nigerian citizen has been acquitted of a capital drugs-related offence in Singapore.
In May last year, Adili Chibuike Ejike, who had been sentenced to hang for importing almost 2kg of methamphetamine, was cleared by the Court of Appeal. Adili had similarly been arrested in 2011 in a related case
On Nov 13, 2011, Ilechukwu flew from Lagos, Nigeria to Singapore after collecting a black luggage at the Nigerian airport. He found only clothes in it and the luggage passed several immigrations checks in both countries without problems.
He handed the bag to a Singaporean stall assistant named Hamidah Awang at a Clarke Quay bus stop.
Hamidah’s car was then searched at Woodlands Checkpoint and drugs were discovered in the luggage.
Ilechukwu was charged with trafficking in at least 1,963.3g of methamphetamine while Hamidah was charged with attempting to export the drugs.
In 2014, Justice Lee Seiu Kin acquitted Ilechukwu of the capital charge but convicted Hamidah.
The High Court judge accepted that Ilechukwu had come to Singapore on business and did not know the luggage contained drugs.
The prosecution appealed against the acquittal and in June 2015, the Court of Appeal convicted Ilechukwu, finding that he had made “numerous lies and omissions” in his statements to the CNB that could not be explained.
The apex court then sent the case back to Justice Lee to determine if Ilechukwu should be given life imprisonment or the death penalty.
However, in 2017, his lawyers successfully persuaded the same panel of apex court judges to review the conviction due to a “unique turn of events”.
It was the first time in legal history where the Court of Appeal agreed that there could be enough new material to say that its previous decision was wrong.
An Institute of Mental Health (IMH) psychiatrist from the prosecution’s side had diagnosed Ilechukwu as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which arose as a result of childhood trauma.
He had witnessed a massacre in his Nigerian hometown and was nearly killed.
The psychiatrist, Dr Jaydip Sarkar, found Ilechukwu’s PTSD symptoms were triggered after CNB officers told him that he faced the death penalty.
Dr Sarkar also opined that Ilechukwu could have then lied to save his life.
Again, the Court of Appeal sent the case back to Justice Lee to hear new expert evidence on Ilechuwu’s mental state when he gave statements to the CNB in 2011.
Last year, the High Court judge found that Ilechukwu did previously suffer from PTSD and had experienced some post-traumatic stress symptoms when giving his statements.
REASONS FOR ACQUITTAL
On Thursday, the four apex court judges who acquitted Ilechukwu found that there was now a “plausible innocent explanation” for Ilechukwu’s lies and omissions.
His motive could no longer only be attributed to his guilty mind, they added.
The judges agreed that he suffered from post-traumatic stress symptoms in 2011, accepting three psychiatric experts’ evidence that his mental conditions “may have led him to grossly overestimate the threat on his life”.
“This may in turn have prompted him to utter the unsophisticated and blatant falsehoods in his statements in an attempt to escape from the death penalty and to save his life… In the circumstances, it is unsafe to draw any adverse inference against him from his lies and omissions.”
Ilechukwu, who had maintained that an acquaintance asked him to pass the luggage to Hamidah, likely did not know there were drugs in it too, the judges ruled.
“The picture that emerges from the evidence is that he had grossly misjudged (his childhood friend and acquaintance), and naively believed that he was doing a simple favour in return for promised business contacts.
“Unwittingly, he had been deceived into transporting drugs on their behalf to (their) contact in Singapore,” the judges added.
Meanwhile, Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang, the sole dissenting voice, said that Ilechukwu’s psychiatric disorders “would not have provided even a remotely satisfactory answer” to his lies and omissions.
The lies pointed “clearly and cogently” to his guilty mind, the judge added.
He also questioned why Ilechukwu did not tell the truth after about a week of persistently lying to the CNB and waited more than two years to do so in the initial High Court trial.