9 February 2013

Nigeria: How Faulty Evidence Freed Woman of Murder Charge

For Hadiza, wife of late Ibrahim Abutu, a former staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) found dead at his residence on December 28, 2012, judgment finally smiled towards her on February 7, after she was accused of shooting her husband to death over his relationship with another woman.

Shortly after the ruling setting her free, Hadiza, clasping firmly to her child delivered while in prison, told Weekly Trust amidst tears of joy, that she wants to go back with her children to mourn her husband properly, adding that the judgment was a divine one from God.

The judge during the ruling has said the prosecution failed to prove the offence of culpable homicide against the accused.

Justice Abba Mohammed said the deceased did not die from the acts or inaction of his wife, adding that nodding of the head by the deceased who was on oxygen mask could not avail as a dying declaration.

Hadiza and three of the relatives who were around when the incident occurred: Nafisatu Ategua, Oyiele Okoh and Anthonia Ojuodiale were all arraigned by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) in an Abuja Chief Magistrate Court presided by Ahmed Shuaibu in January, 2012. The case was later transferred to an Abuja High Court presided by Justice Abubakar Talba from where it was transferred to the court presided by Justice Mohammed. The three were later discharged and used as witnesses in the case.

A pump action rifle and packet of pellets were recovered from the scene. And though scientific examination could not establish fingerprint evidence against the accused persons, the police further accused them of destroying evidence by the 'hasty' cleaning of the blood stained bedroom.

But the judge upheld the testimony of Nafisatu that she cleaned the room shortly after Hadiza and other sympathizers had rushed the deceased to hospital because of the deceased's young son.

He stressed that the police did not show how many pellets are contained in a cartridge to guide the court in determining if some where hidden after four pellets were removed from the deceased's body at the hospital.

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