Nigeria: How Maryam Sanda Bagged Death Sentence for Husband's Murder

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(file photo)
28 January 2020

Twenty-six months after killing her husband, Maryam Sanda was yesterday sentenced to death by hanging.

She was arraigned by the police on November 24, 2017, over the death of her husband, Bilyaminu Bello, a nephew of former PDP Chairman, Alhaji Bello Halliru Muhammad.

She was later re-arraigned along with her mother, Maimuna Aliyu, brother, Aliyu Sanda and house-help, Sadiya Umar. They were accused of helping her to conceal evidence by cleaning off the blood on the floor. The court, however, granted the trio's no-case submission, discharged and acquitted them, leaving only Maryam as the defendant.

Conviction

Delivering judgement in the case on Monday, the trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu, held that the evidence of the convict that the deceased died after falling on a bottle of Shisha, was only a cover-up plot.

He held that under the Doctrine of Last Seen, the convict was under the obligation to explain what caused the death of the deceased and not the prosecution, since she admitted being the last person with the deceased.

"The almighty Shisha bottle was broken and left as a smokescreen to cover the crime. This is an affront on the collective intelligence of everyone. The shisha bottle was broken after the death of the deceased.

"I am more than convinced that the defendant fatally stabbed the deceased with the same knife she threatened him with, which she has also mentioned in her statement to the police with the full knowledge that death was not just probable but certain.

"This is so sad when I come to terms with fact that the person involved here is the accused lawfully married husband and who has baby with him at the time of his gruesome murder. This is not just sad and unfortunate, but indeed wicked. While I am in sympathy with the position of the accused person, a young mother with two children whose father by her inhuman action sent him to early grave, my sentiment will not go far to free the accused person from the long arms of the law.

"I have come to the irresistible conclusion that you Maryam Sanda is guilty of the murder of Bilyaminu your husband whom you have indeed killed in cold blood. You are hereby convicted for the murder of Bilyaminu as charged," the judge held.

Post-conviction drama

After the judge convicted her, she fled the dock while wailing. It took the intervention of her family members, court and correctional services' officials to restrain her. However, every effort to stop her from wailing failed.

Amidst her wailing, she was heard repeating: "Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un", a part of a verse (2:156) from the Qur'an which translates to "Indeed, to God we belong and to God we shall return." She was also heard saying, "I was fasting and praying ... Ya Allah, why?"

Several women were also heard or seen wailing after the conviction, with one of them even walking up to the dock where the convict was held before the judge ordered court officials to send her back.

Sentencing and more drama

While passing the death sentence on the convict, the judge held that "Justice to the society and to the deceased Bilyaminu, outweighed the other element of the justice to the defendant, Maryam Sanda who should reap what she has sown; blood for blood. For it has been said that 'thou shall not kill and whoever kills in cold blood deserves death as his or her own reward or punishment."

"Moreover, the rising crime of mindless and senseless killings of men and women in our society leaves much to be desired and must be seriously frowned upon. Convict clearly deserves to die. Accordingly, I hereby sentence Maryam Sanda to death by hanging until she dies.

"This I have done believing that justice in this case must be served and believing that the soul of the deceased, who has been crying for justice, which I believe has also been attending proceedings in this matter, will now return to the grave and rest in peace," the judge added.

Dress-down for police

Before rising, the judge gave the police a dress-down for the way they conducted the investigation. He said, "Before I put a full stop to this judgment, I will like to say a word or two about the conduct of the police who are involved in the investigation of this crime. PW4 (the Investigating Police Officer) mentioned how he took pictures of the body of the deceased and all the wounds on the body of the deceased but those pictures were never tendered by the police for whatever reason.

"The only picture that was attached to the proof of evidence had undergone several photocopies which was deliberately done to fade out the photo image. This is painful and most unprofessional."

What now for Maryam Sanda?

The judge ordered that the convict be remanded at the Suleja custodial centre pending when her rights to appeal have been exhausted.

She has a right to appeal to the Appeal and Supreme Court. However, with the ever-increasing dockets of the courts, appeals of this nature can take years before they are finally put to rest.

Similar cases

Findings by Daily Trust revealed that from November 19, 2017, when Maryam killed her husband, a total of 53 others have been reported to have killed their spouses across the country. Thirty six housewives have reportedlly been killed by their husbands while 17 husbands have been killed by their wives.

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