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Absence of witness stalls Maryam Sanda’s trial

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The absence of a prosecution witness, Hussein Okpetu, has stalled the ongoing trial of Maryam Sanda, who allegedly killed her husband, Bilyamin Bello.

Mr Okpetu was to serve as the sixth prosecution witness to be presented to the court.

Ms Sanda was charged for the murder Mr Bello, a son of former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman, Haliru Bello. The accused was charged alongside her mother, Maimuna Aliyu; her brother, Aliyu Sanda; and their house-help, Sadiya Aminu.

Mr Bello died in November last year.

On Monday, the prosecution counsel, Fidelis Ogbegbe, presented to the court Josephine Onyentu, to testify in court in place of the absent witness, Mr Okpetu.

According to Mr Ogbegbe, the transfer of Mr Okpetu to Ondo State police command made Ms Onyentu to replace him in court since she was part of the investigation team.

But the defence counsel, Olusegun Jolawo, said it is not right for a witness who is not mentioned to testify

Citing Section 379 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, Mr Jolawo said it is mandatory for any witness who is to give evidence to have a statement.

Responding Mr Ogbegbe said: “My lord, the said police officer is part of the investigation team that investigated the case. She was sent here today because Mr Okpetu has been transferred to the Ondo State police command.

“But since this observation has been raised, I need a date to enable me to get in touch with him, so that he would be around on the next adjourned date.”

The judge, Yusuf Halilu, after listening to both counsel, said: “the defence has made a concrete observation which is in accordance to the law and I cannot overrule that, so choose a date and do the needful.”

“You cannot just bring any witness to court to come and testify without a written statement, most especially in criminal cases.”

Mr Halilu added that “what the witness comes to testify in court is a summary of what is in the statement”.

Mr Halilu thereby dismissed Ms Onyentu and adjourned the matter to January 22, 2019.

Ms Sanda and the other accused are facing a two-count charge for the alleged offence.

The charge was brought pursuant to sections 221 and 167 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Penal Code respectively.

Ms Sanda is accused in the first charge of allegedly stabbing her husband of two years multiple times with the aim of killing him. The offence is punishable with death.

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