It was end of the road for Chairman of Boudary/Aiyetoro Unit of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW Saheed Arogundade on Wednesday when Justice Olabisi Akinlade of the Ikeja High Court sentenced him to death for killing a 32-year-old police officer, Gbenga Oladipupo.
The convict was handed this judgement on the premise that the prosecution has been able to prove beyond reasonable doubt, the ingredients of conspiracy to commit murder and murder against the him.
The judge however discharged and acquitted Arogundade’s five co-defendants- Mustapha Layeni, Adebayo Abdullahi, Seyi Pabiekun, Sikiru Rufai and Yusuf Arogundade of the two-count charge of conspiracy to commit murder and murder.
During the three-hour judgment Justice Akinlade said the prosecution were able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Arogundade caused the death of a police officer.
According to the judge, “the prosecution has been able to prove beyond reasonable doubt, the ingredients of conspiracy to commit murder and murder against the first defendant.
“I therefore pronounce the first defendant guilty as charged on the counts of conspiracy to commit murder and murder.
“I hereby pronounce the sentence of the court upon you Saheed Arogundade is that you be hanged from the neck until you are dead.
“May God have mercy upon your soul,” Justice Akinlade said.
At hearing the judgement, Arogundade collapsed in the dock while his relatives cried intensely in the courtroom gallery.
The prosecutor Mrs C. Rotimi-Odutola said the convict committed the offences on April 10, 2010 at Gbara Junction, Aiyetoro, Ajegunle Lagos.
“The deceased was on a commercial motorcycle to visit his mother Mrs. Mojisola Martins in her home at Olayinka Street, Ajegunle, Lagos when they were ambushed and attacked by four men at Gbara Junction.
“Oladipupo was held down by three men and the convict stabbed him multiple times before fleeing with his accomplices.
“The deceased who was gravely injured, was taken to a hospital at Opaleye junction in Ajegunle where he passed away,” the prosecutor said.
Oladipupo was allegedly murdered because he purportedly encouraged the use of commercial tricycles (Keke Marwa) in the Aiyetoro area causing loss of income for the NURTW unit said the prosecutor.
The offences contravene Sections 234 and 316 of the Penal Code Law 2003.
During trial, eight witnesses testified for the prosecution against the convict including Ismaila Lukman, the commercial motorcycle rider who was transporting the deceased to his mother’s home when they were ambushed and Mrs. Mojisola Martins the mother of the deceased.
Also, the Chief medical examiner/patholoigist Lagos State Professor John Fafunwa, an eyewitness Olawale Akinola as well as five police officers testified for the prosecution during the trial that lasted eight years.
The judge in her judgement convicted Arogundade and acquitted the five co-defendants solely on eyewitness testimony.
Acquitting the five co-defendants the Justice Akinlade noted that no evidence was placed before the court identifing others as the assailants nor placed them at the crime scene.
Akinlade said: “None of the defendants confessed to the crime, there is no cogent circumstantial evidence. The court will rely on the evidence of eyewitnesses on April 10, 2010.
“Two eyewitnesses claimed they saw the deceased being murdered. PW2 Lukman, the commercial motorcyclist who was with the deceased described the person who stabbed the deceased.
“He said he had a bald head, bow legs and two incisions on his face from the court’s observation, the first defendant has these physical features.
“Lukman could not identify any of the second to sixth defendants as those with the first defendant on that day, he said when he went to call for help, the four assailants had fled when he returned to the crime scene.
“The court found the evidence of PW2 to be consistent and unshaken, from his demeanour I was convinced he was telling the truth.”
Meanwhile, Justice Akinlade dismissed the evidence of Akinola, the second eyewitness in the case because he was not directly at the crime scene and his evidence contradicted the autopsy result of the prof. Fafunwa.
“PW6 Akinola was not directly at the scene but was standing in his house which is a few meters away at 54 Baale, Ayietoro Street, Ajegunle, Lagos.
He said a cutlass was used in the assault but his evidence is not consistent with PW5 Dr Fafunwa who said the blade used was sharpened on both sides.
“I hereby rule that PW6 is not a reliable witness, his evidence has casted sufficient doubt in the mind of the court. His evidence is not sufficient to convict the second to the sixth defendant.
“The court believes he was not being truthful when he roped the sixth defendant into the crime as he is not a member of NURTW,” she said.
The judge Akinlade however noted that the police did not conduct a serious investigation to determine if Rufai and Arogundade (fifth and sixth defendants) were at the scene of the crime.
Before delivering the judgement, Justice Akinlade ordered that the courtroom be locked and the keys kept in her possession for security reasons and to avoid disruption of proceedings.
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