An Ikeja High Court on Wednesday sentenced to death by hanging, Saheed Arogundade, Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Boudary/Aiyetoro Unit, Lagos State, for the murder of a 32-year-old policeman, Gbenga Oladipupo.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Olabisi Akinlade discharged and acquitted Arogundade’s five co-defendants – Mustapha Layeni, Adebayo Abdullahi, Seyi Pabiekun, Sikiru Rufai and Yusuf Arogundade of a two-count charge of conspiracy to commit murder and murder.
In a three-hour judgment which started at 2.35p.m., the judge held that the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Arogundade murdered the policeman.
Before delivering the judgment, for security reasons and to avoid disruption of proceedings, the judge ordered that the courtroom should be locked and the keys kept in her possession.
“The prosecution has been able to prove beyond reasonable doubt, the ingredients of conspiracy to commit murder and murder against the first defendant (convict).
“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 – that you be hanged from the neck until you are dead.
“May God have mercy upon your soul,” Akinlade said.
On hearing the sentence, Arogundade collapsed in the dock while his relatives wailed in the courtroom gallery.
According to the prosecution led by Mrs C. Rotimi-Odutola, 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 on Olayinka Street, Ajegunle, 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.
According to her, Oladipupo was murdered because he purportedly encouraged the use of commercial tricycles in Aiyetoro, causing loss of income for the NURTW unit. The offences contravene Sections 234 and 316 of the Penal Code Law, 2003.
NAN reports that eight witnesses testified for the prosecution against the convict including Ismaila Lukman, the commercial motorcyclist, who was transporting the deceased to his mother’s residence when they were ambushed. The deceased’s mother, Mrs Mojisola Martins, also testified.
Professor John Fafunwa, the Lagos State Chief Medical Examiner, Olawale Akinola, an eyewitness as well as four policemen testified for the prosecution in the trial that lasted for eight years.
Acquitting the other defendants, the judge held that no evidence before the court identified them as the assailants nor placed them at the crime scene.
She 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 (second prosecution witness) 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. In 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 he went to call for help, and the four assailants had fled when he returned to the crime scene.
“The court found the evidence of PW2 to be consistent and unshaken. I was convinced he was telling the truth.”
On the contrary, 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 pathologist.
“PW6 Akinola was not directly at the scene but was standing in his house which is a few metres away, at No. 54, Baale Aiyetoro St., 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 cast 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.
Akinlade remarked 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.