Law News
Independence Day bombing: Appeal Court upholds life sentence for Ebiware

…Affirms the sentencing of a woman to death by hanging

The Court of Appeal in Abuja has upheld the conviction and life sentence handed to Edmond Ebiware over his complicity in the October 1, 2010 bomb explosion around Eagle Square in Abuja which left about 12 people dead and several others injured.

In a unanimous judgment of a panel of three, the appellate court resolved the two issues, identified for resolution, in favour of the state, listed as respondent, and dismissed the appeal by Ebiware.

In a separate judgment, the court affirmed the sentencing of 31-year-old Ozioma Azoryeme to death by hanging following her conviction for the murder of a female child of about two years old.

Ebiware, accused of withholding information about alleged plot by Henry Okah to cause bomb explosion in Abuja, was initially charged, with three persons, including Charles Okah on an eight-count charge filed on January 11, 2011 before the Federal High Court, Abuja.

On May 3, 2012, the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole granted Ebiware’s application to be tried separately from the three others.

At the end of the trial, Justice Kolawole, in a judgment on January 25, 2013 convicted Ebiware and sentenced him to life imprisonment, subject to parole after 32 years from the date of the convict’s arrest on October 15, 2010, a decision he appealed.

In a lead judgment delivered on July 25, 2017 by Justice Mohammed Mustapha, a copy of which The Nation sighted Monday, it was held that the trial court was in order in its findings and conclusions in the Ebiware case.

On whether the prosecution proved the charges against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt, Justice Mustapha held that, by the evidence led, the prosecution proved the guilt of the defendant/appellant.

Justice Mustapha said: “Contrary to the contention of the learned counsel for the appellant, conviction under Section 40(b) of the Criminal Code does not require linkage with other accused person(s), the operative word is ‘knowledge of intention,’ and failure to report to the categories of persons listed therein.

@The appellant, from evidence at trial, not only knew, but failed to report. The findings of the trial court are beyond reproach in this regard.”

On Ebiware’s contention that the sentence of life imprisonment was too harsh, Justice Mustapha held that, considering the impact of the bomb explosion and its impact, the sentence handed by Justice Kolawole to the appellant was justifiable.

He said: “I did say earlier that the question of whether the sentence is harsh or not is subjective, because it depends on who is at the receiving side; this is because at the end of the day, when all is said and done, neither life imprisonment nor any sentence can be regarded as sufficient punishment for an action that leads to loss of innocent lives in this grand scale.

“This is not withstanding the fact that the accused had remained in prison custody, married with children or chose not to waste precious time by opting for a separate trial from other co-accused,” Justice Mustapha said.

Justices Tani Yusuf Hassan and Abubakar Datti Yahaya, who were on the panel, agreed with the lead judgment in the Ebiware case.

On the appeal by Azoryeme, Justice Yahaya, in a lead judgment delivered on August 2, 2017, resolved the two issues, identified for determination, against the appellant and dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit.

As against the appellant contention that there were insufficient to warrant her conviction, Justice Yahaya held that the prosecution effectively discharged the burden of proving, beyond reasonable doubt, the guilt of the appellant for the offence od culpable homicide punishable with death, for with which she was charged.

On whether the trial court was right not to have upheld the appellant’s defence of insanity, Justice Yahaya upheld the position of the trial court, to the effect that the claim of insanity was not only an afterthought, it was not supported by credible material evidence, in the form of medical reports.

Justices Tani Yusuf Hassan and Muhammed Mustapha agreed with Justice Yahaya’s lead judgment.

Azoryeme was arraigned in 2011 in a charge marked: NSHC/SD/IC/2011, before a High Court of Niger State in Suleja for the killing, on June 12, 2010, of Chinonye Timothy (a child of about two years old).

The trial court, in a judgment on September 30, 2014 found her guilty and sentenced her to death by hanging.

Eric Ikhilae, Abuja


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