New Telegraph

February 25, 2024

Appeal Court upholds Maryam Sanda’s death sentence

The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division yesterday upheld the conviction and death sentence that was handed to Maryam Sanda, daughter in-law to a former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mohammed Bello Haliru.

The appellate court, in a unanimous judgement by a three-man panel of Justices led by Justice Stephen Adah, said it found no reason to set aside the verdict of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, which ordered Maryam to die by hanging.

The court held that the 20 grounds of appeal Maryam filed to challenge her conviction and sentence lacked merit and deserved to be dismissed. Maryam, who was on January 27, found guilty of stabbing her husband, Bilyamin Bello, a real estate developer, to death at their Abuja residence in 2017, had in her appeal, maintained that she was denied fair hearing by the trial court.

She accused the trial Judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu of bias, insisting that he relied on circumstantial and hearsay evidence, to sentence her to death. The convict further told the appellate court that there was lack of confessional statement, absence of murder weapon, lack of corroboration of evidence by two witnesses and lack of autopsy report to determine the true cause of her husband’s death. Insisting that the trial court’s judgement occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice against her, Maryam, begged the appellate court to discharge and acquit her of the culpable homicide charge that led to her conviction.

She argued that the failure of the trial judge to rule on a preliminary objection she filed to challenge the charge against her and jurisdiction of the court to entertain same based on evidence of bias and lack of fair hearing she raised, rendered the judgement a nullity. According to her, “the trial judge erred in law when having taken arguments on her preliminary objection to the validity of the charge on the 19th of March, 2018 failed to rule on it at the conclusion of the trial or at any other time.

”Besides, she alleged that the Judge erred and misdirected himself by usurping the role of the police when he assumed the duty of an Investigating Police Officer (IPO). She quoted the trial Judge to have said: “I wish to state that I have a duty thrust upon me to investigate and discover what will satisfy the interest and demands of justice.” Maryam, through her counsel, J. K. Gadazama (SAN), said the trial judge failed to restrict himself to the evidence that was adduced before the court.

“The court’s usurpation of the duty of the police by taking it upon itself to investigate and discover negatively coloured assessment of the available evidence and resulted in it reaching an unjust decision contrary to the evidence before it,” she argued. She prayed the appellate court to set aside her conviction and the sentence imposed by the high court Judge and acquit her of the charge. However, the appellate court, in the lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Adah, said it was not in doubt that the appellant killed her husband.

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