By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
To remain in prison custody until Dec 14
Police join suspect’s mother, brother as co-defendants
ABUJA—An Abuja High Court sitting at Jabi yesterday, directed that Maryam Sanda, wife of the murdered son of erstwhile Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Bilyamin Bello, should remain in prison custody till December 14.
Trial Justice Yusuf Halilu rejected the plea for the defendant, who is nursing a six-month-old baby girl, to be released from Suleja Prison, pending determination of murder charge the Police entered against her.
The court had, on November 24, remanded Maryam in prison after she was arraigned on a two-count charge of culpable homicide, punishable by death under Section 221 of the Penal Code Law.
In the charge, which Police filed pursuant to Section 109(d) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, Maryam was accused of stabbing her husband to death with a broken bottle on November 19 at their Abuja residence.
The prosecution told the court that Bilyamin died as a result of several stabs on his chest and neck.
Police maintained that the defendant attacked her husband with the knowledge that her act was likely to cause his death.
She was equally charged with the offence of “causing grievous hurt,” contrary to Section 247 of the Penal Code Law.
The late Bilyaminu, a real estate developer, was the son of ex-PDP Chairman, Mr. Mohammed Haliru.
However, Maryam pleaded not guilty to the charge, even as she begged the court, shortly after her arraignment, to release her on bail pending the trial.
The defendant, through her lawyer, Mr. Useni Musa, prayed the court to consider her six-month-old baby and grant her bail.
Following an objection from the prosecution counsel, Mr. James Idachaba, Justice Yusuf refused the application, saying it was improper in the eyes of the law.
The trial judge said he could not release the defendant on bail on the strength of an oral application.
He ordered the defence lawyer to approach the court with a formal bail request.
3 new defendants
At the resumed sitting on the matter yesterday, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Idachaba, notified the court that the charge was amended to include three other defendants.
The Police said it had, after further investigations into circumstances that led to Bilyamin’s death, decided to equally charge Maryam’s mother, Maimuna Aliyu, and her brother, Aliyu Sanda, as co-defendants in the murder case.
Idacaha told the court that an alleged third accomplice was also joined as fourth defendant.
He said efforts to serve the three new defendants with copies of the charge against them proved abortive.
Owing to the latest development, Maryam, who has briefed a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. J. B. Daudu, to defend her, made a fresh request to be released on bail, pending when she is docked on the amended charge.
Daudu insisted that his client’s formal bail application was ripe for hearing.
He begged the court to take pity on the defendant, decrying that the prison condition was unhealthy for Maryam’s six-month-old child.
“My Lord, it is unfortunate that a life has been lost already, but we should not take more lives,” the senior lawyer pleaded.
Police, however, persuaded the court to reject the bail application, which it said should not be heard since the defendant would be answering to an amended criminal charge.
Ruling on bail application
In his ruling, Justice Halilu said he was not minded to accede to the bail request since parties had already joined issues on the matter before the amended charge was entered.
“The defendant, in the main time, shall be returned to the prisons pending Thursday, December 14,” he held.
The judge had earlier in the course of the proceeding, ordered that Maryam’s daughter, who cried persistently while her mother was in the dock, should be carried outside the courtroom by one of the defendant’s relatives.
Maryam had, at the last adjourned date, also wept uncontrollably when the court remanded her in prison custody, even as she tightly clutched the baby and her Quran.
She was subsequently moved out of the court by a team of armed policemen and prison officials.
…on place of detention
The defendant was previously in police detention before her arraignment.
The Federal Capital Territory Police Command had earlier obtained two weeks remand order against the defendant to enable it to conclude investigations on circumstances that led to Bilyaminu’s death.
The Command said it decided to retain Maryam in its custody instead of remanding her in prison considering the fact that she is nursing a baby.
Spirited efforts by the defence lawyer to persuade the court to allow Maryam to remain with the Police, pending ruling on her bail application, failed at the last adjourned date.
Justice Yusuf maintained that once an accused person was arraigned, he said the proper place of custody was the prison and not the custody of the investigating agency.
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