National Coordinator of Olive Tree Citizen’s Rights Initiative (OTCRI), Sunny Akanni, has accused the police of frustrating the prosecution of suspected murderers of Deborah Emmanuel, a student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, who was killed for alleged blasphemy by some Muslim students on May 12, 2022. Emmanuel was stoned to death and her remains set ablaze by some Muslim students who alleged that she blasphemed Prophet Mohammed following an argument with a fellow Muslim student on a WhatsApp group platform.
Video footages of the brutal killing trended on social media showing a raging fire burning the remains of the deceased as a man faced the camera, displaying a match box, saying in Hausa language that he killed and burnt her.
The killing was widely condemned by many Nigerians who described it as barbaric.
The Sokoto state police command had promised to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
Two suspects, namely Bilyaminu Aliyu and Aminu Hukunchi were later arrested
in connection with the killing.
On May 16, 2022, they were arraigned before a Chief Magistrate Court in Sokoto for criminal conspiracy and inciting public disturbance, under section 60 and 79 of the Sokoto State Penal Code Laws 2019.
The defendants were represented by 35 lawyers, led by one Prof. Mansur Ibrahim Sa’id.
Speaking in an interview on Friday in Kaduna, Akanni lamented that the matter had been struck out by the court due lack of deligent prosecution by the police.
According to him, the police prosecution, represented by one Inspector Khalid Musa, “for whatever reason, deliberately frustrated the prosecution of the case”.
Akanni, a lawyer, said, “From records of the court proceedings, the police were not keen about the case and were merely put up a show to douse the tension that heralded the gruesome murder of Emmanuel.
He said, “After several adjournments caused by lack of seriousness on the part of the police prosecution, the case was struck out.
Akanni, a former President of the Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON) said, records of proceedings from the court shows that:
“On July 14, 2022, the police prosecutor, Inspector Khalid Musa, asked for a date for hearing. The court adjourned the case to August 4, 2022, for hearing.
On August 4, 2022, the police prosector, asked for an adjournment to put their “house in order”, the court adjourned the matter to August 15, 2022 for hearing.
“On September 22, 2022,
M.B. Abdullahi who appeared for the two defendants stated that ‘the defence counsel and the two defendants have been coming to court, but the prosecution has not been serious on his part to appear in court, noting that the case had been adjourned for about three times’.
“The court took judicial notice of non-appearance of the police prosecutor and ordered a hearing notice be served on him with immediate effect.”
“On October 20, 2022, the case was handled by another Magistrate, Shaibu Ahmed. The police prosecutor prayed the court that the content of the FIR (First Investigation Report) be re-read and re-interpreted to the defendants again.
“On November 3, 2022, the police prosecutor told the court his witnesses were not present in court as they were not able to serve them.
“The court advised the prosecution to serve their witnesses to come and testify and the case was adjourned to November 10, 2022.
“On November 28, 2022, the police prosecutor was absent in court and the case was adjourned to December 8, 2022, for hearing.
“On December 8, 2022, the prosecution and defendants were absent and the court adjourned the case to December 29, 2022, for hearing.
“On the December 29, 2022, the defendants were present in court but the prosecution was absent again and the case could not be heard.
“M.B Abdallah, counsel to the defendants, therefore, applied for the case to be struck out under S.350(1) of ACJL of Sokoto State 2019, due to the absence of the prosecution.
“But the court refused the application and adjourned the case to January 30, 2023, for hearing at the instance of the prosecution.
On January 30, 2023, the defendants and their counsel were present in court, but the police prosecutor was absent.
“Due to the absence of the prosecution, counsel to the defendants applied that the case be struck out.
“The court noted that based on the conduct of the prosecution, it seems to be very clear to this court that the prosecutions have no any evidence against the defendants.
The court ruled that, “In the light of the above, it would be unjust to further adjourn this case at the instance of the prosecution when they have been given several adjournments to call their witnesses but could not call any.
“In the interest of justice and in accordance with the law, I hereby grant the application of the learned counsel to defendants to strike out this case for lack of evidence and lack of diligent prosecution”.
Akanni said, he suspects foul play on the part of the police for glaringly displaying lack of interest in the case.
“I certainly suspect a foul play on the side of the police. As a lawyer from day one, we know when a police prosecutor is not keen on prosecuting a case, this we can easily see in his readiness, particularly when investigation is completed”, he said.
According to him, “This has portrayed the police as an organisation that is biased and supports the wishes of the government and not the constitution.
“I am going to write a letter to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and attached the records of proceedings of the court to it.
“He needs to see what his men did in Sokoto, trivialising an important case as this.”
Akanni vowed that if the police refused to re-arraigned the two suspects for diligent prosecution, “we shall file a suit against the IGP to do the needful.”