By Sulaiman Salawudeen, Ado-Ekiti
Justice Toyin Bodunde of a High Court sitting in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, has discharged the three persons standing trial for the murder of Mrs. Rebecca Adewumi in Omuo Ekiti.
Their discharge arose from a Notice of Discontinuance issued by the Office of the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Owoseni Ajayi, supported by a letter written and signed by the a representative of the family of late Rebecca, Mr. Gabriel Omokanju.
The three, including Chief Olatubosun Orojo (the Olisa of Ilisa Quartres, 1st accused), Mrs Adesola Adewumi (2nd accused) and Feranmi Abe, were being tried for their roles in the murder of Rebecca in June 2012.
Rebecca died of wounds she sustained from the torture by a gang of youths called ‘Imekula’ said to be acting with the support and on the orders of the accused persons and the monarch of the town, Oba Noah Omonigbehin, in Omuo-Ekiti.
She (Rebecca) was suspected of possessing witchcraft powers with which she was at the time said to be ‘tormenting’ her step-son, Ola Adewumi, who himself later died of an ailment.
Justice Bodunde, however, expressed displeasure at processes leading to their discharge, telling them (the accused persons): “You are hereby discharged but not acquitted. You are discharged not on the basis of the merit of the case”.
He clarified the court was fully aware of the powers of the State Attorney-General under Section 2(11) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as Amended, to discontinue cases at whatever stage before judgment, noting he would not tamper with such (powers) as being exercised in the case.
However, according to him, the move to settle the matter out-of-court came when the case had already attained an advanced stage as both the prosecution and defense had closed their case and 10 witnesses had been called and cross examined.
He maintained the exercise of such prerogative by the Attorney-General at such an advanced stage when judgment was already being awaited only meant a waste of time and resources of the court which would also affect expected returns to the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Justice Bodunde observed there should be a stage in the trial of a case after which such powers could not be exercised by the Attorney-General again, hinting at possibilities of initiating moves soonest to cause such limitations to further sanitise judicial processes.
Earlier, the State Counsel, Barrister Paul Alabi, had informed the court about the Notice and the supporting family letter.
Alabi had then prayed the court that, based on the two documents, the accused persons be discharged, as both the prosecution and defense had already closed their case.
He tendered apologies for the stress and the time already expended by the court on the matter.
The defense counsel, Lekan Olatawura, supporting the prayer of the prosecution counsel, urged the court to discharge and acquit the accused persons.