By Temitope Adedeji, Akure
The Court of Appeal sitting in Akure has discharged and acquitted a prophet, Alfa Babatunde, who was sentenced to life imprisonment over the mysterious disappearance of a one-year-old boy, Gold Kolawole, from his church.
Justice Hamma Barka delivered the judgement on Friday and set aside the judgement of an Ondo State High Court which sentenced Babatunde.
Babatunde, who founded Sotitibire Praising Chapel in Akure, was arrested by officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) after Gold was said to have disappeared during service in November 2019.
He was later taken to court along with six members of the church over allegations that they conspired to kidnap the boy.
The clergyman and the other suspects have since been remanded at the Olokuta Correctional Facility in the Ondo State capital while the case continued.
In October 2020, Justice Olusegun Odusola sentenced the prophet and five others to life imprisonment.
The seventh person was discharged and acquitted as the court held that the prosecution counsel could not prove any case against him.
The defendants were sentenced on two counts of kidnapping, as well as aiding and abetting to kidnap, based on the evidence provided by the prosecutor.
Those charged along with Prophet Babatunde were Olayinka Omodara, Margaret Oyebola, Grace Ogunjobi, Motunrayo Egunjobi, Esther Kayode and Peter Anjorin.
Four months after he began his jail sentence, Babatunde approached the Court of Appeal in February to prove his innocence in the crime.
When the case resumed at the appellate court, the presiding judge, Justice Rita Pemu, reserved the judgement to a date to be communicated to all relevant parties.
At the resumed sitting of the court on Friday, Justice Barka set aside the judgement of the high court on the ground that the evidence presented was not strong enough to convict the prophet.