Emmanuel Thomas l Thursday, 22 December 2022
IKEJA, Lagos, Nigeria – These are indeed the best of times for 38-year-old plumber, Anthony Bello who was on Wednesday discharged and acquitted after spending almost four years in prison for refusal to part with N10 million to members of the disbanded Special Anti-robbery Squad, SARS.
The defendant had been charged on two count charge of murder and unlawful assembly before the court on October, 7,2019 and he entered a “No Guilty Plea” when the charges were read to his hearing.
Bello was not near the scene of the murder but was brought into the matter because somebody mentioned his name as Yahoo Boy for building a mansion even though he is a plumber. Without investigating the source of fund, he was arrested and detained by the police.
Justice Mojisola Dada of and Ikeja Special Offences Court held that the prosecution failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt against the defendant.
According to her, the police did not carry out investigation in the case, there was no autopsy presented to the court, they did not identify the grave, there was also no visit to the crime scene.
“There was no sufficient evidence compelling the defendant. The case of murder and unlawful assembly has not been established against the defendant. The defendant is discharged and acquitted on the two-count charge”, the judge ruled.
Bello who was dressed in a white outfit was seeing shedding tears of joy from the dock as Justice Mojisola Dada made his pronouncements.
When the matter came up on Wednesday, Mr Adebayo announced his appearance for prosecution, while Mr Chijike Jiakponna appeared for the defendant. The alleged offence was committed on January 23, 2012, while the defendant was arrested six years later. Bello was accused of killing one Onome Uchenunu.
During the trial, the prosecution called two witnesses one Inspector Abimbola Ogunsoro and Bola Ebireri.
Inspector Ogunsoro attached to the Ikeja Police Command testified that she served at Iba Divisional Headquarters at the time the incident happened.
She said that sometime in 2018, she was on surveillance team patrol with her men and they arrested one Pedro otherwise known as Olakunle Ogunyemi, that they interrogated him because he has been on their list as a notorious and wanted criminal.
Ogunsoro further stated that Pedro made a confessional statement concerning the people he had killed and he mentioned one Onome as one of those killed by a member of his group, in the person Anthony Bello the (defendant). She stated that this new finding led to the search on the defendant’s apartment and he was apprehended that same night, somewhere within Iba environment.
According to her upon the arrest of Bello shed more light on what happened between himself, Pedro, Onome, and Onome’s friend James Adeleye.
The witness added that the defendant told the police officers that they went to watch football at a viewing centre in January 2012 around midnight, inside the housing estate and on their way back they met Onome and Pedro.
She said that the defendant narrated that Pedro called James and tried to obtain his phone with force, an argument ensued which led to fighting between Onome (the deceased) and Pedro.
Ogunsoro said,” The defendant quickly grabbed a knife from a mallam and stabbed Onome, which led to his death, immediately after the incident happened the defendant and Pedro ran away and they never came to that environment again until they were both arrested.”
She tendered a statement and it was rejected on basis that the maker of the statement was not available and it was not endorsed by the superior officer and the authentication of the documents was not done and the court rejected the statement of the defendant and curiously the same document previously rejected was formalized and brought to the court by the PW1.
During cross-examination, she stated that she took the statement of the defendant and other members of the team. She said that Pedro was arrested as a cultist and that he mentioned other cult members including the defendant that Onome was rushed to the hospital by his friend James and called the deceased’s father who made an entry at the police station.
The second prosecution witness Bola Ebireri, a Police officer who was attached to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad Ikeja when the incident occurred said the case was transferred to his office on July 31, 2018, from Iba station.
He said that the deceased was stabbed with a knife and he died on the spot. But that the knife was not seen, there was no autopsy on the deceased. The defence called two witnesses the defendant himself and his senior brother who is a Police officer.
The defendant stated that he was in his house around 5 am and was ironing his children’s uniform when he saw some people mounting their fence. He said that some of them jumped the fence into the compound then he ran inside the house and locked the door because he was afraid.
Bello added that immediately they entered the house they asked for the landlord. He identified himself as the landlord and opened the door. He said they asked him the job he does and he said he was a plumber but one of them slapped him and said he was a liar, that he couldn’t build his house from being a plumber.
He also told them that he was the one supervising the building upstairs they insisted that he was a liar and that he us a Yahoo boy. He told them he isn’t into fraud, they beat him up and insisted that he was telling lies.
The defendant was taken to Adoff police station Iba, where he was locked up till evening when his senior brother Philip Bello an Assistant Superintendent of Police serving at RRS, Ikeja, told them that the defendant was not into yahoo that it was his sister who lives in London that has the house.
He testified that after he introduced himself at Iyana Iba Police station to the DPO, he was asked to come back the following day. When he arrived the next day, he didn’t see his brother and that the case had been transferred to SARS, he wasn’t given audience for five days.
The defence witness said it was until he got a letter from his DPO at Somolu, questioning them why he wasn’t given audience to see his brother, that was when he was told that it was one Pedro who knows someone that has money and mentioned the defendant’s name that he was a Yahoo boy and was building a house.
He said that he became annoyed and went to see the commissioner of police and reported them the CP, ordered his PA, to call SARS and ask them to give him attention to see his brother.
The witness further added that he was then given attention and they said he should cooperate with them, and also brought a statement and showed him. He said he became annoyed that why would they allow his brother to give statement in his absence.
He stated that Bola became annoyed that he was blocking them in the case right from Iba, that all the defendant’s family were in the UK, that he should bring N10m, for his realise.
While delivering judgment, justice Dada held that the prosecution failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt against the defendant.
She said that the police did not carry out investigation in the case, there was no autopsy presented to the court, they did not identify the grave, there was also no visit to the crime scene.
Justice Dada said, ” there was no sufficient evidence compelling the defendant. The case of murder and unlawful assembly has not been established against the defendant. ” The defendant is discharged and acquitted on the two-count charge”.