An Ekiti State High Court yesterday discharged and acquitted all the seven persons accused of complicity in the murder of a former National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Chairman, Omolafe Aderiye.
The court verdict, which lasted over three years, sparked emotions and wild jubilation by families, associates and supporters of the defendants outside the court premises.
Aderiye, an ally of Governor Ayo Fayose, was killed on September 25, 2014, at his private motor park, Lafe Ade Transport Services, at Ijigbo area of Ado-Ekiti, the state capital.
The accused persons who were freed yesterday are: Adebayo Aderiye (aka Ojuigo), Adeniyi Adedipe (aka Apase), Sola Durodola, Kayode Ajayi, Oso Farotimi (aka Oso Polo), Sola Adenijo (aka Solar) and Rotimi Olanbiwonnu (aka Mentilo).
The case started in November 2014 after Fayose came to power and the accused had been in prison custody since then.
Justice Adekanye Lekan Ogunmoye held that the prosecution failed to prove the complicity of the accused in the murder of Aderiye.
In arriving at the judgment, the judge held that the police failed to investigate the alibi of the accused, which proved fatal to the case of the prosecution.
He ruled that the accused succeeded in convincing the court that they were not on the scene of the crime, which the prosecution failed to rebut.
According to him, the prosecution failed to prove the count of conspiracy to kill the late Aderiye and the count of murder against the seven defendants.
Justice Ogunmoye held that the case of the prosecution was not helped by contradictory evidence led its witnesses, which he said the court would not believe.
The judge, for instance, faulted the evidence of the first prosecution (PW1), Wale Ibidapo, that Adesokan Adedeji Israel got out of a Golf car and shot sporadically into the air before firing the shot that killed the late transporter.
Justice Ogunmoye held that “it is inconceivable that amidst sporadic gunshots, the witness would observe the purported killer(s), as what would be in the mind of the witness was how to escape from the scene; hence the court won’t believe Ibidapo’s evidence”.
Another witness, whose evidence was discountenanced was PW3, Gbolahan Okeowo.
According to the judge, the witness gave “mutually contradictory” evidence.
He held: “Inconsistencies in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses has created a doubt. Where two or more witnesses give contradictory evidence, it will be illogical to believe their testimony.”
Justice Ogunmoye also held that in the charge of murder, the case must be proved beyond reasonable doubt, which he said the prosecution failed to do in the matter.
He said: “None of the alibi raised by the defendants was investigated by the police. The evidence of the prosecution failed to bring down the evidence of the defendants.
“The plea of evidence succeeds that the accused were not on the scene of the crime. The prosecution failed to rebut the evidence of the defendants. The prosecution has been unable to prove that the death of Chief Omolafe Aderiye was caused by any of the defendants.
“There was nowhere conspiracy can be inferred against any of the defendants. The first to seventh defendants are hereby discharged and acquitted.”
There was drama within and outside the premises of the State Judiciary Complex after the court rose.
Some families of the defendants rolled on the ground while others wept.
Armed policemen had a hectic time controlling the massive crowd of supporters outside the court as they sang and carried some of the defendants shoulder-high.
Security was tight as the Fayose administration had scheduled a rally same day to drum support for Deputy Governor Kolapo Olusola at Fajuyi Park near the court premises.
Oni, APC hail court verdict on members’ acquittal
Former Ekiti State Governor Segun Oni and the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have hailed the verdict of the State High Court, which discharged and acquitted seven members of the party for the murder of former National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Chairman Omolafe Aderiye.
Oni, the APC Deputy National Chairman (South) and a governorship aspirant in next year’s election, said justice had been done to the discharged party loyalists.
In a statement yesterday by his media aide, Steve Alabi, the APC chieftain said the Judiciary proved itself again as the last hope of the common man.
The statement said Oni was the governorship aspirant who attended the court sittings to show solidarity with the accused throughout their trial.
Oni said Ekiti will respect the rights and freedom of the citizens, no matter their status when, by the grace of God, a new day dawns in the state this year.
Also, in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Taiwo Olatunbosun, APC praised the state Judiciary for living up to the expectations of the people.
The party said the discharged persons were framed up.
It expressed delight that “one of the many illegalities of Fayose and his gang of criminals has been foiled by the court in Ado-Ekiti today (yesterday)”.
APC said: “We are happy as a party that the truth has reigned over falsehood, despite Fayose’s intrigues in perpetually keeping innocent citizens in prison over trumped-up murder charges orchestrated by him and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) terrorists.
“The discharge and acquitted verdict pronounced by the presiding judge has vindicated us that Ekiti is under bondage of a ruthless governor who could do anything to subvert the constitution, the rule of law and keep innocent people in pains to rot away for the offences they do not commit.
“We commend the judge and the Judiciary for this landmark judgment. By this verdict, our people are a bit relieved that for once the Judiciary in Ekiti will regain its independence under the megalomaniac rule of Fayose.
“We shall do everything under the law to end Fayose’s misrule and season of anomie in Ekiti State this year.”
“We will join and support our people to seek redress against the illegality of their detention and sufferings.”
– The Nation