The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Jabi, on Wednesday struck out a fresh bail application filed by Maryam Sanda, who is being prosecuted for allegedly stabbing her husband, Bilyamin Bello, to death, on November 19, 2017.
Justice Yusuf Halilu had, earlier in a ruling delivered on December 14, 2017, granted her three co-defendants bail, but declined her plea for bail and ordered her to be remanded in Suleja prisons.
Justice Halilu ruled on Wednesday after taking further arguments from the prosecuting and defence lawyers, in addition to the submissions they earlier made on Monday.
Ruling, the judge held that the application filed by Sanda constituted an abuse of court of process because she failed to withdraw her notice of appeal challenging the December 14, 2017 ruling declining her bail.
Sanda, a nursing mother, through her lawyer, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), had founded her fresh bail application filed on January 24, 2018, on the fact that she had recently discovered that she was three months pregnant.
She appeared with her face characteristically covered with a transparent cloth.
She held her baby of less than a year old and was accompanied into the courtroom by prison officials and relatives.
Sanda is being prosecuted alongside her mother, Maimuna Aliyu; brother, Aliyu Sanda; and their house help, Sadiya Aminu.
In the amended two counts preferred against the four of them, Maryam was accused in the first count of committing culpable homicide punishable by death under Section 221 of the Penal Code Act.
She was accused of causing the death of her husband, Bilyamin Bello, who was said to be a son of a former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Haliru Bello, “by stabbing him on the chest and other parts of the body with a knife and other dangerous weapons, which eventually led to his death.”
She allegedly stabbed the deceased at their residence at 4, Pakali Close, Wuse Zone 2, Abuja, on November 19, 2017, “with the knowledge that his death would be the probable and not only the likely consequence of your act.”
The three others were in the second count, specifically accused of causing the “evidence of the offence to disappear” by “cleaning the blood from the scene of crime with the intention of screening one Maryam Sanda from legal punishment.”
The trio’s offence was said to be punishable under Section 167 of the Penal Code Act.
Justice Halilu had earlier taken lawyers’ submissions on the fresh application on Monday, when Sanda’s lawyer argued that the discovery that she was pregnant was sufficient reason to grant her bail.
Idachaba opposed the bail application after which the judge fixed Wednesday for ruling. But on Wednesday, the judge said after he adjourned for ruling on Monday, he discovered Sanda’s notice of appeal filed on December 28, 2017 to challenge the earlier ruling of the court declining her bail.
He asked the prosecution and the defence to address him on whether the motion for bail filed on January 24, 2018, did not constitute an abuse of court process in view of the notice of appeal still pending in the court’s file.
In response, Daudu argued that the application did not constitute an abuse of court process because it was technically dead since it had not been processed within the time limit allowed by law.
But police prosecutor, CSP James Idachaba maintained that as much as there had not been any application filed before the Court of Appeal withdrawing the notice of appeal and was still valid as of the time of filing the fresh application on January 24, 2018, the said application constituted an abuse of court process and deserved to be struck out.
Justice Halilu, in his ruling, agreed with Idachaba.
The judge held that it would amount to toeing “a path of destruction” to rule on the merit of the fresh application for bail when the applicant’s notice of appeal challenging the earlier decision of the court on the same subject matter of bail was still pending before a higher court, the Court of Appeal.
He said as much as he “sincerely appreciated and understood” Daudu’s distinction between filing and entering an appeal, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for his (Daudu’s) argument to sway this court.”
“The argument has not in any way swayed me,” the court ruled.
He added, “The application is liable to be struck out and it is accordingly struck out.”
After the ruling, the applicants said they had brought four witnesses to court and were ready for commencement of trial as directed by the court on Monday.
But Daudu notified the court that he had an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case on the basis that the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation had yet to give an opinion on the case before the charges were filed by the police.
Idachaba, who maintained that the Supreme Court had long settled the issue, argued that the police could competently initiate such charges without the opinion of the AGF or the Director of Public Prosecutions.
But the judge directed Idachaba to respond to the issues and fixed March 19 for hearing and commencement of trial.