Family of Lowo Oyediran, who was allegedly killed by his wife, Yewande, who was arraigned at an Ibadan High Court yesterday, has kicked against her prosecution by Oyo State Ministry of Justice. It would be recalled that 28-year-old Yewande, a lawyer, was a staff of the ministry before the alleged offence. The family of Lowo (a French national) from Gbongan in Osun State, in a petition dated February 15, sent by their lawyer, Mr. Kehinde Adesiyan, to Permanent Secretary and Solicitor General in Oyo State Ministry of Justice, applied for a fiat to prosecute the criminal case, saying they lacked sufficient trust in the Directorate of Public Prosecution, DPP, to prosecute the case without bias. According to Adesiyan, the petition was not directed to the Attorney- General and Justice Commissioner because “we are aware that there is no sitting Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice currently in Oyo State, hence this letter to your office as the present administrative head and accounting officer of the Ministry of Justice.”
The petition read in part, “The family felt that for there to be justice to all stakeholders in this case, it will be fair and appropriate for impartial, independent legal practitioners to prosecute this case on behalf of the government of Oyo State. This became necessary because the accused is herself a legal officer not only in the Ministry of Justice of Oyo State, but also in the Directorate of Public Prosecution that is statutorily saddled with handling cases like this.
Needless to say, the refusal of this application for fiat to prosecute this matter will violate the latter pillar of the principle of fair hearing and natural justice ‘nebo judex in causa sua’, meaning, you cannot be a judge in your own case. “In view of the above explanation, we most respectfully apply for the fiat of the Ministry of Justice as private legal practitioners to prosecute this case on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and the Government of Oyo State.” Meanwhile, the trial of Yewande could not continue yesterday as her plea was not taken to disclose the charge preferred against her by the DPP. While appearing in the same attire she wore on Monday with her face fully covered, the accused, who was given VIP treatment and sandwiched between armed security men, was escorted into High Court 1. But when called into the dock, her plea could not be taken because copies of the charge had not been served on the defence counsel and counsel holding brief for the family. On being called into the dock, she slightly unveiled her face for the judge to identify her, and the lead prosecuting counsel from DPP, Mr. Tajudeen Abdul-Ganiyu, applied to the court for a date for commencement of hearing.
The presiding judge, Mukthar Abimbola, who considered the application a misapplication of the court procedure, directed that such application could only be honoured after the accused person’s plea had been taken. The defence counsel led by Chief Abioye Asanke, however, notified the court that the information filed against the accused person had not been served him for her to know what she was being charged with. Also, Chief Michael Abayomi Alliu, who appeared as counsel that held brief for family of the deceased, told the court he was not in the know of the charge or information preferred against the accused and needed to be availed it. His appearance was, however, kicked against by the defence counsel, who urged the court not to allow him. Justice Abimbola nevertheless overruled the objection, thus allowing Alliu to take brief of the deceased’s family.
The judge later doused the tension created by the failure of service of the information by DPP, when he directed that the defence be immediately served in the court. After serving the papers, the DPP counsel informed the court that eight witnesses were already listed and ready to testify against Yewande. Since the defence team needed to study the information filed for the accused to confirm the charge, Yewande’s plea could not be taken and the court had to adjourn till March 24 for commencement of trial in agreement with the parties concerned. Abimbola, however, later appealed to all concerned parties to exercise restraint in the matter, saying, “This is a sober situation that calls for sober reflection.”
Explaining to journalists why Yewande was veiled in the court, the deceased’s family lawyer, Alliu, said, “There is no noble accused. Covering the accused person’s face could be done outside the court room for protection purpose, but certainly not in the dock. But in her case today, I observed that she opened her face to the court. I saw it. Nevertheless, according to Lord Denning, justice is not about what the judge rules on but what the litigant goes home with, and what the public feels about it.”