Idowu Shobowale and Kabiru Omolade were arrested on the 29th December, 1996 on allegation of murder. The two were subsequently convicted and sentenced to death on 13th November, 2003 by the Lagos High Court.
The case against Idowu Shobowale and Kabiru Omolade at the high court was that they participated in a fight between members of the Apostolic church, Bayeku and the followers of Igunnuko of the same village on the 21st December, 1996 which led to the death of one Pastor Oluwatosin Olaide. The Prosecution’s case was that the fight started when the Igunnuko worshippers invaded the Apostolic church’s compound during a revival service at the church and a fight ensued between the church members and the Igunnuko worshippers. The two, Idowu Shobowale and Kabiru Omolade, with one Olabisisi (3rd accused person at the trial court) were members of Igunnuko worshippers who took part in the fight. The case of against Idowu Shobowale was he came to the scene of the fight when he heard of the fight just to take away his child who was attending the church service and denied participating or instigating the masquerade to enter the church. Kabiru Omolade also confirmed that Idowu did not attack the deceased or take part in the fight and is not a member of the Igunnuko worshipper. Kabiru further stated in his evidence that even though he is Igunnuko worshipper and participated in the fight, that he did not stab the deceased. At the end of the trial in 2003, the trial court found them guilty and sentenced them to death.
Following the appeal against their conviction and sentence, filed by LEDAP, a panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division to wit; Honourable Justices Rita Nosakhare Pemu, C. C. Nweze and J. S. Ikyegh today, the 13th May, 2013 unanimously allowed the appeal of the two appellants and set aside their conviction and sentence to death in a landmark judgment. In the judgment, the Honourable court resolved 5 out of 7 of the issues raised at the appeal in favour of Idowu Shobowale and Kabiru Omolade, the appellants in the appeal. In the end, the court particularly found that: the prosecution failed to prove that it was the act or omission of the Appellants that resulted in the death of the deceased; that the contradictions in the 3 key prosecution witnesses cast heavy doubt on guilt of the appellants and finally that the case of the prosecution was not proved by the prosecution and therefore that the decision of the trial court which found the appellants guilty of murder of the deceased was against the weight of evidence adduced at the trial.
This is another case that calls for an in-depth re-evaluation and urgent overhauling of our Criminal Justice System, especially as it relates to the use of capital punishment due to the high and continuously growing number of wrongful convictions in the country. In the research conducted by LEDAP recently, the statistics raised from reported cases of convictions and sentences to death in Nigeria between 2006 – 2011 shows that 48 out of 113 (more than 39%) death sentences appealed within the period were set aside by the apex courts.
LEDAP uses this medium to call on the Nigeria government to reconsider its stand on the use of capital punishment by abolishing the use of death penalty and replacing same with life imprisonment.