Maryam Sanda, who was sentenced to death for the murder of her husband, Bilyaminu Bello, has challenged her conviction and sentencing in a notice of appeal filed at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
She was sentenced to death on January 27 by an FCT High Court in Maitama after the trial judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu found her guilty of killing her husband Bello, a nephew of former PDP Chairman, Alhaji Bello Halliru Muhammad, in 2017.
In the notice of appeal filed on her behalf by her team of counsel led by Ricky Tarfa (SAN), Maryam Sanda said the judge erred in the judgement of the trial court, saying it was completely “a miscarriage of justice.”
The first of the 20 grounds of appeal pointed to an alleged failure of the trial judge to rule on her preliminary objection challenging the charge preferred against her and the jurisdiction of the court. She said that was an evidence of bias against her and a denial of her right to fair hearing as constitutionally guaranteed.
The appellant submitted that “the trial judge erred in law when having taken arguments on her preliminary objection to the validity of the charge on the 19th of March, 2018 failed to rule on it at the conclusion of trial or at any other time.”
In ground 2, the appellant contended that the trial judge erred and misdirected himself by usurping the role of the police when he assumed the duty of an Investigating Police Officer (IPO).
Justice Halilu was quoted to have held thus, “I wish to state that I have a duty thrust upon me to investigate and discover what will satisfy the interest and demands of justice.”
The appellant submitted that the wrongful assumption of the role of an IPO made “the trial judge fail to restrict himself to the evidence adduced before the court” and instead went fishing for evidence outside those that were brought before the court.
She insisted that while “the duty of investigation is the constitutional preserve of the police, the constitutional duty of a trial court is to assess the credible evidence before it and reach a decision based on its assessment.”
In ground 5, the appellant argued that “the trial judge erred in law and misdirected himself on the facts when he applied the Doctrine of Last Seen and held that the appellant was the person last seen with the deceased and thus bears the full responsibility for the death of the deceased, and thereby occasioned a miscarriage of justice.”
According to the particulars of error in support of ground 5, “there is no evidence before the trial judge that the defendant was the last person who saw the deceased alive” since prosecution witness in his evidence before the trial judge stated that when he was called by the deceased, he saw the deceased and asked the deceased what was the problem.”
She added that the statement of Sadiya Aminu, tendered before the trial court (who was initially charged as 4th defendant in the amended charge) also confirmed that the deceased was alive though injured when she saw him.
She therefore prayed the appellate court to allow her appeal, set aside her conviction and the consequent sentence of death by hanging imposed on her by the court. She further urged the court to acquit her of the charge.