The Lagos High Court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square of the Lagos Island has declined to conduct a trial within trial in the case of Andrew Nice Ominikoron, the suspected Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) driver who allegedly raped and killed 22-year-old fashion designer, Bamise Ayanwola.
At the last sitting of the court on October 25, Ominikoron’s counsel, Abayomi Omotubora had raised objections to the admissibility of the video evidence of the statements the defendant gave to the police.
Omotubora said the statements of the defendant was not taken voluntarily and he asked the court to conduct a trial within trial.
Justice Sherifat Sonaike had adjourned till October 31, for the trial within trial. But at the resumption of proceedings on Monday, the judge asked the prosecution and the defence counsel to address her on the necessity for the trial within trial.
The defence counsel, Omotubora said the defence application was premised on Section 29 (2) b of the Evidence Act.
“We are saying that the statement that was taken from the defendant was taken by way of torture, oppression and undue influence,” he said.
The prosecuting counsel, Abiola Olateju in his response faulted the interpretation the defence counsel gave to Section 29 (2) b of the Evidence Act. He said this was not the intendment of the Section.
“The statement of the defendant is not confessional in nature. There is nowhere the defendant admitted any of the charge before the Court, more so when the defendant’s counsel will have the opportunity to cross-examine the witness. The defendant will be afforded the chance to state his claim. I urge the court to allow the defendant to be cross-examined,” he said.
After listening to the arguments of both counsel, Justice Sonaike in a short ruling declined the trial within trial.
“I have read the statements of the defendant made on March 7,8 and 9, 2022 and that of May 5, 2022. And I have looked at the provisions of Section 28 and Section 29 of the Evidence Act. I have read the statement of the defendant severally and it is not confessional in nature, and the section cited does not support the offence in the charge,” the Judge said.
“The offence is rape, conspiracy to murder, murder and sexual assault. The defendant has denied this all through the statement, the trial within trial is hereby declined.”
The judge has also cautioned the defence counsel to avoid tarnishing the integrity of the court. She admitted in evidence all the statements made by the defendant and adjourned the case till December 5, for continuation of trial.
Before adjourning, the court listened to the continuation of the evidence of the seventh prosecution witness, a homicide police officer, Goddy Ihende. Picking up from where he left of at the last sitting of the court, the witness told Justice Sherifat Sonaike how he came to handle the investigations.
He testified that that the matter was originally reported as a kidnapping case, but the police later discovered, when the incident went viral, that it was not a case of kidnap but a case of murder.
While answering questions under cross examination from the defence counsel, Mr Abayomi Omotubora, the witness admitted that he did not take the statement of the complainant who reported the case to the police as it was not his job.
Ominikoron is facing a five-count charge bordering on rape, conspiracy, felony, sexual assault, and murder preferred against him by the Lagos state government.
The prosecution told the court that Ominikoron conspired with others now at large to rape and murder his 22-year-old passenger.
It said that the defendant had sexual intercourse with Ayanwola, without her consent and murdered her, at about 7pm, between Lekki Ajah expressway and Carter bridge, on February 26, 2022.
The prosecution also alleged that the defendant and others now at large on February 26 unlawfully killed Ayanwola by throwing her out of a moving bus between Lekki- Ajah expressway and Cater bridge.
The prosecution also said that the defendant on November 25, 2021, allegedly raped a 29-year-old lady, Maryjane Odezulu, without her consent.
The incident took place at about 8pm, at Lekki- Ajah Conservation centre Lekki Ajah expressway Lagos.
According to the prosecutor, the offences are contrary to and punishable under Sections 411,223,260 and 165 of the criminal law of Lagos State 2015.
However, the 47-year-old defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against him.