JUSTICE moves slowly for the poor. It took seven years for suspects in the murder of Dr. Harry Marshal, Deputy National Chairman of the All Nigerian Peoples Party to be freed.
Justice Ishaq Bello of an Abuja High Court discharged and acquitted Sunday Ofuoku, Musa Babatunde, Friday Amaize and Stephen Imodu for lack of substantial evidence against them.
Said Justice Bello, “There is a great need for the court to tread cautiously with circumstantial evidence brought by the prosecution. As the saying goes, it is better for a guilty person to go unpunished than for the innocent person to be wrongly punished.
“The confessional statements of the accused failed the acid test and are not enough to convict the accused persons. Incidentally, the police are the accusers and at the same time witness and prosecutors.
“There is no doubt about the death of Harry Marshal but I cannot make definite statements that the four people standing trial killed him, as there is no substantial evidence before me linking the accused persons to the crime.
“The identity of the killers was not proved by the prosecutors. The person the prosecutor pointed was not arraigned or called as witness and the court cannot speculate as to whether the accused persons were actual perpetuators of the crime.”
The judge, however, sentenced Imodu to five year’s imprisonment for illegal possession of firearms, beginning from when he was arrested and detained.
Amaize was arrested on 4 April 2003 in Edo State and taken to Abuja after Felix Anegbe alleged he quartered the suspected killers in his guest house at Apo, Abuja.
He said the police shot him, arrested and tortured his wife, resulting in her miscarriage and death a week after her release. His sister and brother were also arrested.
Allegations of the tortures and that the police used force to obtain their confessional statements should be investigated and those involved tried.
Why did it take seven years for the court to know there was no evidence to sentence the suspects? Why was the cheque of N20 million issued as payment for the assassination not tendered in court? Who was Felix Anegbe, the accuser the police did not produce in court?
The police trampled on the rights of the suspect. How will they be compensated for a lost wife and the loss of seven years of their lives? Why are the wheels of justice so slow? Would the suspects have been in detention this long if they were rich or related to the authorities? Why will the police use torture to obtain confessional statements?
Some will rate the suspects lucky to be freed. Thousands languishing in jail, for years, awaiting trial for offences the police have no evidence of their involvement. Common features of these people are they are poor and lack resources to defend their rights. Without divine intervention, they are forgotten – that is justice for the poor.