By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—An Abuja High Court sitting at Jabi, yesterday, granted bail to Maryam Sanda, who was remanded in prison custody for allegedly killing her husband, Bilyamin Bello, son of former Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Trial justice, Yusuf Halilu, who had on three previous occasions dismissed applications that sought to release the defendant from prison, pending the determination of the murder charge against her, said he was persuaded by fresh facts that emerged in the case to change his mind.
The judge predicated his decision on a medical report he said indicated that Maryam had a critical health challenge that cannot be effectively handled by the prison authorities.
Justice Halilu said the court was satisfied that the defendant was not only pregnant, but also asthmatic.
He noted that the Police, which is prosecuting the case, was unable to disprove the claim that facilities inside the prison could not take care of Maryam’s health challenges.
Consequently, the court ordered the defendant to provide two sureties, who it said must deposit the title deed of their landed properties in Abuja.
The court further directed that Maryam’s father must enter an undertaking to always provide her in court all through the trial.
The case was subsequently adjourned till March 19 for trial.
The alleged killer-wife had, through her lawyer, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), informed the court that she was already pregnant at the time she was docked and remanded in prison for murder.
Daudu urged the court to take pity on his client, who, he said, would require proper medical attention at this early stage of her three-month-old pregnancy.
Besides, Daudu said he had raised objections against the competence of the charge, which he said ought to have been commenced with a First Information Report, FIR, as envisaged under the Penal Code.
The defence lawyer further contended that the Police failed to secure the consent of the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, before it filed the charge.
However, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. James Idachaba, opposed Maryam’s bail request, insisting there was insufficient evidence before the court to prove that the defendant was indeed pregnant.
Justice Halilu had, in a ruling on February 7, dismissed the bail request which he said amounted to an abuse of court process since the defendant had gone before the Court of Appeal to challenge a previous ruling that refused her bail.
Justice Halilu noted that the defendant did not withdraw her pending notice of appeal before re-approaching the trial court to grant her the same relief.
The judge held that it would amount to following “a path of destruction” to decide the new application on its merit, when an appeal bordering on the same subject matter was still pending before the appellate court.
The court had, on December 14, 2017, also rejected the plea for the defendant who is nursing a six-month-old baby girl, to be released from Suleja Prison on bail.
Maryam was remanded in prison custody on November 24, 2017, after she was arraigned on a two-count charge of culpable homicide punishable by death under Section 221 of the Penal Code.
She was equally charged with the offence of “causing grievous hurt,” contrary to Section 247 of the Penal Code.
However, Maryam pleaded not guilty to the charge, even as she begged the court, shortly after her arraignment, to release her on bail pending the trial, a request that was refused.
Police later amended the charge and added Maryam’s mother, Maimuna Aliyu, her brother, Aliyu Sanda and one Sadiya Aminu, as a co-defendants in the matter.
The prosecution alleged that Maryam’s family members attempted to destroy evidence that linked her to the murder.
It alleged that upon realising that an offence of culpable homicide was committed, the other defendants “did cause evidence of the offence to disappear.”
It said the other defendants had cleaned the blood from the scene of the crime with the intention of shielding the first defendant, Maryam, from legal punishment.
According to the prosecution, the three persons, by their action, committed an offence punishable under Section 167 of the Penal Code.
The court granted Maryam’s co-defendants bail after they produced two sureties each and surrendered all their travelling documents.
The late Bilyamin, a real estate developer, was the son of ex-PDP Chairman, Mr. Mohammed Haliru.