LAGOS—Seven members of “Awo” cult in Ebi/Okoshi community in the Epe area of Lagos were yesterday sentenced to death by hanging by an Ikeja High Court over the murder of an Islamic scholar, Alhaji Sheik Sofwan Akodo, at Epe on March 9, 2003.
Justice Benedicta Shitta-Bey handed down the verdict while delivering judgment in a two-count charge of conspiracy and murder preferred against them. The convicts are Lateef Anjorin; Adekunle Adesuyi; Isiaka Adetumobi; Mosun Adetumobi; Tunarise Kabiru; Moses Egiebade and Talimu Rashidi-Peru. The eighth accused person, Mr. Solomon Ogunbaike, was discharged and acquitted for want of evidence.
The accused persons who were arraigned last year were said to have committed the crime during the community’s egungun festival. In the course of the trial, four witnesses testified for the prosecution and it was in evidence before the court that the deceased was a member of the cult before his conversion to Islam. After his conversion the deceased was said to have started preaching against the practices of his former cult which infuriated the cult members who felt their secrets were being exposed and vowed to deal with him. The first attempt on his life was said to have been made by his former cult members sometime in 1999 but the deceased was said to have escaped.
In March 2003 the accused persons took advantage of their festival to make another attempt at his life when they proceeded to the deceased’s house with their masquerade and demanded money from him which he declined on the ground that it was against Islamic religion. The accused persons then started to inflict matchet cuts on him and when a neighbour offered to give them money in exchange for the life of the deceased the accused persons were said to have refused but continued to attack him until he died. According to the court while reviewing the case, the younger brother of the deceased who was an eye witness was also matcheted until he lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital by the neighbours but the accused persons still trailed him to the hospital and tried to kill him without success.
In her judgment, Justice Shitta-Bey held that “the accused persons actually had the intention to murder the deceased and the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime.” According to her, out of four witnesses, three of them were able to provide substantial evidence linking the accused persons with the crime they were unable to prove that the second accused, Mr. Solomon Ogunbaike, was among those who committed the crime.
She said that “the accused had intent to kill and since the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the said crime, I was left with no other choice than to convict them and I hereby sentence them to death by hanging.”