With the bail granted her by an FCT High Court, Maryam Sanda has commenced her long but steady journey to freedom. And she knows it – it’s there in the very public celebration of her father-less daughter’s one year birthday which went viral on social media. There is a curious coincidence in the timing of the grant of bail, coming as it did on the eve of the event.
From this background it is easy to construct a scenario for how Maryam Sanda’s trial for culpable homicide – her husband Bilyaminu Bello’s murder – will progress. Her highly motivated defence counsel, J.B. Daudu (SAN) will dominate the court with his very presence and use his long experience as a trial lawyer to ground down prosecution counsel by contesting his every position, with obligatory appeal(s) to the courts above. A prosecution that is neither motivated nor incentivised a la its opposition will stand no chance in this legal contest, such that five years from now the case against Maryam Sanda will still have not left the basement of legal proceedings. The massive public sympathy for the victim and anger at the perpetrator will begin to wane as court sittings become episodic, the result of interminable adjournments.
The decision to grant bail to Maryam Sanda by the judge, who has rejected similar applications on four previous occasions, left people stupefied. It was based on a medical report commissioned by defence counsel and given official imprimatur by a National Hospital Consultant. Prosecution was essentially ambushed when the judge demanded proof that Prisons medical service could cope with the catalogue of ailments alleged to afflict the suspect. The fact is the judge should have demanded independent assessment of her health condition by a court-appointed doctor instead of relying on a procured medical report. This was not done. Besides, standard procedure is for prison officials to refer sick inmates to outside government health facilities where and when necessary. In striking contrast to the instant case, defence in Olisa Metuh’s trial is being held to higher standard of proof before bail is considered to enable him travel abroad for medical treatment, even when he attends court on a stretcher.
Nigeria’s judicial system is dual-track: one for the wealthy and the privileged, the other for the poor and the ignorant. Maryam Sanda’s trial will proceed on the first track.
M T Usman,