Maryam Sanda, the woman who allegedly stabbed her husband to death will know her fate on Monday when justice Yusuf Halilu of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court is billed to deliver judgment on her protracted trial.
The Nigerian police charged Ms Sanda for culpable homicide in November 2017, and are seeking the death penalty against the accused in a two count charge.
The trial centres on a judicial drama that has dragged on for almost three years due to delays, multiple adjournments, failure of witnesses to appear in court among other technicalities.
The victim, Bilyaminu Bello, was the son of a former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Haliru Bello.
The killing was premeditated, the police said. Court filings showed Ms Sanda stabbed her husband with broken bottles at about 3:50 a.m. with “absolute intent to kill” him.
But the accused who was initially remanded in custody would repeatedly plead not guilty to the crime.
After several attempts, Ms Sanda would secure bail with several conditions, including an undertaking from the defendant’s father to produce her in court till the end of the trial.
Charges against Maimuna Aliyu, Sanda’s mother; Aliyu Sanda, her brother, and Sadiya Aminu, her housemaid – for allegedly tampering with evidence by cleaning the crime scene – would also be dropped.
But lurid details of the homicide case which builds on the rising trend of domestic violence in Nigeria grabbed public imagination since it began – inspiring screaming headlines such as: ‘Alleged Husband Killer’.
The raging storm in the conjugal union between Maryam and late Bilyaminu reached boiling point on the night of November 18, 2017. Multiple court testimonies and evidence including that of the accused indicated that the tragedy was triggered by a heated argument between the couples.
Ms Sanda made several attempts to kill her husband, including threatening to chop off his sex organ if he declined to give her freedom from their marriage, Ibrahim Mohammed, one of the six witnesses called by the prosecution said. He told the court he was with the deceased for over eight hours that night.
Mr Mohammed, a friend of Bilayamin said an argument had degenerated into a violent faceoff.
He said before In his eyes, Ms Sanda launched several attacks on the deceased using weapons such as a broken bottle and a kitchen knife. The witness said his late friend sustained several cuts while trying to disarm his wife.
Mr Mohammed said he left the house with another friend when they thought the couple had sorted their differences only to receive news of his friend’s death in the morning.
“I went to Maitama Hospital in the morning and met Bilyaminu lying on a bed in front of the hospital. There was a hole in his chest near the heart, bite on his stomach. There was a cut on his thigh and there was a sign of stitching on him,” he said.
The accused however, gave another twist to the story.
In her testimony before the court, Ms Sanda admitted that the two-year marriage that produced a baby girl was fraught with irreconcilable differences that heightened that ill-fated November night.
She however denied killing her husband or nursing such intentions. The mother-of-one said trouble started after she discovered nude pictures of another woman in her late husband’s phone and confronted him.
Ms Sanda said she had asked for a divorce before arguments which continued late into the night snowballed into fisticuffs.
“He pushed me and as I was falling down, I mistakenly broke his Shisha bottle and the water inside spilled on the floor. He pinned me to the ground and I heard our daughter crying. I told him to leave me so that I could attend to her and he loosened up a bit and I struggled to my feet”, she narrated.
The accused said the deceased fell against the broken Shisha pot in an attempt to hold her down again. “I saw a broken bottle pricked into his chest which I removed and covered the chest with a scarf.”
The young woman said she rushed her husband to Maitama General Hospital where he was confirmed dead.
The court case
Precise details of what transpired that night are sketchy. Sanda’s relatives allegedly assisted her in cleaning up the crime scene and no autopsy was carried out to ascertain the actual cause of Mr Bello’s death.
Regina Okotie-Eboh, lawyer to the accused argued that the prosecution failed to tender evidence to corroborate the allegations. She said the prosecution did not call nurses or doctors from the hospital where the deceased was taken to as witnesses.
Mrs Okotie-Ebor added that they failed to tender the knife with which the defendant allegedly used to perpetrate the act.
But the judge fixed January 27 to deliver final judgment during a continued hearing last December after the prosecutors submitted that the prosecution has proved the allegations levelled against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.
Below is a timeline of Ms Sanda’s trial:
November, 23, 2017 – The police files murder charges against Ms Sanda.
November, 24, 2917 – court sends the accused to prison, denies her bail application.
December, 7, 2017 – The court again refused an oral application for her bail and ordered her to be returned to prison pending her re-arraignment on December 14.
December, 14, 2017 – the court again refused and dismissed her bail but granted bail to her three co-defendants.
February, 7, 2018 – The court again struck out another bail made on her behalf.
March 7, 2018 – Sanda granted bail on health grounds.
March 19, 2018 – A prosecution witness in the trial disappeared after arriving in court.
April 19, 2018 – Witness narrates how Maryam Sanda allegedly made several attempts to stab her husband before his eventual murder.
May 15, 2018 – Sanda’s trial stalled.
October 3, 2018 – The lawyer representing Sanda, withdraws from the trial.
January 23, 2019 – Sanda, reveals in a statement that nude pictures on his phone led to the fight that eventually led to his killing.
February 27, 2019 – Court fixes the date for the final address.
March 26, 2019 – Court fixes date to rule on no-case submission filed by the accused.
April 4, 2019 – You have a case to answer, court tells Sanda.
October 8, 2019 – Sanda to open defense on October 16.
December 2, 2019 – Court to deliver final judgement on January 27, 2020.