Finally, justice on Tuesday came the way of the family of a Master’s student of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Timothy Adegoke, who was murdered in November 2021. An Osun State High Court passed a death sentence on an Ile-Ife hotelier, Ramon Adedoyin, and two of his staff, BOLA BAMIGBOLA writes
The already tense atmosphere inside Osun High Courtroom 1, where the State Chief Judge, Adepele Ojo, was delivering her judgement in the murder trial of seven defendants on Tuesday, became charged as she pronounced a renowned hotel owner, Dr Ramon Adedoyin, guilty
Adedoyin and other six defendants were arrested in connection with the death of a Master’s student of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Timothy Adegoke.
Justice Ojo, who arrived in the courtroom, around 10:12 am, to deliver judgment on what had been regarded as the biggest criminal case in Osun in over a decade, due to the status of those involved, began reading her judgement at exactly 10:19 am.
The judge, who was welcomed by an array of anticipating eyes of lawyers, journalists, and relations of parties in the matter, ran through the history of the case before arriving at a guilty verdict on Adedoyin, two of his staff members, Adeniyi Aderogba, and Oyetunde Kazeem.
She, however, freed the second defendant, Magdalene Chiefuna; the fourth defendant, Oluwole Lawrence, and the sixth defendant, Adebayo Kunle, having found them blameless in the circumstances surrounding the death of Adegoke, while the court delayed its verdict on the seventh defendant, Adedeji Adesola, who was the receptionist on duty on the day the late Adegoke arrived in the hotel.
Adesola and Adedoyin had earlier been convicted on counts 15 and 16 bordering on conspiracy to fabricate evidence to conceal the fact that the deceased lodged in the hotel.
But the judge held back the sentencing sequel to the pleadings by her counsel, Okon Ita and the prosecutor, Fatima Adesina, who urged the court to be lenient with her, since she was not linked to the death of the deceased and for the fact that she was a first time offender.
The judgment brought to an end an eventful trial involving some of the best legal brains in the country, who had taken up briefs from different parties involved in the trial.
Recall that the sudden disappearance of Adegoke became one of the hottest stories on social media in mid -November 2021 after the deceased, who left Abuja for Ile-Ife on November 5, 2021, to sit for an examination could no longer be reached.
Many social media users picked up the story and several insinuations came up as to what might have happened to Adegoke. He was to sit for the examination as a Master’s student at the university, but he was not seen in class, leading to apprehension among members of his immediate and extended families.
The incident put to a strict test the capacity of the then Osun State Commissioner of Police, Mr Wale Olokode,
to investigate crime.
The police boss, alongside operatives attached to the anti-kidnapping unit in the state police command, was constantly under public scrutiny as the ever-curious members of the public craved a quick resolution to the mystery surrounding Adegoke’s disappearance.
The search for him was later narrowed down to Hilton Royal Hotel, Ile-Ife, where Adegoke had taken up accommodation before he went missing.
Further search led to a place along Ede road after the entrance to the OAU campus where remains of the late Adegoke were discovered in a shallow grave and evacuated by the police operatives.
The remains were taken to the Osun State University Teaching Hospital, Osogbo where a post-mortem was carried out by a team of medical experts.
Detectives later picked up the hotel owner, Adedoyin and six of his staff members namely; Adeniyi Aderogba, Oluwole Lawrence, Oyetunde Kazeem, Adebayo Kunle, Adedeji Adesola, who were eventually subjected to trial before a High Osun State court, sitting in Osogbo in connection with the incident.
Before the matter moved to Osun High Court, the defendants were previously arraigned before an Abuja High Court. A statement on January 25, 2022, said Nigeria Police Force, charged Adedoyin, and six others over circumstances surrounding the death of Adegoke.
Shortly after the defendants were arraigned in Abuja, arguments and counter-arguments on the issue of jurisdiction came up, with many contributors to the public debate on the issue advising that the matter should return to Osun where the crime was allegedly committed.
After many days of apprehension by all parties involved in the matter, the matter returned to Osun and on March 3, 2022, the 7 defendants were all arraigned before Justice Ojo on 11 counts linked to their levels of involvement in the alleged crime.
Justice Ojo subsequently remanded them in the Ilesa Correctional Centre, where they remained while the matter proceeded to trial.
From March 7, 2022, when the trial of the defendants commenced to April 27, 2023, when the curtain fell on the proceedings, as the counsel addressed the court and adopted their written addresses, the celebrated case lived up to the pre-trial hype and was regarded as a case, second only to the trial of suspects arrested in connection with the 2007 bomb blast that rocked the state Government Secretariat, Abere.
The courtroom of the Osun Chief Judge, where the trial was held played host to some of the finest brains in the legal profession, who exchanged salvos on behalf of their clients. Many people with no connection with the case often spared time to also come around to witness the proceedings.
In the course of the trial, the prosecution team led by the human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), who was supported by Fatimo Adesina, having taken over from the lawyers from Osun State Ministry of Justice, traded legal tackles with the defence team, led by Mallam Yusuf Ali, (SAN), which also had Mr K Eleja (SAN), Mr Muritala Abdulrosheed (SAN), Dr Rowland Otaru (SAN) and Mr Okon Ita,
In the course of the trial, Falana applied for an amendment of charges against the defendants, and after he had secured a favourable decision of the court to amend the charges, all the defendants were re-arraigned on 18 counts.
Also during the trial, seven prosecution and nine defence witnesses, which included medical experts, a public health officer, security operatives, and the defendants themselves, amongst others, appeared before the court at different times.
In their separate submissions after adopting their written addresses on April 27, both the prosecution and defence teams explained reasons why the court should rule in favour of their clients.
Adopting his final written address filed on April 13, counsel to Adedoyin, the first defendant in the matter, Ali, said there was no link between his client and the death of the late Adegoke, beyond the fact that the hotel, where the late OAU student died, belonged to him.
The SAN, who insisted that there was no vicarious liability in law, said the charges pressed against his client and other defendants were based on suspicion and asked the court to discharge and acquit them.
Also, in their separate submissions after adopting their final written addresses, replies on point of law and affidavits, counsel to the second, fourth and fifth defendants, Abdulrosheed (SAN), counsel to third and sixth defendants, Otaru, (SAN), and the lawyer representing the seventh defendant, Ita, all asked the court to discharge their clients, as there were no compelling facts linking them to the crime.
But the prosecutor, Falana, who adopted his final written address filed on March 29, 2023, recalled how Adegoke died and his body dumped in the bush, as well as, the efforts made to hide the crime from the authorities by those involved after the oath of secrecy was administered on them.
Falana insisted that based on the evidence led before the court, the defendants, if found guilty should get judgment commensurate to their level of involvement.
Justice Ojo, also in her judgement, besides the guilty verdict passed on them for murder, Adedoyin, was also sentenced to three years imprisonment for indent interference with the corpse and another two years on conspiracy to alter a receipt.
He was also found guilty of conspiracy to conceal evidence about the arrival of the deceased in his hotel and sentenced to five years jail.
Both Aderogba and Oyetunde apart from the death sentence, also bagged various jail terms for indecent interference with corpse and conspiracy.
The judge, further held, “As the victims of crime, the children of the late Timothy, whose breadwinner and benefactor had been gruesomely murdered and snatched away from them in his prime by the defendants, shall be placed under education up to university level at a cost to the first, third and fifth defendants.
“The costs per term shall be filed in the Court Registry and the first, third and fifth defendants shall pay the amount to be registered in the Court Registry within 14 days of demand until the date of their enrolment for NYSC service. Failure to pay shall be a reason for the detention of the defendants until the amount due is paid.”