Maryam Sanda, the woman who allegedly stabbed her husband to death in Abuja, will know her fate on Monday when Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court delivers judgment in her protracted trial.
The Nigerian police charged her with culpable homicide in November 2017 and are seeking the death penalty in the two-count charge.
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 a broken bottle at about 3:50 a.m. on the fateful day. The police said she did so with “absolute intent to kill” him.
But the accused pleaded not guilty to the crime. After several attempts, Ms Sanda secured bail with the conditions including an undertaking from her father to produce her in court till the end of the trial.
Charges against Maimuna Aliyu, Ms Sanda’s mother; Aliyu Sanda, her brother, and Sadiya Aminu, her housemaid – for allegedly tampering with evidence by cleaning the blood and other proofs from the crime scene – were later dropped.
The trial has dragged on for almost three years due to delays, multiple adjournments and failure of witnesses to appear in court.
The storm in the marriage between Maryam and late Bilyaminu reached boiling point on the night of November 18, 2017. Multiple court testimonies, including that of the accused, indicated that the tragedy was triggered by a heated argument between the couples that ill-fated night.
Ms Sanda allegedly issued many threats to her husband, including to chop off his sex organ if he declined to grant her divorce, Ibrahim Mohammed, one of the six witnesses called by the prosecution said, according to a PREMIUM TIMES report.
He told the court he was with the deceased for over eight hours that night.
Mr Mohammed, a friend of Bilayamin, said their argument had degenerated into a fight.
Mr Mohammed said he tried disengaging Ms Sanda’s hand from her husband’s neck before she rushed to break a bottle of groundnut on the wall and tried stabbing her husband with it.
“I held her hands and Bilyamin went behind her and collected the broken bottle from her.
“She said she would not stop until Bilyamin divorced her that night; that either he divorced her or she would cut his private part,” the witness said.
Mr Mohammed said Ms Sanda made bold her threat as she launched more violent attacks on the deceased before his eyes.
The witness narrated that the first defendant made another attempt to stab her husband after breaking a bottle of perfume, but her husband collected the bottle.
“The first defendant then went to the kitchen and picked a knife with which she attempted again to stab the deceased.”
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 who he had called to help separate the fight, thinking that calm had been restored 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.
In her testimony before the court, Ms Sanda admitted that the two-year marriage that produced a baby girl was fraught with quarrels.
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 a fight.
“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.
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 prove 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.
The judge in December fixed January 27 to deliver judgment.
Below is a timeline of Ms Sanda’s trial:
November, 23, 2017 – The police file murder charges against Ms Sanda.
November, 24, 2917 – court sends the accused to prison denies her bail application.
December, 7, 2017 – The court again refuses 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 refuses and dismisses her bail but granted bail to her three co-defendants.
February, 7, 2018 – The court again strikes out another bail application made on her behalf.
March 7, 2018 – Sanda granted bail on health grounds.
March 19, 2018 – A prosecution witness in the trial disappears 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 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 defence on October 16.
December 2, 2019 – Court to deliver final judgement on January 27, 2020.