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Nigerian man escapes death penalty as Singapore’s Court of Appeal in rare reversal acquits him of drug trafficking 10 years after his arrest

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    In a rare move, the Singapore’s Court of Appeal on Thursday September 17, reversed its own decision to convict a Nigerian man of a capital drug trafficking charge, almost a decade after he was arrested and held in remand.

     

    Ilechukwu Uchechukwu Chukwudi faced a charge of trafficking almost 2kg (1,963.3g) of methamphetamine found in a black trolley bag he took with him from Nigeria into Singapore  in 2011.

     

    .Nigerian man escapes death penalty as Singapore

     

    On Thursday, the apex court ruled 4-1 to acquit him with Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang dissenting. Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Senior Judge Chao Hick Tin, and Judges of Appeal Judith Prakash and Andrew Phang ruled in Ilechukwu’s favour.

     

    The four appeal judges found that he had suffered from post-traumatic stress symptoms arising from a childhood trauma when he gave statements to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in 2011. This could have led to him giving “unsophisticated and blatant falsehoods” to the authorities.

     

    Ilechukwu was acquitted after a trial in the High Court in 2014 but the apex court then reversed that decision in 2015 and found him guilty of drug trafficking.

     

    His lawyers, Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, Mr Suang Wijaya and Mr Johannes Hadi from Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, as well as Ms Jerrie Tan from K&L Gates Straits Law then successfully argued for the decision to be reviewed.

     

    On Nov 13, 2011, Ilechukwu flew from Lagos, Nigeria to Singapore after collecting a black luggage at the Nigerian airport. He found only clothes in it and the luggage passed several immigrations checks in both countries without problems.

    He handed the bag to a Singaporean stall assistant named Hamidah Awang at a Clarke Quay bus stop. Hamidah’s car was then searched at Woodlands Checkpoint and drugs were discovered in the luggage.

     

    Ilechukwu was charged with trafficking in at least 1,963.3g of methamphetamine while Hamidah was charged with attempting to export the drugs.

     

    In 2014, Justice Lee Seiu Kin acquitted Ilechukwu of the capital charge but convicted Hamidah.  The High Court judge accepted that Ilechukwu had come to Singapore on business and did not know the luggage contained drugs.

     

    The prosecution appealed against the acquittal and in June 2015, the Court of Appeal convicted Ilechukwu, finding that he had made “numerous lies and omissions” in his statements to the CNB that could not be explained.

     

    The apex court then sent the case back to Justice Lee to determine if Ilechukwu should be given life imprisonment or the death penalty.

     

    However, in 2017, his lawyers successfully persuaded the same panel of apex court judges to review the conviction due to a “unique turn of events”.

     

    It was the first time in legal history where the Court of Appeal agreed that there could be enough new material to say that its previous decision was wrong.

     

    An Institute of Mental Health (IMH) psychiatrist from the prosecution’s side had diagnosed Ilechukwu as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which arose as a result of childhood trauma. He had witnessed a massacre in his Nigerian hometown and was nearly killed.

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    The psychiatrist, Dr Jaydip Sarkar, found Ilechukwu’s PTSD symptoms were triggered after CNB officers told him that he faced the death penalty. Dr Sarkar also opined that Ilechukwu could have then lied to save his life.

     

    Again, the Court of Appeal sent the case back to Justice Lee to hear new expert evidence on Ilechuwu’s mental state when he gave statements to the CNB in 2011.

     

    Last year, the High Court judge found that Ilechukwu did previously suffer from PTSD and had experienced some post-traumatic stress symptoms when giving his statements.

     

    On Thursday, the four apex court judges who acquitted Ilechukwu found that there was now a “plausible innocent explanation” for Ilechukwu’s lies and omissions.
    His motive could no longer only be attributed to his guilty mind, they added.

     

    The judges agreed that he suffered from post-traumatic stress symptoms in 2011, accepting three psychiatric experts’ evidence that his mental conditions “may have led him to grossly overestimate the threat on his life”.

     

    “This may in turn have prompted him to utter the unsophisticated and blatant falsehoods in his statements in an attempt to escape from the death penalty and to save his life… In the circumstances, it is unsafe to draw any adverse inference against him from his lies and omissions.” said Senior Judge Chao Hick Tin.

     

    Ilechukwu, who had maintained that an acquaintance asked him to pass the luggage to Hamidah, likely did not know there were drugs in it too, the judges ruled.

     

    “The picture that emerges from the evidence is that he had grossly misjudged (his childhood friend and acquaintance), and naively believed that he was doing a simple favour in return for promised business contacts.

     

    “Unwittingly, he had been deceived into transporting drugs on their behalf to (their) contact in Singapore,” the judges added.

     

    Meanwhile, Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang, the sole dissenting voice, said that Ilechukwu’s psychiatric disorders “would not have provided even a remotely satisfactory answer” to his lies and omissions.

     

    The lies pointed “clearly and cogently” to his guilty mind, the judge added.

    He also questioned why Ilechukwu did not tell the truth after about a week of persistently lying to the CNB and waited more than two years to do so in the initial High court trial.

     

    In a statement after the acquital, Ilechukwu’ lawyers said: “It has been a long and hard-fought pro bono case, involving specialist psychiatric evidence and issues of cross-cultural sensitivities. We are delighted that justice has prevailed to acquit our client this morning.

     

    Congratulatory messages have been pouring in for Eugene Thuraisingam and his leagal team since the acquital. See that below…

    Source: CNA/ll/ta/TodayOnline

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Court strikes out homosexuality charges against dancer, James Brown and others

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The homosexuality charges filed against effeminate dancer, James Brown and 46 others in November 2019 has been struck out by a federal court in Lagos.

 

Justice Rilwan Aikawa who ruled on the case on Tuesday October 27, struck out the case on ground of the charges against the defendants lacking “diligent prosecution” by the police.

 

While the federal high court judge pointed out that the prosecuting counsel, J.I Ebhoremen, was absent from court for the umpteenth time with no reasonable explanation, the defence counsel, Israel Usman noted that it was the ninth time Mr Ebhoremen did not show up in court since the case started in 2019.

ALSO READ:  ''Any pastor who divorces his wife and remarries another person has no business on the pulpit'' — Clergyman Izuchukwu says

 

Usman urged the Judge to strike out the case as Section 356(5) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 provided a maximum of five adjournments at the instance of the prosecution in a criminal trial.

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He said;

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“This is ninth adjournment at the instance of the prosecution in contravention of the statutory Act that regulates criminal justice system. We urge the court to dismiss the case and discharge the defendants.”

 

Ruling on the case, Aikawa said;

 

“I agree entirely with defendants’ counsel that the prosecution’s attitude to this case is not satisfactory. In my view, this should not be. If the prosecution has a cogent reason not to be in court, he should have communicated in writing to the court and copy the defence counsel.

“For whatever reason, the prosecution is no more capable or not willing to prosecute this case. Consequently, this case is struck out due to lack of diligent prosecution.”

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Nigerians react to Lai Mohammed’s call for regulation of social media

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Nigerians have reacted to Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed’s call for the regulation of social media in the country.

 

Recall that the Minister who appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values to defend the 2021 budget proposal on Tuesday October 27, had stated that the biggest challenge facing the country is the issue of fake news and misinformation.

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The Minister stated that China has no google, Facebook and Instagram as everything is “well censored and well regulated. ” He warned that the next war that will be fought in the country and across the globe may be fought through social media. He also pointed out that #EndSARS protesters mobilized using social media.

ALSO READ:  Nigerians react as FG approves $1.96 billion for construction of rail from Kano to Niger Republic

 

Some Nigerians have however pointed out the flaws in Lai Mohammed’s insistence on social media regulation. Here are some tweets below;

ALSO READ:  ''Any pastor who divorces his wife and remarries another person has no business on the pulpit'' — Clergyman Izuchukwu says

 

Nigerians react to Lai Mohammed

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Nigerians react to Lai Mohammed

Nigerians react to Lai Mohammed

Nigerians react to Lai Mohammed

Nigerians react to Lai MohammedNigerians react to Lai MohammedNigerians react to Lai Mohammed

Nigerians react to Lai Mohammed

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“Whoever carted away the staff of the Oba of Lagos and his shoe should please respect the throne and return it” – Senator Shehu Sani

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Senator Shehu Sani is pleading with hoodlums who vandalised Oba of Lagos’ palace and carted away his personal belongings to return his staff of office and his shoes.

 

Recall hoodlums raided the Oba’s palace on Wednesday, October 21, and made way with his staff of office after gunshots were fired at #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate on Tuesday, October 20.

ALSO READ:  Nigerians react as FG approves $1.96 billion for construction of rail from Kano to Niger Republic

 

Reacting to the raid on Twitter, Senator Shehu Sani pleaded with those in possession of staff and shoes to respect the throne and return them.

ALSO READ:  Again, #EndSARS protesters pass the night at Lagos government house (photos)
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He wrote: “Whoever carted away the staff of the Oba of Lagos and his shoe should please respect the throne and return it.”

 

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