Accused Persons In Ya-Na's Murder Case Freed
There was spontaneous jubilation at the Accra Fast Track High Court when 15 people accused of allegedly conspiring to murder the Overlord of Dagbon, Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II, in March 2002 were acquitted and discharged.
Abudu family members and sympathisers who were in court to witness proceedings shouted in unison when the trial judge, Mr Justice E.K. Ayebi, said, “You have been found not guilty. You are discharged.”
Members of the Andani Gate, who sat at one side of the courtroom far from where those of the Abudu Gate sat, looked unhappy after the court’s decision to acquit and discharge the 15 accused persons.
The discharged persons are a former District Chief Executive for Yendi, Mr Mohammed Habib Tijani; Iddrisu Iddi, 76; Alhaji Baba Iddrisu Abdulai, 54; Kwame Alhassan, 53; Mohammadu Abdulai, 57; Saibu Mohammed, 34; Alhassan Mohammed Briamah, 40; Alhassan Ibrahim, Mohammed Mustapha, Sani Moro, Baba Ibrahim, Yakubu Usifu, Ahmed Abukari, Abdul Razak Usifu and Alhassan Braimah.
Fourteen of the discharged persons who were present in court bowed before the trial judge in unison as a sign of respect and contentment before resuming their seats. Each had pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy.
A seventh accused person, Zakaria Forest, who had been charged with two counts of conspiracy and murder and is on the run, was also discharged.
In an almost three-hour ruling on a submission of ‘no case’ filed on behalf of the accused persons by their lawyer, Mr Philip Addison, the court held that the prosecution had woefully failed to prove the guilt of the accused persons and it would, therefore, be dangerous to call on them to open their defence.
According to the trial judge, the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case against each of the accused persons on the grounds that evidence led by the 12 prosecution witnesses had been inconsistent, fabricated stories against the accused persons and were subsequently discredited on cross-examination.
The court held that the prosecution also failed to prove that the charred remains of an adult male body were that of the Ya-Na to warrant the prosecution of the accused persons in the first place.
“It was not sufficient for the prosecution to say that the Ya-Na was dead and leave it at that. Even the investigation was not conclusive of the identity of the charred body, nor was a DNA examination conducted to prove that the body was that of the Ya-Na,” it said.
“In law, the death of the Ya-Na must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, especially in the absence of a death certificate. If the prosecution failed to prove that the charred remains were the body of the Ya-Na, then the accused persons could not be held liable for the death of the Ya-Na,” the trial judge held.
According to the court, the prosecution witnesses who testified against the 15 were the same persons who testified against Yidana Sugri and Iddrisu Jahinfo in 2002 for the murder of the Ya-Na. The two were acquitted and discharged.
The court was of the view that the witnesses, who, from their own testimonies, partook in the war in Dagbon, later turned round as prosecution witnesses to fabricate stories against the discharged persons, adding that “their conflicting statements totally undermine their credibility”.
“The trend of key witnesses was inconsistent. At no time was their evidence the same,” the court held, and accordingly agreed with the defence team’s argument that the evidence put forward by the prosecution was “watery, suspicious, dubious and unreliable”.
It also reminded the prosecution that it (prosecution) relied on the Wuaku Commission’s Report to put together the facts of the case, adding, “Investigations do not only mean taking statements and charging persons with offence. Facts should not be forced to feed a pre-conceived notion.”
The court ruled that nowhere was the prosecution able to prove that the accused persons agreed to act together to murder the Ya-Na and further pointed out that it was unfortunate for the prosecution to rely on portions of the Wuaku Commission’s Report when it suited it and later turn around to reject it when it did not serve its purpose.
“The investigator, from his own words, did not do anything apart from taking statements. He could have retrieved and tendered in guns from the Gbewaa Palace, guns found in the Ya-Na’s car, guns retrieved from Andanis, among others,” the judge held.
According to the court, it was clear from the evidence from the prosecution witnesses that both sides fought a war, adding that “the evidence from the prosecution witnesses, who are Andanis, displayed bias and dishonesty”.
After directing the seven-member jury to enter a ‘not guilty’ verdict in favour of the discharged persons, the trial judge pleaded with the Abudu and Andani gates to peacefully co-exist with each other.
“Look within and resolve your differences. You deserve to live in peace and not in curfews and security patrols. Nurture the peace yourself,” he added, and thanked the media, the prosecution, defence team and court clerks for their service.
Mr Addison expressed his gratitude to the trial judge for what he termed his “erudite ruling” and stated that the judge’s name would be written in gold in the annals of history.
A total of 12 witnesses testified in the case, which began in July 2010.