The Court of Appeal sitting in Akure, Ondo State capital, has discharged and acquitted the founder of Sotitobire Praising Chapel, Akure, Alfa Babatunde, who was earlier convicted by the state High Court over the missing of a one-year-old boy, Gold Kolawole.
Kolawole was abducted in the church in November 2019 by an unknown person, during the church service. Defendants were thereafter arrested by the men of the Directorate of State Security and later charged to court on a two-count of kidnapping and aiding and abetting to kidnap.
The lower court, presided over by Justice Olusegun Odusola in 2020 sentenced Babatunde and five others – Omodara Olayinka, Margaret Oyebola, Grace Ogunjobi, Egunjobi Motunrayo and Esther Kayode – to life imprisonment, having found them guilty of two charges.
However, the high court judgement was upturned as the appellate judge, Justice Hammah Barka, said the circumstantial evidence upon which the lower court based its judgement was not enough to convict the appellants.
As a result, he discharged and acquitted the appellants.
In his reaction, the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Charles Titiloye, who is also the prosecutor, said the state government would study the judgement before deciding on the next step to take on the matter.
He said, “The court has affirmed that DSS can investigate any case and does not have a jurisdictional problem to investigate a case like this. However, the court has stated that the circumstantial evidence upon which the conviction was based upon at the lower court is not enough to sustain the conviction of the defendants. Our attitude from the state is that we study the judgement and take the proper steps we are supposed to take on the matter.”
The counsel to the appellant, who was represented by Akinyemi Omoware, said the court judgement had shown that truth would prevail over falsehood.
“It was held that the appellant was not found culpable of the alleged offence. He is not guilty as pronounced upon by the trial court. We are using this medium to tell the members of the church and the general public that they should rejoice with conscience. They should not go out causing problems. They should take it that that is the will of God. We are happy about this,” the counsel said.