Historic judgement that sent Chief Obafemi Awolowo to prison with hard labour – Judgement by Justice Sowemimo

Justice George Sodeinde Sowemimo
Justice George Sodeinde Sowemimo
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“….Whatever others may say, this is my personal view. I am not speaking as a judge but as a Nigerian. Here we have one of the first Premiers of the autonomous region standing trial. If you were the only one before me, I would have felt that it was enough for you to have undergone the strain of the trial. I would have asked you to go. But I am sorry, I cannot do so now because my hands are tied.
Having sentenced those young chaps whatever happens I have to pass some sort of sentence. If I made up my mind to sentence the other accused persons who I find were tools in the hands of others, and if my conclusion is right, it is for me to see that a punishment by me in my court is such that others would see that there is no preferential treatment.

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I do not see what useful purpose a sentence of imprisonment will do to you, but I have come to the conclusion that these things emanate from you. To get yourself involved in this thing is enough shame.
But this is a political crime. There are things which one may never know. All I know is what is before me and I am bound by the evidence. You mentioned about the delay in giving judgement, but I wish you were in my position and had to read some of these things – the evidence which was about 800 pages and the notes of submissions also about 600 pages. I was never hoping or thinking that I would be called upon to try a former Head of Government and Leader of Opposition. I am only happy that this is a court of first instance.

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At the conclusion of the speech by Justice Sowemimo, Chief Awolowo was sentenced as follows:
1st Count – 10 years I.H.L (Imprisonment with Hard Labour) Treasonable felony, contrary to Section 41(b) of the Criminal Code.
2nd Count – 5 years I.H.L (Imprisonment with Hard Labour) Conspiracy to commit a felony, contrary to Section 516 of the Criminal Code.
3rd Count – 2 years I.H.L (Imprisonment with Hard Labour) Conspiracy to effect an unlawful purpose, contrary to Section 518 (6) of the Criminal Code.
Sentences to be concurrent.”

Chief George Sodeinde Sowemimo, SAN, CON, CON, GCFR (1920 – 1985) was a Nigerian Jurist and former Chief Justice of Nigeria.

www.sojworld.com (c) January 13, 2017

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