The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, has upheld the judgement of a Lagos High Court which sentenced star actress and former beauty Queen, Ibinabo Fiberesima to five years’ imprisonment for the death of one Dr Giwa Suraj.
The court dismissed the appeal filed by the star actress challenging the sentence which was handed down by Justice Deborah Oluwayemi for reckless driving which caused the death of one Dr. Giwa Suraj in an auto accident along the Lekki-Epe expressway, Lagos.
The deceased was a staff in one of the Lagos state’s hospitals.
In a unanimous decision delivered by Justice Jamilu Yammama Tukur, the court also dismissed the sentence of a Magistrate Court which had earlier awarded a N100, 000 fine on the actress.
The Appeal Court held that the Magistrate lacked the discretion to grant Ibinabo the option of a fine upon conviction.
Immediately, the judgment was delivered, Ibinabo who was visibly apprehensive throughout the proceeding burst into tears and wept furiously.
The court had earlier ordered that she must appear before it when judgement is to be delivered.
Speaking on the judgement, her lawyer, Nnaemeka Amaechina, said that the judgment would be challenged at the Supreme Court adding that a Notice of Appeal had already been filed.
Fiberesima had earlier been awarded a N100, 000 fine by an Igbosere Magistrate’s Court, but the then Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner of justice, Supo Sasore (SAN), felt unsatisfied with the judgement. This prompted the state government to take its case to the Lagos High Court.
At the Lagos High Court, Justice Oluwayemi set aside the option of fine imposed by the Magistrate’s Court and sentenced Fiberesima to five years’ imprisonment for dangerous and reckless driving.
In her judgment, Justice Oluwayemi held that the trial Magistrate exercised judicial recklessness when he gave the convict an option of fine.
The court held that the option of N100, 000 given to the convict did not serve the purpose of justice in the matter and subsequently ordered that the N100, 000 should be returned back to Ibinabo Fiberesima.
The court added that Section 28 of the Road Traffic Law clearly provides that where a reckless and dangerous driving has caused the death of a person, the accused person shall be guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment of seven years.
Dissatisfied, Fiberesima in her amended appellant brief filed by her lawyer, Nnaemeka Amaechina before the Court of Appeal urged the court to set aside the five-year sentence and restore the decision of the Magistrate Court.
Amaechina had argued that the Magistrate’s Court exercised its discretion properly and there was no ground to review it by the High Court.
He submitted that by virtue of the Notice of Increase in Jurisdiction of Magistrates, No. 7 of 2006, the trial Magistrate could only impose a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment or N100, 000.00 fine.
He added that N100, 000.00 fine is the maximum limit the trial Magistrate can impose as fine and that was what it imposed on the appellant.
In her response, counsel to Lagos State, Rotimi Odutola (Mrs.) argued that the law creating the offence of dangerous driving causing death has provided for a term of imprisonment as punishment for anyone convicted under section 28 hence the trial Magistrate ought not to exercise such arbitrary discretion to impose N100.000.00 as fine.
Odutola further submitted that the children of the deceased have been permanently deprived of the ‘’measureless contributions’’ of their father to their lives as a result of his death caused by the appellant.
She urged the court to uphold the judgement of the Lagos High Court and dismiss the appeal.
The Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command had in 2005 charged the ex-beauty queen [Fiberesima] to the magistrate court on a two-count charge of dangerous and reckless driving along Epe Expressway, Lagos which resulted to the death of Dr. Giwa Suraj.