The Court of Appeal in Ibadan, Oyo State, has discharged and acquitted the head of Sunshine Group of Schools, Ibadan, Mrs. Olayinka Taiwo, of child trafficking charges.
The appellate court nullified her conviction by a Federal High Court for the offence.
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) arraigned Taiwo on February 21, 2017. It accused her of conspiring with Oyediran Oladapo (at large), to fraudulently procure the entry of Olusola Abike Oyediran into the United Kingdom “in which she is not a national and permanent resident in order to obtain financial benefit”.
The alleged offence, the prosecution claimed, contravened Sections 26 (2) and 27 (a) of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act 2015.
The lower court, on December 10 last year, found Taiwo guilty on both counts and sentenced her to five years imprisonment on each count.
Dissatisfied, Taiwo appealed through her lawyer Olaniyi George.
In a unanimous judgment delivered on May 13, a certified true copy of which was obtained yesterday, Justice Folasade Ojo nullified her conviction.
Other justices on the panel, Abubakar Talba and Noyerem Okoronkwo, agreed with the lead judgment.
The Court of Appeal held that the prosecution did not prove the ingredients of the offence of child trafficking. It held that there was no evidence before the lower court to conclude that Taiwo committed the offence and benefitted financially from child trafficking.
Justice Ojo held: “I have gone through the entire gamut of the record and cannot find any evidence from which to draw any inference that the appellant agreed with Jelili to procure Abike’s entry into the UK with the intent to derive financial benefit.
“The essential ingredient of the offence of conspiracy has not been proved against the appellant. I find the lower court to be in error when it convicted the appellant on both counts of the charge.
“The prosecution failed to establish the ingredients of the offences for which the appellant was charged. Accordingly, I find merit in this appeal and it is hereby allowed. The judgment of the lower court, delivered on December 10, 2018 is hereby set aside.
“I enter a verdict of not guilty in favour of the appellant. She is discharged and acquitted on both counts of the charge.”
Concurring with the lead judgment, Justice Talba added: “I agree with the conclusion that findings of the lower court, that the appellant benefited financially, is not supported by evidence on record. There is equally no evidence on record to draw any inference that the appellant agreed with Jelili to procure Abike’s entry into the UK with the intent to derive financial benefit.
“The prosecution has failed to establish the ingredients of the offences for which the appellant was charged. I also find merit in this appeal and it is hereby allowed. I abide by the consequential orders in the lead judgment.”
Justice Okoronkwo added: “The trial judge acted on her own conjecture and not evidence. The lead judgment in this appeal by my Lord Folasade Ojo has demonstrated the futility of such conjecture.
“The stream of criminal law must be kept pure and devoid of all subjectivity. Judges must look beyond the parties in cases before them.
“I agree with the lead judgment. I also discharge and acquit the appellant.”
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