There was jubilation at the premises of the Court of Appeal in Akure by members of Sotitobire Praising Chapel as the church’s founder, Prophet Babatunde Alfa was set freed two years after he was taken into custody.
Prophet Alfa and five other members of the church were arrested in 2019 over the mysterious disappearance of a 13-month-old boy, Gold Kolawole, from his church.
They were arraigned on two count charges of conspiracy, aiding and abetting kidnapping.
Last year, Prophet Alfa and the five church workers were sentenced to seven years imprisonment on count one, which bothered on conspiracy to commit felony to with aiding and abetting kidnapping and life imprisonment on count two bothering on aiding and abetting kidnapping contrary to and punishable under the Section 5 of the Ondo State Anti-kidnapping and Anti-Abduction law 2010.
One of the accused persons, Peter Anjorin, was discharged and acquitted for lack of substantial evidence from the prosecution.
Anjorin was accused of destroying evidence contrary to and punishable under Section 123 of the criminal code law of Ondo State 2006.
But the appellate Judge, Justice Justice Hammah Barka, held that the circumstantial evidence the lower court based its judgement on was not enough to convict Prophet Sotitobire.
The appellate court also discharged and acquitted one of the church workers, Motunrayo Ogunjobi.
It said there wad no iota of evidence against her.
Ondo Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Titiloye Charles, said the State Government would study the judgement before taking action.
He said: “The Court of Appeal has decided this matter. The court has affirmed that the DSS can as a matter of fact investigate any case.
“However, the Court of Appeal has stated that circumstantial evidence upon which was based upon by the lower court is not enough to sustain a conviction of the defendant and has discharged the defendant.
“Our attitude from the state is that we will study the judgment and take a proper step we are supposed to take.”
Counsel to the appellant, Gboyega Awomolo (SAN), who was represented by Akinyemi Omoware, said truth has prevailed over falsehood.
“The Prophet was convicted on conspiracy, aiding and abetting kidnapping. The Court of Appeal has overturned that judgment.
“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.
“One of the defendants who is Motunrayo Ogunjobi has equally been discharged. The court said there is no iota of evidence against her just like the Prophet, that they don’t know about the commission of the offence.
“The basis was that the prosecution has failed in its entirety to prove the element of the alleged offence. The implication of that is that they were convicted wrongly by the lower court. They have been justified by the Court of Appeal.”
Baby Gold went missing on November 10, 2019, after he was dropped at the church’s children’s department by his mother, Mrs. Modupe Kolawole.
The church of Prophet Alfa was razed down after his arrest when rumours filtered in that the corpse of the missing baby was exhumed from the church altar.
Baby Gold has never been found since 2019.