Manslaughter: Appeal Court reserves judgment in Ibinabo’s petition against jail sentence

The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos on Thursday reserved judgement in an appeal by Nollywood actress, Ibinabo Fiberesima, challenging a jail term handed her by a Lagos High Court.

Ibinabo was sentenced to a term of five years imprisonment by Justice Deborah Oluwayemi of a Lagos High Court for reckless driving and causing death.

She was alleged to have recklessly driven a car, belonging to Daniel Wilson, which resulted to an auto accident along the Lekki-Epe expressway, causing the death of a medical doctor, Dr Giwa Suraj.

A Magistrate Court (court of first instance) had earlier given the appellant an option of N100,000 fine for the offence which the former beauty queen paid instantly.

The judgment of the magistrate was, however, set aside by the High Court, which replaced the option of fine with a jail term.

Dissatisfied, Fiberesima had filed an appeal through her lawyer, Nnaemeka Amaechina, urging the court to set aside the five year sentence.

The appellate court, presided by Justice U.I. Ndukwe-Anyanwu, on Thursday reserved judgment after counsel had adopted their written addresses.

Adopting the brief on Thursday, Amaechina 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 Increased 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 was the maximum limit a trial Magistrate can impose as fine and that was what it imposed on the appellant.

In her response, counsel to Lagos State, Rotimi Odutola, argued that the law creating the offence of dangerous driving causing death provided for a term of imprisonment.

Odutola argued that the trial Magistrate ought not to have exercised such arbitrary discretion as to impose N100,000 as fine.

She submitted that the children of the deceased have been permanently deprived of the “immeasurable contributions” of their father to their lives.

She urged the appellate court to uphold the judgement of the Lagos High Court and dismiss the appeal.

After listening to arguments from counsel, the appellate court reserved judgment.

The court also directed that the appellant (Fiberesima), who was not in court, should appear in court when judgement is to be delivered.

“The date for judgment will be communicated to parties,” the court held.

It will be recalled that Justice Oluwayemi had held that the Magistrate exercised judicial recklessness when he gave the convict an option of fine.

The court noted that the trial Magistrate must have misdirected himself based on the allocutus made by the counsel to the convict that she is a working mother.

Oluwayemi had held that Sections 28 of the Traffic Law on which the accused was convicted does not give an option of fine.

She had held that when a term of imprisonment is mandatory for an offence, the court cannot and should not give an option of fine.

She had held that the fine did not serve the purpose of justice in the matter and subsequently ordered that the N100,000 be returned to the appellant.