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Update on the Case of Ibinabo Fiberesima – by Emeka Ugwuonye

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*The position of the family of the man that died in the accident

I shall hereunder provide you the full statement of Ms. Suraj Giwa, the sister of Dr. Giwa, who died in the accident caused by Ibinabo in 2006. I suggest you read her statement before you read my comment and analysis. 

Many people have been alerting me to the statement of Ms. Giwa and urging me to read it in order to form a better opinion about what happened and about how I should proceed with our planned intervention in favor of Ibinabo. Based on these urgings, I thought I would find in Ms. Giwa’s statements facts that might sway me in a different direction in my understanding of what happened.

However, upon reading the statement of Ms. Giwa, as moving as it is, I felt even stronger in my conviction that Ibinabo deserves more of our help and intervention rather than less of it. At the same time, I have the deepest respect for the family of Dr. Giwa and particularly his sister, who now lives in perpetual pain of his loss.

Now, read the full statement of Ms. Giwa. After that, read my analysis:

Emeka Ugwuonye

First of all, the case was between Lagos state Government Vs Ibinabo Fiberesima but not Giwa Vs Ibinabo Fiberesima (sic). On this faithful day of February 26, 2006 along the Lekki Epe Express way, my late brother Dr Giwa was driving with his brother and another family friend in his car coming from a meeting in Ajah, they were held up in a traffic around the evening time, when this tragic accident happened.

Ibinabo was driving towards Lekki while the late Dr Giwa was coming from the other direction facing towards Island, just by shop-rite, when ibinabo’s jeep flipped and lost control from her lane jumped over the culvert or pavement that demarcate the road from the oncoming vehicle.

The speed that skipped and flipped a jeep over the road demarcation will be considered ‘Reckless and Endangerment’ because the VIO dept checked the jeep brakes, the engine and all the mechanical and electrical of the jeep but the result shows nothing wrong with the jeep and confirm that the accident as due to ‘OVERSPEEDING’ in which the result was on record.

After the accident, Ibinabo left the scene of the accident without checking for any survivors, she took the license plate and registration out of the car and fled from the scene that was considered “HIT AND RUN”. The people at the scene of the accident recognized her as Ibinabo Febresima, and stated she was drunk.” Driving under Influence” of whatever she had.

The State Department of Transportation has to use the VIN number to locate the Owner of the jeep, in which the owner was Daniel Wilson. That was my very first time of hearing the name of Ibinabo Febresima. The Doctor died at the scene of the accident because the jeep was on top of the Honda accord driven by him and they couldn’t save him on time because of the seat belt and the weight of the jeep, the brother and the other family friend in that car had survived. Did she know the state of mind and the emotional instability of the people involved in that accident up till now, Ibinabo has never been in a Comma.

After all the evidences against her, with the result of the VIO by the State department of Transportation, The DPP office took over and charged her to court and she hired Festus Keyamo in which after reviewing the case he withdrew by saying he cannot represent her because it’s a bad case.

Doctor Giwa has a living mother for goodness sake, wife with 3 children, Ibinabo deprived him from seeing his children graduate from university and getting married, also from being the one to bury his mother at her old age, ‘Whereas no one ever prayed that on the day of their children’s success and happiness they should replace them with someone else’.

Ibinabo was never remorseful, they brought her to meet with me shortly after my brother’s death in GRA Ikeja before my return back to the USA, but her only concern then was to drop the charges against her. I told her that it’s not my family Vs her but the State Vs her, that where I come from in USA that we do not interfere with the justice system, that they should do their job and advise her to apologize publicly to the masses and to the family and throw herself to the mercy of the court.

She said and l quote “I CAN’T DO THAT, BECAUSE IS GOING TO DAMAGE MY CAREER” what an ego, she cannot apologize publicly, I feel like kicking her ass. She’s worried about her stupid career, What happened to the career of the Doctor, who happened to be a ‘MEDICAL DIRECTOR AND THE HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICAL REHABILITATION MEDICINE AT GENERAL HOSPITAL LAGOS.

People say there is no justice in Nigeria, but it does once in a while. The lower court magistrate O.A Isaac found her guilty with the option of 100,000.00 Naira, which is considered a judicial recklessness, 100k does not even buy an iPad, the life of someone does not worth more than 100k, so that people will take the liberty of committing crimes.

Later, Justice Deborah Oluwayemi of the High court found her guilty and overturn the option of fine and gave her 5 yrs in prison, she spent 3 weeks and came out on bail to go to Court of Appeal, however, how can a convicted person came out on bail, here in USA you will be in jail and they will transport you to and from each time you have an hearing. Finally Appeal court found her guilty and sentence her to 5 years in prison.

Let her face the wrath, it is said that you can run but can’t hide, it’s a law of Kama that catches up, this will serve as a deterrent to others. Who will believe after 10yrs she will still be slammed, The Family of the late Dr Giwa had moved on with our life’s, She was forgiven, it was very difficult and painful, but God gave us especially his mother and children the fortitude to bear the loss.

On behalf of our families and friends, we really thank the Lagos State Government, The attorney general Mr Sasore, DPP Mrs Odutola and colleagues, Justice Deborah Oluwayemi, Justice Jamilu Yammama Tukur, Justice U.I Udukwe-Anyawu and Justice Tijani Abubakar and everyone for their support, no evil shall befall anyone, as you all go out and come in, may God’s grace and protection abide with each and every one.

‘Justice at last’ !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Justice at last !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Justice is finally done !!!!!!!!!!!!.

“Ibinabo has never paid a dime to any family member of the late Dr Giwa as indicated by her friend’s, and if she did pay any family member, she needs to start mentioning names now”.

_____________________

MY BRIEF ANALYSIS:

I start off by reiterating my respect for Ms. Suraj Giwa. I admit that if I were in her shoes, I would see things exactly the way she sees them.

But when one goes over the entire statement without sentiments, the case is actually not as damning against Ibinabo as one would think. First, let’s try to deal with the emotions that are involved when one loses a family member. It is horrible. It is most painful. It is difficult to forgive anybody who has even the remotest involvement in the death of one’s family member.

However, going beyond the emotions, one must apply certain elements of law and logic to the facts of the case, even as narrated by the sister of the deceased. Because I know that if I continue with my efforts in this matter, I would probably be seeking an audience with Ms. Suraj Giwa, I will not doubt anything she said in her statement. I will accept all of it as true without an exception.

(1) It is clear that Ms. Giwa wants the person that caused the death of her brother to suffer the maximum possible pain. In this case, the pain of 5 years prison term is greater than the pain of paying fine. So, she prefers that greater pain to Ibinabo. She calls that justice, and she believes that justice is done. Assuming that that the likely appeal to the Supreme Court would result in the reversal of Ibinabo’s conviction, Ms. Giwa may not see that as justice. So her understanding of justice simply means the greatest possible pain to the person that caused the death of her brother. The meaning of justice, however, may be different than the maximum pain to your enemy.

(2) There was really no evidence that Ibinabo was drunk while driving the “Jeep”. Indeed, the story of Ms. Giwa implied that no witness that testified at trial actually have proof that Ibinabo was drunk while driving. The evidence if any was that they were not in a position to confirm her sobriety because she fled from the scene of the accident. So, the intoxication story was never in issue.

(3) The main case against Ibinabo was that she was speeding. That was not confirmed by an eyewitness, but by the Vehicle Inspection Officer (VIO). The VIO based his finding on the position that the vehicle driven by Ibinabo did not have mechanical or technical fault. So, he arrived at the conclusion of speeding by circumstantial evidence. But how reliable is this VIO’s finding? It is questionable because the VIO only saw the vehicle after he has summersaulted many times. Unlike airplanes that have black boxes that record and store the pre-accident information of the plane, a vehicle that went through an accident would not have any record of what it was like prior to the accident. So, the VIO finding is highly unreliable. And coming with the additional limitation that it was a mere circumstantial evidence, it ought not to have been admitted or if admitted, it ought not to have been accorded such high weight.

(4) It cannot be true that any lawyer who rejected a case would inform the opposite parties the reason for rejecting a case, where such reason is of adverse merit to the party that sought his help. So, the story that Festus Keyamo informed the Giwa family his reason for refusing to represent Ibinabo and that such reason was that the case was too bad, was wrong in many ways. If Keyamo said that, it would be unethical on his part to do that to a party that came to him for him. Second, we know as a fact that Keyamo does not refuse to take a case because it is bad. Keyamo has represented people charged with terrorism offenses. So, it is highly unlikely that he would reject an accident case just because it was bad. There could have been other reasons. Ibinabo might have changed her mind on using Keyamo. But assuming that Keyamo committed such unethical act, that would never have featured as a factor before the court.

(5) There is also the allegation that Ibinabo fled from the scene without caring about the people wounded by her car. Of course, fleeing from the scene of accident is a crime. But there are two things here. First, in dealing with the wrongful death of Dr. Giwa, you must focus on what happen to cause his death, and not what happened after that thing. Fleeing after the scene of accident is never the cause of the accident. That may be considered in other respects, but not for the purpose of telling whether the event was accidental, negligent, or reckless. 

Second, if it was true that the vehicle driven by Ibinabo summersaulted at extreme speed so many times to the point of flipping over, then it would be proper to wonder what Ibinabo’s state of mind was right after she exited from the vehicle that flipped over many times and was badly smashed up, one must imagine. It will be illogical to see her in that state and assume that she was action rationally and knowingly.

(6) There was also the allegation that she removed the registration plate numbers of the vehicle and fled with them. Again, that would not be consistent with the story of the nature if the accident and the locates of the cars. If Ibinabo’s vehicle was on top of the other vehicle as narrated by Ms. Giwa, Ibinabo would have to stand and stretch to a significant height to remove the registration plates. But we all know that she would have needed some tool in order to do so. And she would be doing that at the same time as bystanders were struggling to pull people out of the wreckage. 

Again that is not likely to be how it could have happened. If Ibinabo really left the scene of the accident with the plant numbers of her vehicle, it must be because those plate numbers detached from her vehicle as it summersaulted. In that case, she merely picked up things lying around and fled. She would not have had the presence of mind to plan mischief. Even if she did, how would we rule out the fact that she might have been scared for her life.

(7) Now, you can go further and consider all the other things such as the things that Ibinabo was alleged to have said. For instance, the idea that she was asking for the charges to be dropped. Let us assume that at the point this conversation occurred, lawyer were already involved and Ibinabo was already being represented by a lawyer. If that is true, Ibinabo’s view and statements at that time would mirror what her lawyer must have advised her to be the right way to think. So, you cannot use that really to determine remorse or lack thereof. Parties were at that point in fairly technical positions.

(8) The idea that Ibinabo refused to publicly apologize for an act that was pending in court as a criminal act is also understandable. That would amount to pleading guilty in the street and just after your lawyer has advised you to plead not guilty in court. To apologize while the case was still pending would amount to admission of guilt and a sure way for her to get convicted unless there was an arrangement that the charges would be dropped if she were to apologize. So, again, even if that was the case, her position on that must have been one guided by her lawyers. And of course, if she confessed and got convicted, it would ruin anybody’s career. Such factual statement should not be taken to mean that she preferred her career over the life of Dr. Giwa.

(9) The family of Giwa suffered incalculable loss. There is no need to downplay their grief. That is not what this is about at this time. It is about a complex issue of crimes, evidence, fairness of justice system and adequacy of punishment. The human civilization has gone beyond the point of an-eye-for-an-eye.

(10) Yesterday, one of our members, a professor of law, Professor Solomon Ukhuegbe, presented a very interesting analysis of law. Among many points he made, he observed quite correctly that where there is no minimum sentence for an offense, the judge is within his discretion to impose a sentence with an option of fine. If we take that as the correct position of the law, then the first sentence against Ibinabo which had an option of fine would be justice and should have remained the justice of the case, had the state not shown an excessive desire to achieve imprisonment as the only acceptable sentence.

Emeka Ugwuonye

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