The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the life sentence handed down to a naval officer, Felix Olanrewaju Odunlami, who killed a commercial motorcyclist in Lagos in 2005.
The court also upheld the naval officer’s dismissal from service.
Odunlami had approached the Supreme Court to appeal the life sentence passed on him by the Court of Appeal, Lagos, as well as his dismissal by a General Court Martial.
Lieutenant Odunlami (with force number: NN2121) was travelling from the Lagos State Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja to Apapa on July 25, 2005 when, at the Allen Avenue Roundabout, Ikeja, a commercial motorcyclist, Peter Edeh, hit his car from behind.
The motorcyclist, Edeh, knelt down to beg Odunlami for forgiveness, but the naval officer ignored his plea, drew his pistol, and shot him (Edeh) in the mouth. Edeh died instantly.
The naval officer only escaped an imminent mob action because of the timely intervention of the police.
However, he (Odunlami) was on January 27, 2006 arraigned before a General Court Martial on three counts.
He was charged with manslaughter, loss of service item, for not being able to convincingly account for four rounds of 9mm live ammunition, and conduct to the prejudice of service discipline.
The offences were contrary to and punishable under sections 68(1)(a), 103(i) AFA 105 and 106 of the Armed Forces Act Cap A 20 laws of Nigeria.
At the conclusion of his trial in July 2006, the Court Martial convicted him on counts one and two, and sentenced him to life imprisonment for manslaughter and equally dismissed him from service on count two.
Odunlami ran to the Court of Appeal, Lagos, but the appellate court in its judgment on January 31, 2011, upheld the Court Martial’s decision and dismissed Odunlami’s appeal.
This prompted his appeal to the Supreme Court.
In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, the Supreme Court upheld the decisions of the General Court Martial and the Court of Appeal, Lagos.
The court held that the naval officer’s argument that he was provoked into murdering the motorcyclist lacked merit.
The court also held that the trial court could not exercise its discretion to give a lower sentence because under section 105 of the Armed Forces Act, on which the charge was based, the trial judge has no discretion, but to sentence the appellant to life imprisonment.
“The confirming authority confirmed the sentence of life imprisonment and dismissal from service of the Nigerian Navy.
“It further stripped the appellant of his rank and directed that he was not entitled to his financial entitlements.
“Was this sentence excessive? Dismissal means rejection, discarding.
“Once an officer is sentenced to life imprisonment and dismissed from services of the Armed Forces, it would be naïve of him to expect to be entitled to his entitlements. Dismissal and forfeiture of entitlement go together.
“The well laid down position of the law is that this court will not interfere with concurrent findings of the courts below, except where the findings are perverse or not supported by credible evidence, or where miscarriage of justice has occurred.
“The Court Martial did not believe the appellant’s narration of events, and I agree with both courts below that the appellant’s narration of events was wrong.
“The mob that descended on the appellant was attracted to the scene when the appellant shot the deceased. The appeal has no merit. It is hereby dismissed.”