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Court acquits nurse in case of house help burnt to death

By Jane Echewodo

An Ikeja High Court, yesterday, discharged and acquitted a 55-year-old nurse, Nkese Iroakasi, charged with the murder of a minor (name withheld).

Delivering the judgment, Justice Raliatu Adebiyi, said the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the deceased died as a result of the defendant’s action.

She ruled: “The defendant, Nkese Iroakasi, is hereby found not guilty of the one count charge of murder preferred against her. She is hereby discharged and acquitted and shall be released forthwith from custody.”

The Police had alleged that Iroakasi committed the offence at her Adeniran Ogunsanya Street residence in Surulere, Lagos, on July 27, 2013.

The prosecution also said Iroakasi had, on same date, set the minor ablaze over an allegation that she stole a piece of meat.

Mrs. R. O. Ahmed-Muili, the prosecuting counsel, said the deceased was Iroakasi’s relative brought to Lagos from their village in Akwa Ibom State to work as her housekeeper.

Ahmed-Muili also said Iroakasi ran to the street to call for help after she saw that the fire she had set on the deceased had gone out of hand.

The prosecuting counsel had said it took the intervention of passers-by to put off the flame from the victim’s body.

Ahmed-Muili said further that the deceased died due to the first degree burn she sustained as a result of the fire, adding that the victim spent 10 days in Gbagada General Hospital, Lagos.

The judge

Adebiyi, however, noted that the evidence presented before the court by the prosecution was not strong enough to secure a conviction of the nurse.

She said: “All the prosecution witnesses were not eyewitnesses to the murder, so none of them saw how the deceased sustained her injuries. The defendant did not make any confessional statement.

“The statement of the defendant tendered in the court, dated July 29, 2013 and August 8, 2013, did not contain a confession by the defendant.

“The evidence before the court was circumstantial and cannot fetch any conviction. Evidence to ground a guilty conviction must be positively unequivocal to lead to the conclusion that it was the accused that committed the offence.”

The judge also noted that there were inconsistencies in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses about the deceased’s ‘dying declaration’ that it was Iroakasi that set her ablaze.

She said: “The law requires a dying declaration to be certain. The court finds in this instance that the deceased calling for ‘mummy’ or ‘Iya mi’ does not qualify as a dying declaration.”

The prosecution presented five witnesses, including a security guard, a passer-by, two Police officers and a medical doctor.

The prosecuting counsel had said that the offence against Iroakasi contravened Section 221 of the Criminal Law of Lagos, 2011.

Iroakasi had, however, denied the allegations of the prosecution when she opened her defence, adding that it was the victim that set herself ablaze while playing with kerosene stove in the kitchen.

She said: “I was lying down and resting in the living room, because I was due for night shift at work. I heard a loud noise from the direction of the kitchen and Eno, who was on fire, ran into the living room and into the street, while I cried for help.”

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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