A Lagos State High Court sitting in Eti-Osa has sentenced a boat captain, Happiness Elebiju, to life imprisonment following the July 29, 2020 death of 13 of his passengers while he was operating from an illegal jetty.
Justice Josephine Oyefeso convicted Elebiju on an 11-count charge of manslaughter and six months imprisonment for operating his boat without a license.
The judge held that the prosecution successfully proved the charges against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.
The boat mishap occurred at about 5:45pm on July 29, 2020, on the Kirikiri waterways in Lagos when the defendant’s boat conveying 20 passengers capsized, killing 13 persons including two children.
The boat loaded its passengers from Kirikiri, heading to Badagry.
Elebiju pleaded not guilty at his arraignment by the Lagos State Government in 2020. During trial, the then Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mrs Olayinka Adeyemi (now a judge of the Lagos State High Court), called five witnesses that testified against the defendant.
The prosecution’s case was that Elebiju sailed his boat, with the inscription “Mount Zion Transport” recklessly and dangerously causing the death of the 13 passengers.
But, protesting his innocence, Elebiju on March 18 filed a no-case submission through his counsel, Mr Samuel Ogungbamila. The lawyer argued that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against the defendant. He prayed the court to strike out the charge.
On March 29, 2021, Justice Oyefeso upheld the DPP’s argument countering Elebiju’s application. The judge ruled that the defendant had a case to answer.
She held: ‘I have considered the totality of the evidence deduced and I find that there are many questions begging for answers. The defendant indeed does have a case to answer. I overrule the no-case submission and call on the defendant to open his case.’
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