In a landmark judgment delivered by the Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja on Thursday, commercial bus driver Elijah Shokoya was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for the manslaughter of a Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) officer, Olawale Akinmade. Justice Oyindamola Ogala handed down the sentence after concluding that the prosecution, representing the Lagos State Government, had established beyond reasonable doubt the one-count charge of manslaughter against Shokoya.

The incident in question occurred on Wednesday, January 27, 2012, when Shokoya, driving a blue and black Opel space bus with the number plate AAA 74 GG, knocked down Akinmade who was on duty controlling traffic. The LASTMA officer suffered fatal injuries to his head and body as a result. This tragic event took place at the Demurin Street junction, heading towards the Mile 12 area of Lagos, in contravention of Section 224 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015, which is punishable under Section 229.

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The trial of Shokoya began with his arraignment on June 23, 2021, where he pleaded not guilty to the charge of manslaughter. However, after thorough examination of the evidence, Justice Ogala found the prosecution’s case compelling. In her judgment, she emphasized the legal burden on the prosecution in criminal cases to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.

Justice Ogala stated, “The prosecution has established beyond reasonable doubt that the deceased died, that the unlawful acts of the defendant caused the death of the deceased, and that the acts of the defendant which eventually caused the death of the deceased were with the knowledge that injury or grievous bodily harm was the probable consequence.” This assertion was based on the comprehensive evidence presented during the trial.

Key testimonies played a pivotal role in the court’s decision. A primary witness for the prosecution, Aderonke Malik, provided a detailed account of the incident. She testified that she witnessed Shokoya pushing the deceased in front of his vehicle. Despite her frantic efforts to get Shokoya to stop the car, he continued driving until Akinmade was knocked down. Malik’s testimony was crucial in establishing the sequence of events that led to Akinmade’s death.

Furthermore, the testimony of the Investigating Police Officer, who provided direct evidence of her observations and findings, reinforced the prosecution’s case. Justice Ogala noted, “The Court, therefore, finds that the evidence cannot be faulted as suggested by the defence in this instance.” She clarified that the standard of proof in criminal cases does not require absolute certainty but must reach a high degree of probability.

Justice Ogala underscored, “Proof beyond reasonable doubt is not proof beyond every shadow of a doubt. The degree of proof amounting to reasonable doubt need not reach certainty, but it will carry a high degree of probability. Once the ingredients of the offence the accused is charged with are proved, that constitutes proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and for him to be entitled to the benefit of the doubt, the doubt must be a genuine and reasonable one arising from some evidence before the Court.”

After evaluating all the evidence and testimonies, the court found Shokoya guilty of the charge of involuntary manslaughter. Justice Ogala concluded, “The Honourable Court, therefore, finds the Defendant Guilty of the One Count charge of Involuntary Manslaughter he stands faced with and is accordingly convicted. I hereby sentence the defendant to 12 years imprisonment from the day of judgment.”

This judgment highlights the court’s commitment to ensuring justice for victims of reckless actions leading to death. It also serves as a stern warning to drivers and the public about the severe consequences of negligent and unlawful behavior on the roads. The conviction of Elijah Shokoya is not just a victory for the family of the deceased officer but also a reaffirmation of the rule of law and the importance of accountability in society.

The Lagos State Government, through its successful prosecution of this case, has demonstrated its dedication to upholding justice and maintaining public safety. The hope is that this judgment will deter similar offenses in the future and promote a culture of responsibility and respect for life among drivers and other road users.