A High Court sitting in Oyo State has sentenced a 37-year-old man, Adeyemi Morenikeji, to death for the murder of Racheal Ayanwale, his former boss’ wife and a staff of Federal School of Surveying Oyo.
In his confessional statement when paraded at the Oyo State police command headquarters, Eleyele, Ibadan, in April 2019, Morenikeji, a truck driver and former employee of the Ayanwale family, had said he lured the woman out of her office under the pretext of helping her to seek spiritual solution to her marital problems.
He said he strangled the 51-year-old on their way to a spiritual house, dumped her body by the river side and went away with her Pontiac Vibe vehicle with registration number KJA 67 CY.
The convict was arrested by operatives of the police on April 18, 2019, at Sango-Ota, Ogun State.
The judgment, in the case of The State vs Aderemi Morenikeji, was pronounced on July 16, 2021, with two-count charge preferred against the accused in a suit with charge number HOY/IC/2020.
The presiding judge, Justice Adenike Adeeyo, sentenced Morenikeji to 14 years imprisonment with hard labour on a Count Two of robbing the deceased of her Pontiac Vibe car with registration number Lagos KJA 67 CY, its particulars, as well as her Itel and Nokia phones on the day she was murdered.
Delivering the 60-page judgment, the judge read the offence the accused was said to have committed, and the change he later made in his initial confessional statement to the police during investigation, with the claim that he wrote the statement under duress and torture.
But Adeeyo said that with his initial statement, those of prosecution witnesses, and the result of post mortem by a pathologist, it was evident that the accused committed the act.
Count One of the charge: “That you, Aderemi Morenikeji on or about 21st day of April, 2019 at about 1400hrs, between Schol of Surveying and Awe Road, Oyo in the Oyo Judicial Division murdered one Racheal Oyewumi Ayanwale (female) by strangulation and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 316 and punishable under Section 319 of the Criminal Code, Cap 38, Vol. II Laws of Oyo State of Nigeria 2000.”
Count Two: “That you, Aderemi Morenikeji on or about the 11th day of April, 2019 at Awe Road, Oyo in the Oyo Judicial Division having strangulated and murdered one Racheal Oyewumi Ayanwale (female) robbed her Vibe Pontiac car with registration number Lagos KJA 67 CY valued at N1,720,000 (One Million, Seven Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 401 and punishable under Section 402 of the Criminal Code Cap 38, Vol. II Laws of Oyo State of Nigeria 2000.”
The witnesses’ list included the husband of the deceased, Sunday Ayanwale; her daughter, Peace; ASP Adetunji Adeniran; Sgt Adebayo Ojo; Dr Adeyemo Owoeye and Monsurat Ayanpeju Amoo.
Exhibits tendered included the defendant’s statement, Vibe Pontiac car with registration number Lagos KJA 67 CY, Itel cell phone, Nokia cell phone, medical report, photographs and call logs.
After reading the judgment, the judge said: “The defendant is guilty of stealing the vehicle and phone of Mrs Ayanwale. From the totality of evidence before the court, the defendant is guilty of Counts 1 and 2 as charged.”
After being asked to make a plea, the defendant pleaded for mercy, saying that he had no justification for what he did and had no one that could help him.
The defence counsel, B.A. Oyelami, also appealed to the court to temper justice with mercy, as the defendant’s father is aged and he also has many children to take care of.
However, prosecution counsel, Kayode Babalola, asked the court to note the demeanour of the defendant from the beginning, to know whether he was sober, and added that the court could not go out of the prescribed punishment for someone who committed murder.
After the pleas, Adeeyo pronounced the judgment:
“The defendant is guilty on Count Two for robbing Mrs Ayanwale of her Vibe Pontiac car and is hereby sentenced to the maximum of 14 years imprisonment with hard labour.
“In Count One, I considered the allocutus of the defendant and his counsel pleading for mercy. Unfortunately, the court does not have discretion in the sense that if the law says it is death, you cannot reduce it. Consequently, the defendant, Adeyemi Morenikeji, is guilty as charged for murder, and is hereby sentenced to death.”
The judge also ordered that “the Vibe Pontiac car with registration number Lagos KJA 67 CY belonging to late Mrs Racheal Ayanwale be released forthwith to the husband, Mr Sunday Ayanwale with two phones, and the particulars of the vehicle.”
Giving an insight into how the murder was perpetrated, the then state commissioner of police in the state, Shina Olukolu, said the deceased received a phone call from Morenikeji at about 2:00pm on April 11, 2019, while at her place of work.
The woman was said to have dropped her bag with her colleague and stepped out to meet Morenikeji.
Olukolu said it was the last time she was seen alive, as the convict allegedly killed her and her mobile phone lines became unreachable.