Nigerian Court Sentences Three Masqueraders to Death

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Trio of African cult leaders convicted of pastor’s murder.

by Obed Minchakpu

LAGOS, March 10 (Compass) -- On February 28, a Nigerian court sentenced three men to death for killing a Christian pastor and attacking worshippers at his the church seven years ago.

On December 21, 1996, Rev. Oluwatosin Olajide, pastor of the Baiyeku Apostolic Church in the Ikorodu district of Lagos city, was attacked and murdered by the three masquerading men, adherents of a sect related to the traditional African religion Igunnuko, while preaching to his congregation.

Idowu Shobowale, Kabiru Omolade and Olabisi Lasisi then attacked the members of the church, injuring several people and destroying valuable church property.

During the trial, the prosecution presented evidence showing that the accused, all leaders of the animist sect, carried out the attack in order to dislodge the church and forcibly seize the property to build a shrine. Before the court, the three masqueraders confessed to the attack on the church.

The rapid spread of Christianity in southern Nigeria displeases some followers of traditional African religions, often resulting in outbreaks of violence between animists and Christians.

Upon delivering his ruling, Justice James Oduneye of the Ikeja High Court said the prosecution had established the guilt of the defendants.

“In order to sustain a charge of murder, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the deceased has died, that the death of the deceased resulted from the acts of the accused person and that the act of the accused person was intentional with knowledge that death or grievous bodily harm was its probable consequence,” Oduneye stated.

“I believe the claims of the prosecution that these three masqueraded themselves, went into the church premises, invaded the church, attacked the worshippers and killed the pastor. I am of the view that all three accused persons are guilty as charged,” he said.

Oduneye sentenced Idowu, Kabiru and Olabisi to death by hanging. The condemned men are being held at the Kirikiri prison in Lagos awaiting execution.