The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, has upheld the judgement of a Lagos High Court which sentenced star actress and former beauty Queen, Ibinabo Fiberesima, to five years’ imprisonment for the death of one Dr Giwa Suraj.

The court dismissed the appeal filed by the star actress challenging the sentence which was handed down by Justice Deborah Oluwayemi for reckless driving which caused the death of one Dr. Giwa Suraj in an auto accident along the Lekki-Epe expressway, Lagos.

The deceased was a staff in one of the Lagos state’s hospitals.

In a unanimous decision delivered by Justice Jamilu Yammama Tukur, the court also dismissed the sentence of a Magistrate Court which had earlier awarded a N100, 000 fine on the actress.

The Appeal Court held that the Magistrate lacked the discretion to grant Ibinabo the option of a fine upon conviction.

Immediately, the judgment was delivered, Ibinabo who was visibly apprehensive throughout the proceeding burst into tears and wept furiously.

The court had earlier ordered that she must appear before it when judgement is to be delivered.

Speaking on the judgement, her lawyer, Nnaemeka Amaechina, said that the judgment would be challenged at the Supreme Court adding that a Notice of Appeal had already been filed.

Fiberesima had earlier been awarded a N100, 000 fine by an Igbosere Magistrate’s Court, but the then Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner of justice, Supo Sasore (SAN), felt unsatisfied with the judgement. This prompted the state government to take its case to the Lagos High Court.

At the Lagos High Court, Justice Oluwayemi set aside the option of fine imposed by the Magistrate’s Court and sentenced Fiberesima to five years’ imprisonment for dangerous and reckless driving.

In her judgment, Justice Oluwayemi held that the trial Magistrate exercised judicial recklessness when he gave the convict an option of fine.

The court held that the option of N100, 000 given to the convict did not serve the purpose of justice in the matter and subsequently ordered that the N100, 000 should be returned back to Ibinabo Fiberesima.

The court added that Section 28 of the Road Traffic Law clearly provides that where a reckless and dangerous driving has caused the death of a person, the accused person shall be guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment of seven years.

Dissatisfied, Fiberesima in her amended appellant brief filed by her lawyer, Nnaemeka Amaechina before the Court of Appeal urged the court to set aside the five-year sentence and restore the decision of the Magistrate Court.

Amaechina had argued that the Magistrate’s Court exercised its discretion properly and there was no ground to review it by the High Court.

He submitted that by virtue of the Notice of Increase in Jurisdiction of Magistrates, No. 7 of 2006, the trial Magistrate could only impose a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment or N100, 000.00 fine.

He added that N100, 000.00 fine is the maximum limit the trial Magistrate can impose as fine and that was what it imposed on the appellant.

In her response, counsel to Lagos State, Rotimi Odutola (Mrs.) argued that the law creating the offence of dangerous driving causing death has provided for a term of imprisonment as punishment for anyone convicted under section 28 hence the trial Magistrate ought not to exercise such arbitrary discretion to impose N100.000.00 as fine.

Odutola further submitted that the children of the deceased have been permanently deprived of the ‘’measureless contributions’’ of their father to their lives as a result of his death caused by the appellant.

She urged the court to uphold the judgement of the Lagos High Court and dismiss the appeal.

The Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command had in 2005 charged the ex-beauty queen [Fiberesima] to the magistrate court on a two-count charge of dangerous and reckless driving along Epe Expressway, Lagos which resulted to the death of Dr. Giwa Suraj.


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  1. Great thanks to the Nigerian justice system. The information we have is that she was drunk at the time of the road crash. As such, it was premeditated murder not accident. Besides, this seeming controversy, it is unfortunate that while the case was going on, instead of her exhibiting some sense of remorse, she was all over the place attending one social function or the other, visiting America etc and exhibiting such on the social media. I can imagine how the family of the man she killed would have felt while struggling with resources on how to survive because of the loss of a bread winner. Let us remove unnecessary sentiments from this issue, Ibinabo has not conducted herself well after the crash, perhaps thinking that the likely influenced judgement at the magistrate court will be upheld at the upper courts. Very big stars in America or Europe are not spared when they run into similar offences, they get imprisoned and it serves well for the society that none is above the law. Ibinabo was not sentenced to death or life time. Five years imprisonment is fair because in Nigeria’s constitution, it is a minimum of seven years that ought to stay in the gulag. Her imprisonment is a victory for the FRSC, road victims and all well meaning cum innocent road users in Nigeria. Her stay in prison will reform her and send the right message to the Nigerian public on how to use the road in a safe manner. When she comes out of prison, she will be a better road user and may work for road safety improvement as a worthy ambassador in her status a celebrity. For now, let her conduct herself properly in prison, write articles on road safety and offer assistance to the family of the deceased, perhaps in less than three years, NGOs walking for road safety in Nigeria may seek mercy for her release. As a star, she can help change the face of road safety in Nigeria. On the converse, as a Christian, I believe that her misconduct is highly forgivable but we cannot exclude the deceased family and the FRSC from this conversation. The right way to go is for her supporters to seek the involvement of a credible NGO to stand in the gap for her in a very humble manner and obtain pledges from Ibinabo and company that the direct dependants of the killed man will not suffer unnecessary hardship. It is really not appropriate for her colleagues to be all over the social media asking for mercy which may even be misconstrued as impunity because most of them are also guilty of similar misconduct. Indeed, road safety NGOs can plead with the court that Ibinabo’s conviction is commuted to community service on road safety for ten years but where she defaults, she goes back to jail. The truth is that she has a big role to play for road safety that could help save thousands of lives and improve our driving culture. After all, there will not be any real gain for the deceased family if Ibinabo is thrust into prison because Nigeria does not have any welfare package for road crash victims’ families. It is a deep psychological and financial wound that can be partially healed through proper articulation than the noisy manner it is being handled. Let Ibinabo seek an NGO that can help make positive contributions on her matter, build a bridge with the dead man’s family. assign her the task of championing, Don’t Drink and drive initiative, then stand ready to guarantee her future conduct on the roads. Ibinabo deserves a second chance, please!
    Angela Nwokolo
    Women go for Safety Initiative


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