- Ex-beauty queen and actress Ibibabo Fiberesima is sent to prison
- The lady was convicted of manslaughter: she killed a man on a Lagos road ten years ago
It was ten years ago, precisely February 26, 2006, and I remember it just like yesterday. It was a serene Sunday afternoon. Lekki, the affluent part of Lagos was in the midst of an unprecedented development.
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The Lekki-Epe Expressway was witnessing unusual and frequent mishaps.
The long, winding road just could not cope with the upsurge in vehicular traffic. Drivers who were mostly new money and revelers were daily crashing their expensive cars into people and road barriers with devastating consequences. Accidents were rife. Lives were being lost.
At the time, ghastly accidents caused by reckless driving made the road one of the most dangerous in Lagos. As a Lekki resident, I had been alarmed at the recklessness that had characterized driving on the expressway.
It was in the midst of my apprehension that the ex-beauty queen and actress, Ibinabo Fibreresima, was involved in an accident that is now sending her life and career as a professional entertainer crashing.
The accident has also left the family of Dr Suraj Giwa without a bread winner.
How it happened
The account of the accident has been told differently in the last ten years. But one reoccurring fact had been that Ibinabo had recklessness caused the death of a Nigerian.
The one account which according to the prosecutors had led to the untimely death of the Dr Giwa is the incontrovertible evidence used to convict Fiberesima. On the afternoon of the fateful day, Dr Giwa was said to be visiting relatives in Lekki.
Fiberesima had been driving on the other side of the road. All of sudden, her car was said to have veered dangerously off the road and headed in the direction of Dr Giwa. The aftermath had been fatal. Dr Giwa was said to have died on the spot.
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The accident was put down to reckless driving fueled by drinking binge. According to eye-witness account, Ibinabo seemed to have been completely inebriated as she could not even recognize that an accident had happened in which she was involved. She was said to have been reeking of alcohol or some other substance.
Miscarriage of Justice
After the accident, a Lagos magistrate court had sentenced Fiberesima to five years jail term with an option fine of N100,000 which she had promptly paid.
But the prosecution had appealed the case in a High Court which set aside the earlier judgment by the Magistrate Court. Ibinabo lawyer took her case to the Appeal Court which made a pronouncement on Friday 11, 2016.
In its judgement, the Appeal Court upheld the judgment of the High Court which had ruled that she be sent to prison without an option of fine. Ibinabo has again appealed to the Supreme Court but in the meantime, she will have to contend with the judgment of the Appeal Court.
In giving his judgment, the judge had condemned the decision of the magistrate court in what he called reckless application of justice which gave Ibinabo an option of fine in a manslaughter case that deserved the maximum sentence. In sentencing Ibinabo, Justice Oluwayemi had averred:
“The nature of the offence is so grave that I do not know how he (the magistrate) came about an option of fine. Justice is a three-way affair.
“N100,000 fine is not a reasonable judgment for someone who has taken the life of another person.
“I hereby set aside the judgment of the magistrate’s court and impose five years imprisonment on the convict. I also order that the N100,000 fine paid by the convict should not be returned to her."
As the matter was being determined at the court, the widow of the late Dr. Suraj Giwa, Mrs. Olufunke Giwa, had instituted a N200 million suit against, Ibinabo, and musician, Daniel Wilson, the owner of the car that had caused the death of her husband.
At the time, Ibinabo had been convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years imprisonment by a Magistrate’s Court sitting in Lagos, but given an option of fine.
Dr. Giwa’s widow, however, in the fresh suit, claimed the sum of N200 million as damages for wrongful act, neglect of the defendants, which resulted into the death of her husband.
Olufunke Giwa had contended in the suit that the defendants are jointly responsible for the death of her late husband.
According to her, as a result of the death of her husband, she and her children have undergone pain and suffering.
She had stated: “The deceased as bread winner of his family was fully responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the claimant (his wife), his aged mother Alhaja Afusat Giwa and his three children. He had promised would be educated up till doctorate level in the United Kingdom or United State of America.
“In order to give his children the best education, the deceased sent them to the United Kingdom to school and was preparing for their entry into universities when he died.”
After the decision of the Appeal Court, many Nigerians had gone online to express their satisfaction with the judgment.They had condemned the judgment of the lower court which they believed was insensitive to the feelings of the Dr Giwa’s family.
Was Ibinabo insensitive?
Many Nigerians have also condemned the actress for what they see as insensitivity on her own part. In the years since the accident, Ibinabo has been seen hugging the limelight as if nothing had happened. She was said to have carried on without a care.
At a time, she was even embroiled in the politics of her professional group, the Actors Guild of Nigeria which she later headed.
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Ibinabo was also fully involved in the politics of 2015 where she rallied Nollywood to campaign and support the candidacy of former president Goodluck Jonathan.
This was a time when a manslaughter charge was still pending at the court. Nigerians had reasoned that for a woman who had caused the death of someone and the family of victims still in pain, she could have kept a low profile. This would have portrayed her as being remorseful.
That is why the overwhelming opinion among Nigerians was that she deserved a stiffer penalty for taking someone’s life so recklessly.
The Ibinabo saga is a stark reminder of the menace of road accidents in Nigeria which is said to be among the worst globally.
Every day, lives are lost on our roads due to recklessness caused by drunk driving and other factors.
Perhaps the sentencing of Ibinabo will send a strong signal to reckless motorists to drive carefully. Certainly, we need some sanity on our roads.