DRUG TRAFFICKING: ACTRESS WUNMI WEEPS IN COURT
A popular actress, Hassanat Taiwo Akinwande (a.k.a. Wunmi), wept profusely on Tuesday when her trial for alleged cocaine trafficking commenced. Despite her emotions in the dock, the actress was remanded in prison custody. Hassanat was arraigned before Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed of a Federal High Court in Lagos by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency on a one-count charge of possessing 1.214 kilogrammes of cocaine.
She was brought to the court around 10.10am in an unmarked Peugeot 504 station wagon. As soon as she alighted from the court, the actress, who looked frail, quickly pulled a veil over her head.
Her action elicited instant protest from journalists, who requested the NDLEA officials to order her to remove the veil.
With the veil off, cameras clicked and television crew struggled to capture the image of one of the characters in Feyikogbon, a Yoruba television programme that promotes moral values.
Indeed, it was a moment her sorrow deepened. Not even her fans and colleagues in the Yoruba home video industry were around to give her hope.
But looking a bit relaxed when she walked into the court room, Hassanat, said to be one of the scandal -free artistes in the Nollywood, listened to a ruling on another matter by Mohammed.
Immediately after the ruling, her case was called and she walked calmly to the witness box. Standing as the proceeding was about to start, she gave in to emotion and started sobbing.
At a stage, she brought out a white handkerchief to wipe off her tears.
When directed to take her pleas and asked if she understood English Language, the actress claimed she could not.
Her lawyer, Mr. B. O. Ndakara, quickly stood up and said that her client could only communicate in Yoruba.
Mohammed then directed the court's registrar to interpret the charge to her.
At this point, she burst out in tears again.
The judge, looking directly at her said, “Pull yourself together. You don't need to be hysteric at this stage. Stop crying and speak louder.”
The charge was consequently read to Hassanat and she replied, ” Mi o jebi, Sir” ( I am not guilty).
The NDLEA Director of Prosecution and Legal Services, Mr. Femi Oloruntoba, said since the accused had taken the pleas, he would ask for a short adjournment.
Oloruntoba also urged the court to remand the actress in prison custody. The request was granted.
Hassanat's counsel did not oppose the NDLEA's oral application.
The actress will remain at the Ikoyi Prison till Thursday when the matter will come up again.
Hassanat had allegedly excreted 92 wraps of cocaine after the NDLEA operatives arrested her at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Ikeja, Lagos on September 23, 2006.
The offence is contrary to Section 10h of the NDLEA Amendment Act 15 of 1992.
The one-count charge against her reads, “That you Hassanat Taiwo Akinwande, female, adult on or about September 23, 2006 during the outward clearance of Virgin Atlantic flight VS652 to London at the MMA within the jurisdiction of this honourable court without lawful authority knowingly possessed 1.214 kilogrammes of cocaine and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 10h of the NDLEA Amendment Act.”