Puzzle as convicted Nollywood actress escapes prison custody


By TINA AKANNAM, Dutse

•She was aided internally -  Comptroller

PRISON officials at the Hadejia Prisons in Jigawa State are still battling to unravel the circumstances surrounding the ‘mysterious’ disappearance from custody, of a convicted Nollywood actress, Rabi Ismaila. The Kano -based actress said to have made her marks in Hausa home videos is popularly called Rabi Cecilia by her numerous fans.

But she was reportedly sentenced to death by hanging in 2005 by a Kano High Court for the alleged murder of her boyfriend. Vanguard gathered that the actress whose whereabout could not be ascertained may have been aided by some prisons warders to flee custody.

Corroborating the speculations, the Jigawa state comptroller of Prison, revealed that when he was told of the escape on December 15, 2011 without breaking the walls or digging a long underground tunnel, he concluded that the prisoner must have been aided internally. ‘I just told the officer in charge of the prison that it is a clear inside plot because there was no way the actress could have escaped from the Hadejia prison without the help of an insider.

What I did immediately was to interrogate all the prison wardens on duty when it was discovered that the six prison warders on duty including three female warders may have collaborated and aided her to escape” However, sources said the state police command has since swung into action with a view to tracking down the fleeing prisoner.


Rabi Ismaila

Describing the escape as “unfortunate” the comptroller assured that all those involve in the escape of the prisoner will be brought to book, adding that his men were already working around the clock to ensure that the escapee was rounded up wherever she was hiding.

Interestingly, sources said Rabi’s escape from prison, was discovered when a prison warden went on the usual roll call in the morning on the December 16,2011 and discovered that she was not on her bed.

She subsequently raised an alarm that the actress prisoner had escaped. This was about six months after the Nigerian apex court upheld the verdict of the two lower courts that she should die by hanging in July last year.

Actress Rabi Ismail 39, was convicted on 5 January 2005.

It would be recalled that the actress, in 2002 was arraigned before a Kano High Court for culpable homicide contrary to Section 221(b) of the Penal Code. The case dragged on till January 5, 2005, when Justice Haliru Mohammed Abdullahi pronounced her guilty of the charge.

She was convicted of killing Ibrahim by luring him to a picnic at Tiga Dam, where she poisoned him with chocolate and drowned him. While delivering the lead judgment, Justice Haliru said the court was convinced beyond reasonable doubt that Rabi, a Hausa film actress, committed the act.

Quoting Rabi’s confessional statement, the judge noted that before pushing Auwalu into the dam, Rabi had removed the sum of N10,000.00 from his pocket. “Circumstantial evidence before the court also adduced that the convict was guilty…” the judge stated, while averring that all evidence in possession of the court pointed convincingly to the fact that Rabi committed the offence, on which basis she was sentenced to death. Justice Haliru noted that the evidence of each of the nine witnesses that testified in the court corroborated the others.

According to those close to her, the convict even remonstrated against her younger sister who was crying profusely at the court premises over the death sentence. “I am ashamed of you. What is it after all? With or without the sentence, death is an inevitable end for all human beings.

“Don’t cry for me because everyone will die one day,” Rabi reportedly said. Even moves by her colleagues to plead on her behalf for state pardon were not encouraged by Rabi. She was said to have insisted that she was conscious of the crime she committed and was ready to pay for it.

After that judgement, not many people knew that Rabi’s lawyer had convinced her to appeal the High Court judgement; which she did. But the Appeal Court sitting in Kaduna and presided over by Justice Alkali Ba’aba also in 2008 upheld the High Court judgement that sentenced Rabi to death by hanging.

In the judgement of the apex court delivered by Justice Francis Fedode Tabai, the court noted that the actress was charged with culpable homicide. The supreme court after examining the alleged confessional statements of the accused actress Rabi Ismail as well as the witnesses’ depositions and the records of trial within trial, it did not see any reason to interfere with the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal which concurrently found Ismail guilty of culpable homicide. The court consequently affirmed and upheld the death sentence already passed on the actress by the two lower courts in July last year.

The lead judgement prepared by Justice Francis Fedode Tabai, the apex court noted that the accused person failed to place sufficient evidence capable of convincing it that she did not murder her deceased boyfriend on December 25, 2002.

And that having examined the confessional statements of the accused, the depositions of all the witnesses that were called in the matter, as well as records of trial within trial earlier conducted by the lower courts, it did not see any reason to interfere with the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal which concurrently found Ismail guilty of culpable homicide. Therefore, the 7-man panel of jurists found her guilty as charged and accordingly okayed her death sentence.

The court consequently affirmed and upheld the death sentence already passed on the actress by the two lower courts in July last year.

Actress Rabi Ismaila, popularly called Rabi Cecilia by her fans, was said to be haughty and ruthless. A well-known figure at the alleged notorious Abedi Street of Sabon Gari, Kano, where she lived as a prostitute, it is said that she adopted the name Cecilia in a brothel where she hawked sex.

A single mother of two, she was widely believed to have acquired spiritual powers and people were cautious about saying bad things about her.

Rabi was said to be a no-nonsense woman, she was also influential, even among politicians. She was pretty and had lots of money to throw about which she reportedly got from her male friends and the chain of businesses she manages in the transportation sector.

Street urchins popularly called Yandaba in the north were very loyal to her because she gave them lots of money and they were always ready to deal ruthlessly with anyone whom she ordered them to do. Rabi was known to control the men around her because of her beauty.

Even as an actress, Rabi was a restless lady. She was known for her absence when they were on shooting locations. She also manipulated great influence when she was active in the Hausa film industry. Reports say she dodged being registered in Kannywood and snobbed several threats of expulsion by the leadership of Kannywood.

As an actress, her acquaintances said she had a habit of quarrelling with others even when on locations which was the reason why most of her female colleagues avoided her and because of her queer habits.

Perhaps that was why when the news reached her colleagues that she had murdered her boyfriend, none of them expressed surprise, because they knew what she could do.
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