Maryam: Killing in the name of love

The killing of Bilyamin Bello, a 36 year old estate developer by his wife, Maryam Sanda last Saturday, underscores the rise of crime of passion in Nigeria. In this report, ENE OSANG reveals new facts about the couple and how the nephew of former Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) National Chairman, was killed by his wife.

The story is as bizarre as they come, like a scene from a horror movie or a crime of passion television series. A young, rich and beautiful lady who stabs her husband to death out of jealousy is a common theme of Hollywood scripts. However, the crime was perpetrated in Nigeria and the dramatis personae were real and not movie actors.

Last Saturday, Maryam Sanda stabbed her husband Bilyamin Bello, a 36 year old estate developer, with a knife and before long, the gory images have gone viral. Since then, the murder, motive for the killing and the several attempted homicides involving the couple, have been unfolding all through the week. From all indications, more details will still be revealed about this stranger-than-fiction killing.

The mustard seed
The seed of last Saturday’s murder was sown in far away Borno state, about three decades ago. According to reports, Maryam’s father was an Immigration officer at Izge, a village close to Gwoza. Sources say he met Maimuna, a very pretty young food seller in Maiduguri, at a restaurant near Galadima junction.

At that time, Maimuna had just finished secondary school and an uncertain future was ahead of her. One thing led to the another and Sanda married Maimuna but he encouraged his bride to further her education.

Thereafter, she got admission into the University of Maiduguri(UNIMAID), where she studied Accounting, according to sources. The marriage was blessed with two girls and a boy and Maryam was one of the three siblings.

After graduation, Maimuna joined a bank in Maiduguri and rose astronomically in her career. Afterwards, she relocated to Abuja and being young and beautiful, Maimuna allegedly attracted rich and powerful men. Somehow, her marriage hit the rocks and according to reports, there was bitter fight in court over custody of the kids.

Around that time, Maryam was a student at UNIMAID, her mother’s alma mater but after the divorce, her mother relocated all the children to the United Kingdom. According to reports, that was where Bilyamin met Maryam and before long, they married at an elaborate wedding ceremony.

Maryam wore the trousers
From the outside, the couple lived a happy life as their Maitama home, state-of-the-art cars and circle of friends painted a rosy picture of a near perfect marriage.

However, like the popular saying goes, not all that glitters is gold. Maryam, like her mother, is also good at making money as she has a big farm in Nasarawa state. The late Bilyaminu, according to sources close to the family, was virtually living off her as a husband who had no regular job. But being the nephew of a one-time Minister of Communication, former Minister of Defence and an ex Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) national chairman, he is used to a lavish lifestyle which Maryam provided.

A source who is close to the family told Blueprint Weekend that the couple was living at Maryam’s house and Bilyamin drove her cars and frolics with her money.

According to reports, she asked him to manage her farm which he nearly ran aground. Instead of working to provide for his family, the deceased liked hanging out with friends and he sometimes brought them home to have fun, neglecting his wife and nine months old daughter. Bilyamin’s lifestyle and his lackadaisical attitude to life was always a source of quarrel between husband and wife.

However, someone who claims to be close to Bilyamin, told Blueprint Weekend that the deceased was living up to his responsibilities as a husband. According to him, Bilyamin was always leveraging on his uncle’s connections to get contracts regularly. ‘’He was really taking care of his family. They want to paint him black now in order to justify his murder. Even if what you said is true, is that enough reason to stab him in cold blood?’’, he queried.

A civil servant’s account
A civil servant who refused to disclose his name, narrated how Bilyamin used his uncle’s connection to corner a job for himself.

According to the civil servant, he was made to contract some sound managers (DJs) to a PDP rally that was organised in Kwara on the agreement that Bilyamin will foot the bill when he collects his contract sum. “He was always coming to our office and he told me that he needed sound systems. I told him the one available at the ministry was only used at the conference room of the ministry and couldn’t be loud enough for a rally of such magnitude, and besides I am not allowed to involve myself in any party activities I explained to him,’’ the civil servant narrated to our correspondent.

The civil servant said that Bilyamin asked him to handle the sound aspect of the rally and so he contacted three DJs. ‘’He asked me to lodge them in a hotel and they should begin work immediately but I didn’t want to tell him I didn’t have money that period, so I lodged them in the three bedroom apartment where I live alone, as my wife and children live in another state,’’ he recounted.

After the rally, the civil servant took the DJs to Bilyamin’s house, only to be shouted at. ‘’He even threatened my job, saying the job I did was part of my government job duties.

He also said he was going to expose me for going against the job ethics by involving in party activities. I had to pay the DJs partly and they asked me to forget about the balance because I took good care of them.

That was how I was blackmailed; when I spoke to some persons about how he treated me, I began to hear worse stories,’’ the civil servant lamented.

A friend’s testimony
Habib Gaiam, Bilyamin’s family, narrated how the deceased died on his tweeter handle. According to him, Bilyamin had earlier divorced his ex-wife because of Maryam but the marriage turned out to be stormy. Gaiam revealed that a mutual friend had intervened four times to stop Maryam from stabbing her husband before the deadly jabs that killed Bilyam last Saturday .
He recalled that on that fateful day, tension started to build between Bilyaminu and his wife between 9pm to 10pm. ”Maryam demanded a divorce with the threat of cutting off his manhood. Ibrahim Aliero, Bilyaminu’s friend (in whose presence the drama started) intervened four times to stop Maryam from stabbing her husband,’’ Gaiam revealed. Afterwards, Ibrahim called Auta (Maryam’s uncle) and Abba (Bilyaminu’s cousin) who had left the house moments before the drama started. After a short calm, Gaiam said that Maryam broke a bottle of groundnut and attempted to stab Bilyaminu but he wrestled it from her hand, injuring himself in the process.

However, she went wild and bit Bilyamin’s finger,’’ Gaiam continued. According to him, Uncle Auta arrived and calmed the situation and ‘’they both committed to uncle Auta to let go of the grievances (at least for the night).’’ Afterwards, Bilyaminu and his friend went to the Pharmacy to get his hand treated from the bite he had earlier sustained from Maryam.

By 11pm, Bilyaminu and Ibrahim went back to the house and Abba (Bilyaminu’s cousin), joined them in the living room. ”They stayed till almost midnight and decided to call it a night,’’ Gaiam revealed . However, when Bilyaminu was seeing them off, he told Ibrahim that “I don’t want to go back until she’s asleep.” At around 2pm Sunday afternoon, family members were summoned to Maitama Hospital, where Bilyaminu was laying in a pool of his blood with multiple stabs on his chest, shoulder, a deep cut on his inner thigh, and many bite wounds on his stomach,’’ said.

According to him, Maryam had confessed to stabbing her husband to the hospital authorities but at Maitama police station where she was asked to write her statement, her story changed. “She claimed they got involved in a fight and Bilyaminu sustained injuries from a broken shisha pot that she never stabbed or hit him’’ Gaiam lamented. “She was later taken to the FCT command in Garki II for further investigation, he added.

Another account
However, another version of the story says that Maryam saw an amorous text message, some said nude pictures, in Bilyamin’s phone. In anger, she seized it and smashed the phone on the floor, an action which led to quarrel between them. And out of anger, she headed for her kitchen knife and stabbed her husband several times.

Sobbing and asking for help, Bilyamin reportedly told his wife in Hausa ‘’ki taimake ni’’ but Maryam watched him bleed till he passed out. Thereafter, she quickly rushed him to the hospital but the medics wouldn’t admit the patient without a police report. At the station, she allegedly confessed her crime.

Condemnations trail the murder
Significantly, women rights advocates and sundry activists have condemned the act, saying no human has the right to take another person’s life.

The Founder of Women Stop Contributing to Violence and Abuse Initiative (WOSCOVAI), Ilavbare Goldfish Rahmatulai, said the increase in the crime of passion is a result of a decline in moral values. In addition, she attributed it to a departure from spiritual beliefs and the denial of man’s nature.

According to Ramatulai, cheating and extramarital affairs are not part of Nigerian culture but a borrowed western belief. She pointed out that no religion or African tradition forbids a man from taking more than one wife. “As a Muslim woman, I accept that my man might bring another woman home ,” she said.

According to her, ‘’marriage or friendship is not meant to be endured. As humans, we all have our ‘enough’ points and for me, if I cannot nip in the bud what I do not want early in the relationship, I can have the good sense to walk away when it becomes a torture to stay on. ‘’

On her part, a Child Rights and Gender Activist with Paulash Community Development Initiative, Charity Anaja, said there is increasing rate of violence in families and the society at large. She advised that people must start looking out for early warning signs in any relationship and find solutions before they get out of hand.

“The murder of this young man would have been avoided, if he had reported her little fits of anger. Violence by women, men, child or adult should not be condoned for any reason, and we hope to see that the law takes its full course on the issue, to serve as a deterrent to others,” she said.

Maryam in custody
Last Wednesday, the Police filed criminal charges against Maryam. According to the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) Police spokesman, Mr Anjuguri Manzah, the command has secured a remand order against her for two weeks from the FCT High Court , pending the completion of investigation. He said that remand order was secured because the suspect has a six-month-old baby which made it difficult to have her remanded in prison custody.

The spokesman revealed that the suspect has been charged to FCT High Court No. 32 Jabi, Abuja, with culpable homicide punishable under Section 224 of the Penal Code. Manza pointed out that ‘’at the end of investigation, additional findings will determine whether the current charge will be amended or whether other persons will be charged along with the suspect.’’

Before then, Bilyamin has been buried, the tears are drying up and the healing process has began. However, the images of Bilyamin, laying in the pool of his own blood, will haunt Bilyaminu’s killer and other accomplices to their graves, long after the law has taken its course.