Kogi: Legal experts criticise 12-year sentence on killer of PDP women leader— 3mins read
...Lawyer says judge acted in line with Nigerian law
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LEGAL experts have criticised the decision of Kogi State High Court to sentence Ocholi Edicha to 12 years in prison for his involvement in the killing of Salome Acheju Abuh, an opposition party’s women leader during the 2019 gubernatorial election in the state.
A former councillor and women leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Abuh was set ablaze by hoodlums on November 18 in her house at Ochadamu in Kogi State.
State commissioner of police Akeem Busari, while parading the suspects in Lokoja, had said that they were arrested on November 22 in collaboration with local vigilantes.
According to him, the suspects involved in the murder were Ocholi Edicha, Adamu Haruna, Onu Egbunu, Musa Alidu, Attai Haruna Egwu and Attah Ejeh.
Busari further named Ocholi Edicha as the leader of the gang that allegedly set Abuh ablaze in her house during the Kogi State gubernatorial election, stating that they would be charged to court.
More than a year after the trial, Edicha was found guilty by the court and consequently sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for ‘culpable homicide’ by Justice Fola Ajayi of High Court 1 sitting in Idah on Tuesday.
He was found guilty on four-count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy, armed robbery, mischief by fire and culpable homicide.
However, some legal experts have disputed the sentence, arguing that the punishment should have been more for a capital offence.
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A retired Nigerian police officer Atinuke Oluseye, who served as a prosecutor in Lagos State, told The ICIR that 12 years’ imprisonment for a homicide case was ‘unheard of.’
Oluseye argued that homicide was a capital offence and should be accompanied with capital punishment.
“Although the punishment can vary, I think the minimum sentence the suspect should get is maybe life imprisonment, most especially if the suspect is very involved in the case,” Oluseye said.
However, she noted that sometimes, it would depend on the advice of the Directorate of Police Prosecution (DPP) in the state, arguing that police prosecutors often worked on the advice given by the DPP over such a matter.
Secretary of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Delta State chapter Collins Osagu told The ICIR in a telephone interview that according to law, the judge did not properly use his discretion in delivering the judgement.
Osagu said the punishment for such crimes must be serious and be able to dissuade intending perpetrators. He added that judgements like that could foster such a crime in the society.
“It is a very small punishment because, some people can go ahead with such crimes and damn the consequences. They could feel that the best they would get is 14 or 12 years and do what they want to do.
“The essence of punishment is to deter people. If punishments are given and it is not enough to deter people from crime, then the purpose of justice is defeated,” Osagu said.
He stated that in crimes bordering on homicide, the judge would usually take note of the degree of involvement of the person (s) in committing the crime.
He added that if the person or persons were very involved in the crime, then it should be capital punishment.
Judge acted in line with Nigerian law
However, Olayinka Olaore, a lawyer with Gamzaki Law Chamber in Abuja, said the judge acted in the purview of power granted to him by the Nigerian law.
She said the punishment for a crime lay in the discretion of the sitting judge on the case, with the guidance of the law in operation in the society.
Olaore argued that if such judgements were given, the judge could have his/her reasons and in the case in contention, justice had been served. She further argued that justice was always in three ways: for the court, the defendants and the appellants.
“I think 12 years is enough and it is also in the discretion of the court. The judge holds the liberty to give a lesser punishment depending on the circumstances but he cannot give a higher punishment more than the law permits,” Olaore noted.
The ICIR findings show that according to the Nigerian Penal Code, anyone found guilty of homicide is to be punished by death.
Section 221 of the Penal Code states that “except in the circumstances mentioned in Section 222 of this Penal Code, culpable homicide shall be punished with death- (a) if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death; or (b) if the doer of the act knew or had reason to know that death would be the probable and not only a likely consequence of the act or of any bodily injury which the act was intended to cause.”