How we love to kill a fly with a sledge hammer baffles me sometimes. Nations that value the sanctity of life and see youths as valuable assets, they use almost every legal means available to ensure that even while bringing down the heavy hands of the law on crimes committed by young persons, their future is not jeopardized.
But that is not the case in Nigeria as two students, Vershima Kaachi and Akaazua Akpen, have been sentenced to death by firing squad for armed robbery. The ruling was delivered by Justice Theresa Igoche of the Makurdi High Court on Tuesday.
The convicts were arrested on the eve of Christmas in 2007 for criminal conspiracy and armed robbery, contrary to Sections 5(b) and 1(2) of the Robbery and Firearms Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
In his testimony, the victim of the offence, Jonathan Usenge, told the court that five armed men came to his house, attacked and robbed him of some valuable items on that day.
He stated that the robbers collected his Nokia 1600 phone valued N12,700.00, two torch lights valued N350.00 and a sum of N16,500.
He said the convicts were armed with guns and a hacksaw, and that the clothes they wore on the day of the robbery, his stolen phone and the hacksaw were recovered from them during police investigation.
The prosecution called three witnesses while the accused persons testified for themselves and also called three witnesses.
In his submission, counsel to the convicts, Mr Cletus Ujah, insisted that the victim was inconsistent in his testimony, arguing that the prosecution’s evidence could not be said to be overwhelming to nail his clients.
But the prosecuting counsel, Mr Obande Idikwu, argued that from the evidence, it could be deduced that there was an agreement to commit an illegal act, which was pursued to a logical conclusion.
Delivering judgment, Igoche held that the prosecution had proved its case against the convicts and found them guilty as charged.
In an allocutus, Ujah pleaded for leniency for the accused persons, pointing out that they were each the only sons of their parents and young boys with a promising future ahead of them, noting that they had no records of previous conviction and were looking very remorseful, and urged the court to temper justice with mercy.
But the judge said the punishment prescribed for offenders under Section 1(2) of the Robbery and Firearms Act was death by either hanging or firing squad, pointing out that it was subject to the governor’s discretion.
Curiously enough, it is Judges like Theresa Igoche that will sentence politicians and rogue bankers who steal billions to 6 months imprisonment with an option of fine.