A Chief Magistrate’s court sitting in Umuahia, has sentenced six persons including a woman to one-year imprisonment each with hard labor. The accused were found guilty on four charges preferred against them by the state Commissioner of Police.
The six accused are natives of Umuenyere Alayi Autonomous Community in Bende LGA. They include Agu Eke, Onwukwe J. Ogbuaja, Okorie Okorie, Christian Eke, Anya Eke Kalu and Agu Emmanuel whose ages were stated as 52, 45, 45, 40, 29 and 42 respectively.
The charges against them were conspiracy, stealing, malicious damage and breach of community peace including their illegal selling of about 100 plots of community lands valued at about N27m.
Lead counsel to the accused persons, Mr Vincent Onyeabo pled for an option of fine. and submitted that the convicts did not have past conviction record. But the police prosecution counsel, Mr Sampson Onyemuche who opposed the plea informed the court that one of the seven persons charged had died. He therefore urged the court to strike out the name of the deceased convict, which the court accepted. He said: “As the prosecution, we have proved our case. Option of fine cannot assuage the colossal damage and harm they did to the community. We urge the court to pronounce justice judiciously at her discretion”.
The trial Chief Magistrate, Mr John Ukpai while sentencing the accused, commended the inputs made during their trial by the prosecution and defence counsels whom he said diligently managed the case for the long period it lasted.
According to him, one party wins a case in the end, while the party that is not satisfied with the court verdict files appeal before a higher court.
Reacting to the judgment, the president General of the Community, Professor Udo Nwokocha lauded it, describing the court as the place the aggrieved would go and get justice.
“This case has subsisted for about two years and our community resolved that any body or group that sells our land illegally, including the illegal buyers shall be prosecuted,” Nwokocha said. He consequently advised intending buyers of their community land to desist from doing so illegally.