09 November 2023 :
The Benue State High Court in Makurdi, on November 8, 2023 sentenced five men to death by hanging for culpable homicide.
The men are Terna Zwave, Jonathan Gbajime, John Bur, Gabriel Ianna and Kwaghgba Zaki, who all lived at Anchoha Village, Gwer-East Local Government Area of Benue.
They were first charged before a Makurdi Magistrate’s Court in 2021 with criminal conspiracy, criminal trespass, mischief and culpable homicide punishable under sections 97, 349, 329 and 222 of the penal code laws of Benue State, 2004.
The prosecution alleged that on 5 October 2021, the men conspired, trespassed on land belonging to one Oliver Jato and cut down trees in order to make charcoal.
The defendants were allegedly confronted by Abraham Hwange, Peter Agber and the deceased, which resulted in a violent scuffle.
The convicts beat one Biija to death, the prosecution told the court.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the case was eventually transferred to the High Court based on legal advice from the state’s Ministry of Justice.
When the case came up, the first defendant, Mr Zwave, pleaded guilty while all others pleaded not guilty.
The defendants testified for themselves without calling witnesses, while the prosecution called seven witnesses to prove its case.
In his final written address, the prosecuting counsel, R.B.N Amenger, submitted that the rest defendants’ plea of not guilty was only a mere denial.
Mr Amenger argued that the defendants had completely failed to raise a defence as to the commission of all the offences established but rather dwelt on mere denials and technicalities, which he said were not material or fatal to the case of the prosecution.
Defence counsel, D.U Liam, in his final written addresses, said that the prosecution had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt to warrant the sentence of the defendants.
However, the trial judge, T.A Kume, ruled that the prosecution had proved its case beyond all reasonable doubts, saying that denying the commission of offence did not amount to not committing it. Mr Kume said the burden of proof rests on the defence counsel, which he failed to achieve.
The judge acknowledged listening to the plea for mercy by the defendants and the statement by their counsel in which the Lord’s prayers were contained in the words.