A trans-border car snatcher, Victor Uche, has been sentenced to two-weeks of community service in Lagos.
Uche reportedly absconded with his boss’ Lexus SUV with number plate, JJJ 510 GA, from Nigeria Bar Association premises of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja on March 23, 2021, three days after he was employed.
He was arrested in Abuja by men of the Anti- Vehicle Theft of the FCT command, three weeks later. The SUV was reportedly repainted from grey to navy blue colour and renumbered, at the time it was recovered.
A laptop, two Samsung tablets and a mobile telephone belonging to the lawyer, identified as Austin Abhulimen, were also recovered in the car.
The convict, as gathered, was transferred from Abuja to Ikeja Police division where he had been detained, until May 20, 2021, when he was reported to have been tried and sentenced to two weeks of community service by a magistrate.
Expressing surprise at the manner the suspect was released and the light sentence slammed on the offence, the owner of the recovered vehicle, Mr Austin Abhulimen, said: “I was not given notice of the arraignment and trial, no notice of the charge, except to be told of the two weeks community service given as punishment to a habitual cross border and inter-state rogue.
“I was not even aware that a court was in existence, as the one I knew had been on strike. No prosecutor was in attendance, neither was I invited as the complainant.
“This is the crux of the matter. I could not fathom any reason for such a ridiculous trial and sentence for a man that stole my automobile valued at N8 million, destroyed my case files, my laptop and two Samsung tablets. This is nothing but a mockery of the judicial process.”
He said efforts to get the charge sheets from the Police at the station had met a brick wall.
According to him, “ I went to the station on May 21, 2021, and met the magistrate there. I applied for the charge sheet and record of proceeding on the case, but the magistrate asked me to get the records from the Police, where the trial was conducted.
“I met the DCO who was not ready to give me a copy of the charge sheet. Much later he asked for a written application. I submitted one to him. I complained to him that since the charge did not cover the offences of destroying my case files and destruction of all matters and cases in my law chamber that were contained in my laptop and Samsung tablet wiped away by the suspect, it was desirable to bring fresh charges under Sections 91, 340 and 341 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State.
“I am concerned about the trial and bring a hardened criminal as Victor Uche to justice because of what he had confessed and admitted before the Police at Ikeja division that he had been in the act of car stealing across the state and borders of Nigeria and that he had been taken to court on the charges in recent months.
“I strongly detest the way and manner Victor Uche was tried and sentenced to two weeks community service at Nigeria Police Station divisional headquarters, Ikeja despite the serious crime alleged and overwhelming proof.”
He, therefore, called on Police authorities at the Zone 2 Command, Onikan and the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, Hakeem Odumosu, to revisit the investigation and trial, to fish out other suspects who assisted Uche to forge a fake plate number and repainted the jeep.
Contacted , Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, stated that the Police had no fault in the judgement .
He explained that “ in the bid to decongest the cells as a result of the ongoing strike by judiciary workers, the Chief Judge of the state directed magistrates and some teams to go round police cells and address casefiles appropriately.
“ They had access to the cell in Ikeja and apportioned punishments accordingly. Besides, the case is a bailable offence and since magistrates didn’t go on strike, we can’t stop them from working. And we can’t continue to keep suspects in cells .
“The Police have done what was supposed to be done, so is the magistrate.”