13 September 2018

Nigeria: For Stripping Woman in Market, Monarch Gets 12 Months Jail Term

Lokoja — A Magistrate's court in Egbe, Yagba West Local Government Area of Kogi State has sentenced a traditional titleholder, Chief Stephen Fogbonjaiye, the Ologun of Agidi-Ododi, to 12 months imprisonment on charges of "criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her and mischief."

Fogbonjaiye, a 70-year-old retired civil servant, was arraigned in August 2017 by the victim and complainant, Funmilayo Albert. The incident occurred at Oja-Abu market, Egbe, following a brawl involving the victim, a cassava seller and a fellow market woman over dispute in balance after the purchase of puff-puff.

Albert was handed over to the accused and convict, who claimed to be the traditional authority in charge of the market. The victim had alleged that the convict had her top and slippers forcibly removed and burnt to ashes, leaving her half naked with only her bra and skirt on.

The convict, in his statement of defence, confessed to the crime saying, however, that he acted based on Egbe customary law of market administration that forbids fighting in the market and also as the traditional authority in charge of the market.

The offence, he added, attracted a fine of a carton of malt drink in addition to the burning of clothes as punishment prescribed by the community for anyone found to have violated the customary law of the land.

In his plea, counsel to the convict, Olugbenga Joseph, asked the court to temper justice with mercy, even as he told the court that Fogbonjaiye is a retired civil servant, community leader and father of grown up children with clean criminal record. He, therefore, urged the court to be magnanimous in considering the manner the offence was committed.

The magistrate, Toba Olorunshola, in his judgment aligned himself with the argument of the prosecutor, David Akinola, that "Egbe customary law of market administration, which prescribed striping a citizen naked as punishment for fighting in the market is repugnant to law of natural justice and equity.

He said it is not in consonance with the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and violates public policy. He further ruled that the prosecutor has proved beyond reasonable doubt establishing the guilt of the defendant who is found guilty of the offence and convicted accordingly.

Consequently, citing section 268 and section 326 Penal Code, he ruled that the two charges attracted seven months and five months imprisonments respectively, totaling 12 months jail terms with option of a fine of N5,000 each for the two offences.

The accused person was also ordered to pay a total compensation of N8,000 to the victim and the court. The judgment is appealable.

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