Slap on the wrist – The Nation

  • 12 and a half years in jail is not enough for killer of late PDP leader, Salome Abuh

With the conviction of Ocholi Edicha, the killer of Salome Abuh, a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) women’s leader in Ochadamu, Ofu Local Government Area of Kogi State, who was gruesomely murdered shortly after the 2019 governorship election in the state, some sort of closure would seem to have been brought to the issue. The crime made headlines when it occurred. Edicha was arraigned for criminal conspiracy, armed robbery, mischief by fire and culpable homicide at High Court 1 sitting in Idah, Kogi State, and sentenced to 12 and a half years imprisonment on March 23.

The prosecution called five witnesses and the court said it was satisfied with their oral testimonies, eyewitness account as well as the statement made by the defendant to the Nigeria Police Force, in arriving at the judgment, despite the fact that Edicha denied aspects of his statement to the police and accepted some.

Late Abuh was set ablaze at her residence in Ochadamu on November 18, 2019. Spokesperson for the state police command, William Aya, said the politician was sleeping in her home when political thugs set the building ablaze. She was burnt beyond recognition and her remains deposited in a mortuary.

According to Aya, “It was a very unfortunate incident and the commissioner has ordered a thorough investigation to ensure that all those involved do not escape justice.” Six suspects were later arrested in connection with the murder; five were exonerated while Edicha was arraigned in court, after allegedly admitting that he led the gang that killed Abuh.

Public outcry that followed was such that even President Muhammadu Buhari had to issue a statement condemning the gruesome murder and ordered the security agencies to find the killers, with a view to prosecuting them. “We must learn to behave decently, whether during elections or at other times. No life should be taken wantonly under any guise, and the fact that this reprehensible act occurred two days after voting shows primitive behaviour, which should not be accepted in a decent society,” the President said.

Given the timing of the murder and similar desperate moves by some politicians in other parts of the country in election times, it was clear the killing was premeditated and politically motivated. Some of our politicians are so desperate for political office that they can do anything, including the most unimaginable, to be declared winner in electoral contests. This is apparently because the stakes are high. We need to make scapegoats of some persons if this trend is to stop.

Unfortunately, it is the minions or political thugs that often get caught, that is when the cases are too serious to be swept under the carpet, as in the Abuh incident. The icing on the cake would be to get some of the big men who use others as cannon fodder in their despicable tracks. However, since this has not been possible, some gains would still have been made if the ranks of the thugs they deploy are depleted, through diligent prosecution and subsequent convictions for the crimes they commit on behalf of their sponsors.

As President Buhari noted, those who killed the late politician had gone beyond the realm of politics and they must be dealt with as the criminals that they were, irrespective of the allegiances they professed. This is why it is gratifying that the case was concluded in relatively short time and the accused convicted. The issue now is whether the punishment is commensurate with the heinous crime of murder that was committed by the accused.

While the state commissioner for information felt the sentencing had exonerated the state government of complicity in the crime, the prosecuting counsel from the state ministry of justice and solicitor-general’s office,  Otigbe Joseph, has vowed to challenge the ruling, which he said was not enough punishment for the offences committed. In other words, the punishment was a slap on the wrist.

We feel this much.

But this can’t be determined until a superior court says otherwise. That is if the matter is allowed to get to the appellate court. However, that the accused is to spend the next 150 months behind bars is painful comfort, especially as nothing can bring back the life of the victim. The conviction would nonetheless send a signal, if not emphatic enough, to other minions that desperate politicians might want to use in future that they would not go unpunished if caught.

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