By Christopher Oji, Lagos
A driver who absconded with his employer’s Lexus SUV three days after he was employed has been sentenced in Lagos to two weeks community service.
The employer, a legal practitioner, has questioned the manner in which the suspect was charged to court by the police at the Ikeja division of the Lagos State Police Command without his knowledge.
The lawyer, who suspects foul play, has petitioned on the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Hakeem Odumosu, to order an reinvestigation into the case.
The convict, Victor Uche, who allegedly drove the SUV with number plate, JJJ 510 GA, from the Nigeria Bar Association premises of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, 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, Austin Abhulimen, were also recovered in the SUV.
The suspect, was transferred from Abuja to Ikeja Police division where he had been detained until May 20 when he was tried and sentenced to two weeks community service by a magistrate.
Expressing surprise at the manner the suspect was released and the light sentence slammed on him, owner of the recovered vehicle lamented that: ‘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 cannot 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 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 referred 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 section 91,340 and 341 of the Criminal law of Lagos State. I pointed it out to the DCO, Mr Obet, that it is quite feasible to draft the charges and re-arraigned the suspect since he was still there in the police station, doing community service but the DCO did not accept my views.
‘I am concerned about the trial and bring a hardened criminal of Victor Uche caliber 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 past 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. What transpired in this case is that the officials in the administration of justice have compromised and failed in their essential task of administration of justice.’
He called on police authorities at the Zone 2 Command, Onikan and the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, CP Hakeem Odumosu, to revisit the investigation and trial with a view to fishing out other suspects who assisted Uche to forge a fake number plate and repainted the vehicle.