Following the sentence of five persons to death by an Adamawa High Court, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), is claiming the sentence was against Christians even when the Court had passed the same judgment, earlier, on some kidnappers who are Muslims.

The Court presided over by Justice Abdul-Azeez Waziri, sentenced Alex Amos, Alheri Phanuel, Holy Boniface, Jerry Gideon and Jari Sabagi to death after convicting them of culpable homicide and murder.

The convicts were reported to have intentionally attacked three herdsmen at Kadamun village in Demsa Local Government Area on June 1 2017, killing one of them; Adamu Buba, whose body was thrown into the river.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Waziri said the accused persons were found guilty of criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide, which contravened Section 96 (1) (a) and Sections 79 and 221 (b) of the Penal Code of Laws of Adamawa State, 1997.

“I hereby sentence the accused persons on counts one and two to death by hanging, while on counts four and five, I sentence the accused to three years in prison to run concurrently. Any aggrieved party is at liberty to file an appeal to the Court of Appeal, Yola Judicial Division within 90 days from today.”

Reacting, CAN, in a statement by its President, Samson Ayokunle, claimed that though the Association condemned criminality, there was a “hasty implementation of the death sentence” as the perpetrators of various killings of Christians are yet to be apprehended or brought to justice.

CAN also cited the case of a Christian preacher, Eunice Elisha, who was killed two years ago in Kubwa, Abuja saying security operatives have not apprehended her killers.

“Despite the outrage that has trailed the killings of Christians in Nigeria, it is disheartening that none of the killers has been brought to justice. We are shocked at the speed of light deployed by security and judicial officers in sentencing the alleged killers of the herdsman in Adamawa State.

“We note with regret how hundreds of our members in Southern Kaduna, Benue, Taraba, Plateau states in the North-central geo-political zones, and a state like Enugu in the South, have been killed and are still being killed on a daily basis by some criminals parading themselves as Fulani herdsmen, but are yet to be apprehended.”

Ayokunle called on the Federal Government to intervene in the Court sentence. He also urged CAN legal team to secure and study the “text of the judgment with a view to preventing a miscarriage of justice and a future re-occurrence.”

Conviction, according to religion?

While CAN’s statement suggests that the sentence was meted at the alleged murderers due to their faith, the same Court had earlier on the same day sentenced four kidnappers who are Muslims to death.

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The convicts, Gambo Musa, Mana Musa, Abdu Baba and Mohammed Muazu (who reportedly died in custody), were found guilty of abducting and robbing of Adamawa House of Assembly member representing Toungo constituency, Adamu Usman, and a retired civil servant, Wilson Gundiri.

In the same manner, the 7 herdsmen who kidnapped former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae were sentenced to life imprisonment in April 2017.

In March 2018, a Makurdi Magistrates’ Court convicted five herdsmen, including 2 minors, on charges of criminal conspiracy and open grazing. Those convicted were Yusufu Buhari, 22; Hamidu Mama, 11; Saleh Muhammadu, 22; Ali Ibrahim, 12, and Idi Bature, 11.

In December 2015, an Ebonyi State High Court sitting in Abakaliki sentence a herdsman to death for the murder of one Chibueze Nkwegu at Sharon town in Izzi Local Government Area of the state.

In May 2017, a Kogi State High Court sitting in Okene, sentenced two herdsmen, Muhammad Laah Jauro and Yusuf Sani, to death for murder.

Just last month, the Supreme Court sentenced 15 herdsmen to various terms of imprisonment ranging from ten years to life imprisonment for their roles in the communal crisis, which erupted in January 2010 culminating in attacks and counter-attacks around Kadunu village in Mangu local government area of Plateau State. The only reason the herdsmen escaped the death sentence was because, as at the time of the attack, the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013, which prescribes the death penalty for anyone on conviction for commission of acts of terrorism was yet to be enacted by the National Assembly.

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Also, suspects were arrested by security operatives in relation to the Southern Kaduna killings that claimed about 200 lives (according to NEMA in 2017).

In February 2017, Jimoh Moshood, announced that 17 suspects were arrested and 29 assorted firearms were recovered from the suspects.

The Governor of the State, Nasir El-Rufai also revealed that some masterminds of the killings were also arrested.

Herdsmen have also been jailed for different durations in Ekiti and Delta, for crimes ranging from destruction of property to gun possession.

Nomadic Nuance

Despite cases of convictions, ETN24 findings show that much more herdsmen are held up in detention sometimes without a Court date, especially in the South where they are strangers with almost no one to pursue their case. This also tells on the number of convictions.

Nomadic lifestyle has also been cited as a reason why the few herdsmen who get into confrontation with farmers and keep moving after committing a crime may be more difficult to apprehend.

In recognition of this, in February, Edo State’s Governor, Godwin Obaseki, placed a ban on night grazing and hunting by people from outside the State.

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