A commercial driver of northern descent and his conductor, both of whom were accused of being ‘terrorists,’ were sentenced to five years in prison in Ondo.
A Chief Magistrates’ Court in Akure, Ondo State’s capital, jailed Abubakar Aliu and Aruna Tukur over the weekend.
The pair were among 11 other passengers convicted by the Magistrates’ Court of unlawful firearm possession and conspiracy.
Abdularasaq Idris, Rufai Nura, Sagri Musa, Imarana Bello, Tasiu Suliaman, Musa Bala, Saliu Saidu, Musur Adamu, Abduhlai Ibrahim, Imarana Yusuf, Abdulahi Mustafa, and Mubarak Tsalhs are the other prisoners.
The defendants were all found guilty of two of the three charges leveled against them before the court, according to Damilola Sekoni, the Chief Magistrates who ruled on the case.
Mr Sekoni explained that his decision was based on the ‘circumstantial evidence’ given to the court during trials by the prosecution.
“In the cases presented to me in the avalanche of evidence, all of the defendants were guilty of the first charge.” “The second charge was committed by the 11th and 13th defendants, the driver and his conductor,” he said.
According to the Magistrate, both sentences will run simultaneously, with no possibility of a fine.
Mr Sekoni also denounced the defendants’ actions, adding that “the verdict would serve as a deterrent to those who would want to engage in such an act.”
Amotekun Corps, a state security outfit, had brought all of the defendants before the Magistrates’ Court on three counts of conspiracy, illegal possession of firearms, and loitering in public areas.
The prosecuting counsel, Segun Akeredolu, told the court that the defendants were apprehended by local security agents on the Akure/Ondo expressway on November 4, 2021.
Mr Akeredolu also told the Magistrates’ Court how the vehicle transporting the convicts refused to stop and sped away when flagged down for a check by Amotekun Corps agents while passing through Ondo road.
He went on to say that the passengers conspired with the driver not to halt when they were told to, and that he committed a felony by doing so.
“They were also found wandering in a public place at about 2 a.m., and such circumstances led to the conclusion that they were at the place for an illegal and disorderly purpose,” the prosecutor added.
He did, however, point out that their offenses violate Sections 516 and 260 of the Criminal Code Law of Ondo State, 2006, as well as Section 6 (b) cap R11 Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act, statutes of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The suspects pleaded not guilty when the case was heard over the weekend.
Earlier in the trial, the defendants’ counsels, O.J Emmanuel and P.O Attah, told the court that their clients were innocent passengers who took a bus from a park in Kaduna on their way to Lagos when they were apprehended.
Mr Emmanuel specifically stated that the bus driver (Aliu) was unaware of the sack holding daggers discovered inside the bus.
He went on to say that the sack was given to him as a message for someone in Lagos.
“In their evidence, the defendants each denied ownership of the sack of weapons discovered inside the bus, claiming that they were only passengers.”
“The driver claimed there was no gun in the bus and that the sacks containing knives and daggers were messages given to them at the park in Kaduna to be delivered to someone in Lagos, and he did not bother to open the content of the message,” he added.
In November 2021, Amotekun Corps agents caught a bus carrying 500 daggers hidden beneath the seats.
Various sizes of knives and guns hidden inside tiger nut bags were also found from the 18 suspects who were inside the car.
Adetunji Adeleye, Commander of the Amotekun Corps, who paraded them before reporters in Akure soon after their capture, explained that three buses transporting the travellers escaped from checkpoints throughout the state, but one of them was intercepted in Ondo town.
“They made a brief stop just before entering town, and when our men attempted to stop them, the three buses fled.”
“We had to radio all our control points, and a combined team including the police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps was able to bring the three buses to a stop at a point on Ondo road,” he added.
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