The pronouncement was after the court found them guilty on each of the four charges preferred against them by the state Commissioner of Police.
The six, who are natives of Umuenyere Alayi Autonomous Community in Bende LGA, are Agu Eke, Onwukwe J. Ogbuaja, Okorie Okorie, Christian Eke, Anya Eke Kalu and Agu Emmanuel whose ages were stated as 52, 45, 45, 40, 29 and 42 respectively.
The four charges against them were conspiracy, stealing, malicious damage and breach of community peace including their illegal selling of about 100 plots of community lands valued at about N27m.
Pronouncing their conviction and sentences despite plea for option of fine by their lead counsel, Mr Vincent Onyeabo, the trial Chief Magistrate, Mr John Ukpai commended the inputs made during their trial by the prosecution and defence counsels whom he said diligently managed the case for the long period it lasted.
According to him, one party wins a case in the end, while the party that is not satisfied with the court verdict files appeal before a higher court.
Defence counsel had pleaded for option of fine and submitted that the convicts did not have past conviction record.
But the police prosecution counsel, Mr Sampson Onyemuche who opposed the plea informed the court that one of the seven persons charged had died.
He therefore urged the court to strike out the name of the deceased convict, which the court accepted. He said: “As the prosecution, we have proved our case. Option of fine cannot assuage the colossal damage and harm they did to the community. We urge the court to pronounce justice judiciously at her discretion”.
Reacting to the judgment, the president General of the Community, Professor Udo Nwokocha lauded it, describing the court as the place the aggrieved would go and get justice.
“This case has subsisted for about two years and our community resolved that any body or group that sells our land illegally, including the illegal buyers shall be prosecuted,” Nwokocha said. He consequently advised intending buyers of their community land to desist from doing so illegally.
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