The Supreme Court has sentenced a member of a local vigilante group in Benue State, Moavega Igba, to death for killing one Kyernum Kervo 15 years ago for stealing goat meat.
The convict was charged alongside one Michael Ankpergjer before the Benue State High Court, Makurdi, for causing the death of Kervo.
The facts of the case as narrated by Justice Kumai Akaahs were that after arresting Kervo for stealing the goat meat, the convict and his co-conspirator conducted a local trial, found the suspect guilt, and eventually took Kervo to a riverside.
Justice Akaahs said: “On reaching their destination, the accused tied the deceased’s legs and laid him on the ground. They then spread the palm leaves over him and set him ablaze.”
The case was eventually reported to the Divisional Police Office in Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue State by relatives of the deceased.
The police were taken to the scene and found the deceased had 100 per cent second degree burns.
“The man was dead and early decomposition had begun,” Justice Akaahs said.
The convict initially confessed but later said that his statement was made under duress, following which a trial within trial was conducted to ascertain whether he was forced to make the statement.
One of the witnesses, Ayakpa Ayo testified that he had killed the goat for his in-law who came to attend the funeral of his brother, Agena Mua.
According to him, after killing the goat he decided to smoke some of it in his compound, but the deceased stole all the meat and sold some of it.
When a search was conducted, the tail of the goat was found in the deceased’s bag.
The deceased was then handed over to the convict who was a member of the vigilante group to report the matter to the police.
But rather than report the theft to the police, the convict took the law into his hands by setting the suspect ablaze.
The convict was charged with murder before a Benue State High Court and was found guilty. His appeal to the Court of Appeal to overturn his conviction also failed. He finally appealed to the Supreme Court.
In rejecting his appeal, Justice Akaahs held: “There was therefore overwhelming evidence to support the conviction and sentence of the appellant and his co-accused to death for conspiracy and causing culpable homicide punishable by death.
“The appellant’s action with the co-accused of setting the deceased ablaze for stealing goat meat was bestial and it brought out the pristine savagery in man depicting his brutish instinct in a Hobbesian state of nature.”