From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
A Chief Magistrate Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, has sentenced a 49-year-old United State-based Nigerian woman to 10 years imprison for stealing three new born babies in the state.
The convict, Lois Iwuchukwu Obasi was charged in suit number PMC/1260c/2018, on three counts, bothering on conspiracy and child theft.
Delivering judgement on Thursday, the trial Chief Magistrate, Felicita N. Amanze, sentenced the accused to three years imprison in count one and seven years in count two, adding that the sentences will run concurrently.
She ruled that the Nigeria and America passports belonging to the convict earlier deposited to the court as part of her bail condition be transferred to the Chief Registrar of Port Harcourt High Court, Rivers State, pending completion of her sentence.
She further ordered the police to take the children recovered from her as exhibit to the Port Harcourt Children Homes.
Earlier, the Chief Magistrate narrated that six witnesses testified in the matter, with 22 exhibits presented to the court to back up claims by prosecution.
She dismissed the third count on the ground that the prosecution could not establish enough evidence that the children were forcefully take away from their mothers.
Amanze who frown at the level by which people have turn babies to commodity in Nigeria, said the convict deserves the sentence as a deterrent to other women who may want to commit same crime.
She wondered how “it is possible that the defendant who has lived 20years in America and has worked as a nurse in America would prefer to birth her babies in a local area like Igwuruta when there are better health facilities in America.”
Amanze added ‘I did believe the defendant came for a business in Nigeria rather than to deliver babies. It is impossible for a woman to leave America at 47 years to be delivered of her triplets in a village in Rivers state and would keep the children in a hotel while her mother is alive and resides in Owerri.” Before the magistrate made her pronouncements, the accused counsel,
Chris Nwadigo, pleaded that the court should tamper justice with mercy, adding that the convict is a wife to an America based pastor and a mother to 8years old daughter based abroad.
However, speaking to journalists shortly after the judgement, Nwadigo expressed dissatisfaction with the judgement, stressing that the court made erred in its decision on the matter.
He said ‘There are a lot of errors in the said judgement. It was full of sentiment, full of emotion, the court delivered the ruling based on what she knows happening now and went outside jurisdiction of the law.”
He added that his client will appeal the judgement to the High court.
It would be recalled that Mrs Obasi was arrested on June 10, 2018 at L.A Kings Hotel Stadium Road Elekahia Port Harcourt and subsequently charged for conspiracy and child stealing.
The offence is punishable under Section 516A (1) of the Criminal Code Cap 37 Vol. II Laws of Rivers state, Nigeria.
During her trial the convict told the court that she birth the babies, claiming that after delivering the first set of twins, it took her some days for the last baby to be born.
She claimed that her decision to birth the children in Nigeria was as a result of the spiritual problems she was facing abroad, adding that she didn’t want to deliver the babies through caesarean section as was advised.
But the Investigative Police Officer in the matter, had told the court that when they got the information about her and the babies from the management of the hotel, they arrested her and also went to the maternity where she claimed she delivered the babies in Igwuruta only to notice that the woman she claimed helped her to birth the children has ran away.
The investigation also revealed that before the convict received the two babies, she had paid in the sum of N900, 000.00 into one Chikodi’s account.