Twenty-three-year-old Jamiu Rasaki on Wednesday escaped death sentence when a Lagos High Court in Ikeja commuted the offence of armed robbery levelled against him to robbery.
Instead of sentencing Rasaki to death, the only statutory punishment for armed robbery, Justice Habeeb Abiru sentenced him to 14 years imprisonment for robbery and another 14 years for conspiracy to commit robbery.
Abiru ruled that the sentences were to run concurrently commencing from October 27, 2009, when he was said to have committed the offences and arrested at the Gowon Estate, Egbeda, Lagos.
The Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions had alleged that Rasaki, along with others at large, on the said day used a gun-shaped metal to rob one Mr. Sunday Vandi of Bajaj motorcycle.
The gun-shaped metal, admitted as Exhibit P4 during trial, was said to have been wrapped with black tape and pointed at Vandi during the robbery.
But Vandi was said to have fought back and overpowered Rasaki while his two accomplices escaped.
The victim was said to have raised the alarm, attracting a large crowd which beat Rasaki “mercilessly” and took him to the police station within Gowon Estate.
However, Abiru, in dismissing the two counts of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and armed robbery, said Rasaki ought to have been charged with conspiracy and robbery.
According to him, the evidence of the state did not prove that any offensive weapon qualifying the crime as armed robbery was used during the operation in accordance with Section 403(b) of the Criminal Code of Lagos State.
“The victim was not intimidated and indeed he fought back. The counts of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and armed robbery are hereby dismissed, but it does not end there,” the judge said.
But Abiru said the crime qualified as conspiracy and robbery in accordance with Section 402 (a) and (b) of the law.
This, according to Abiru, was because the convict was present at the scene of robbery and was in company with the gang who tried to coerce the victim by an offensive weapon in order to rob him.
“The law gives little discretion to the judge. The punishment for the conspiracy and the substantive offence of robbery is between 14 years to 20 years,” he said.
The judge, relied on two statements the convict had made to the police, in convicting him of conspiracy and robbery.
Rasaki, in the said statement, was said to have confessed to the crime, saying he was part of an armed robbery gang which was snatching phones and robbing motorcyclists.
According to him, his gang used to sell the stolen motorcycle for N25, 000 to one Mr. Anayo, who in turn usually gave the gang another motorcycle for robbery operation.
The judge said Rasaki’s denial of the statements was an afterthought and as such “the said statement will be accorded its full probative value. A vacillating witness is not worthy of credibility.”