A magistrate’s court sitting in Obubra, Cross River State has sentenced one James Ochiche to two years imprisonment for impersonating the state commandant of Nigeria Peace Corps, Dominic Okweche.
Ochiche was accused by the Nigeria Peace Corps of parading himself as a deputy commandant and collecting between N5,000 and N8,000 from unsuspecting members of the public as service charge for recruitment into the service.
Delivering his judgment on two counts in Suit Number MC/779C/2013, the presiding magistrate, Adome Etaba, held that the accused was guilty of the first-count charge because he was dismissed from service in 2012 and as such could not carry out any function on behalf of the organisation.
The magistrate, however, stated that there was no sufficient evidence against the accused that he fraudulently collected money for recruitment.
Etaba said, “After going through all the arguments and submission from both the defence and prosecuting counsel, I have found the accused, James Ochiche guilty of impersonation.
“The evidence presented before the court shows that the accused was dismissed from the organisation in 2012. There is a letter from the headquarters of the organisation conveying his dismissal, which he signed an undertaking to.
“I have listened to the appeal by the accused and the application by the defence counsel for mercy, but the offence of impersonation is a punishable offence that attracts 14 years imprisonment.
“However, the essence of punishment is not as punitive measure, but to correct. Therefore, I hereby sentence him to two years imprisonment without option of a fine.”
On the second charge, the magistrate said, “There is no sufficient evidence before the court to show that the accused was guilty of collecting money to recruit people into the organisation. Therefore, I declare him discharged and acquitted.”
Reacting to the judgment, the counsel for the defendant, Atim Egbe, who expressed disappointment over the ruling, said he would appeal against it in a higher court.
Egbe said, “I am not satisfied with the judgment because the matter was not properly addressed. The magistrate said the accused failed to call the national commandant. It is not in his place to have called him. Even before the open court, the national commandant was called to answer some questions, but the court did not say anything about that.
“Secondly, when my client gave evidence that he was acting under the instruction of the national commandant, he was asked to show evidence, which he tendered as exhibit before the court and nothing was said about it. So, definitely, we are appealing the judgment.”
On his part, the prosecuting counsel, John Ogban, commended the magistrate for the judgment, adding that the evidence against the defendant was too glaring to have been ignored.