BY AGNES NWORIE ABAKALIKI
A Magistrate’s Court sitting in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, has sentenced a man, Ikenna Ogbonna Ota, to two years imprisonment for presenting a stolen cow to the family of his wife as an item of the burial rites of his father-in-law.
The father of three and native of Azuoto Okpoitumo community of Abakaliki Local Government Area of the state was found guilty as charged and convicted by the court.
The Point had reported that in December 2022, shortly after the burial ceremony, the Police arrested Ota for stealing the native cow he presented for his father-in-law’s funeral rites.
During the trial after which Ota pleaded not guilty to the charge of stealing, the prosecutor, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Chinedu Mbam, had explained to the court how the convict stole the animal and took it to Ebia Unuphu community of the state where he presented it to his in-laws.
Magistrate Ngozi Ngele sentenced the convict to a two-year jail term but gave him an option of N20,000 fine, being a first time offender.
It is a known tradition among the people of Izzi clan in the state to perform burial rites of their deceased relations, especially parents and in-laws with cows in order to avert stigmatisation by the people.
Ota was reported to have visited the family house of his in-laws on December 9, last year, for the presentation of materials for the burial of their late father.
He had come with the female cow which he stole from his community to them for the ceremony.
Unfortunately for him, the owner of the stolen native cow, Thomas Agbo, who came to sympathise with the family of the deceased, was able to identify the cow being presented by the son-in-law as his missing cow and raised the alarm.
Agbo said he went for a routine check on the cow in the bush four days before the burial date of his neighbour’s father-in-law but could not see the cow where it was tied.
He explained that he was surprised to see the stolen cow at Ebia Unuphu community where he went to commiserate with the family of Okemini Oyibe.
Agbo said that he saw the cow being tied with some Fulani cows for a presentation for the rites.
“Ikenna Ogbonna Ota is my neighbour. I knew his father-in-law was dead and the burial was slated for 9th of December. Days before the ceremony, one of my cows went missing.
“All efforts by my children to find it were not successful until I coincidentally saw it being presented at Ebia Unuhu by Ikenna for the burial rites of his father-in-law,” he had said.
Before his arraignment, Ota was interrogated but claimed he did not steal the cow.
He alleged that he bought it at the sum of N110,000 from a man known as ‘Mr. No Time’ at Azu-Ebonyi, Amachi Unuphu, a neighbouring village to Azuoto Okpuitumo.
But the police prosecution was able to prove to the court beyond reasonable doubt that Ota committed the crime, hence, his conviction and sentencing.