By Babatunde Titilola
The Lagos State High Court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square has sentenced a man, Daniel Gajo, to 21 years’ imprisonment for stabbing his 24-year-old wife, Esther, to death.
Gajo had initially pleaded not guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter during his arraignment and was remanded on June 13, 2013.
The prosecution said the act was contrary to Section 227 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
At the resumed hearing on Thursday before Justice Yetunde Adesanya, the prosecution, led by Olayemi Shofolu, informed the court that the defendant had decided to plead guilty to the charge.
He submitted the plea bargain and sentencing agreement signed by the defence counsel and prayed the court to grant the 17 years’ jail term as recommended in the agreement.
The defence counsel, S.N. Nwodo, confirmed the arrangement with the prosecution.
Gajo also confirmed the agreement under oath and told the court that he was not compelled to change his plea for a reduced sentence.
The amended charge was read and he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter contrary to Section 227 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
However, Justice Adesanya said she was not impressed with the plea bargain due to the severity of the crime.
She said, “The defendant took his wife’s life in her mother’s home. I am not bound by the sentencing agreement and can decide to increase the years. No one has the right to take another person’s life.”
Passing her judgment, the judge said the recommended sentence was not commensurate to the crime committed by the defendant.
She noted that the crime was “unprovoked and premeditated.”
Adesanya said, “I have taken into account the statements of the parties. I also recognise that the court is not bound to accept the sentencing agreement. In view of this, I hereby convict you, Daniel Gajo, as charged. Having regard to all considerations, this court rejects the 17 years sentencing agreement. I hereby sentence you, Daniel Gajo, to 21 years in prison starting from the day of your remand, June 13, 2013.”
Judgements premised on plea bargain agreements have resulted in controversies in the country’s legal system.
In September 2021, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Ikeja Special Offences Court also sentenced a 23-year-old chef, Joshua Usulor, to 28 years’ imprisonment for killing a 34-year-old lawyer, Mrs Feyisayo Obot, in a hotel room in Lagos on January 26, 2019.
Usulor had entered a plea bargain agreement with the prosecution and a 21-year sentence was recommended.
However, the judge rejected the agreement, saying it was too lenient and sentenced the convict to 28 years in prison.
Despite the increase in the jail term, many observers said the sentence was light and called for tougher punishments for capital offences to serve as deterrent to others.