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The three medical students, from left: Ruth Omachi, Simisla Babatunde, and Nafisa Nayhaya.

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Three Nigerian medical students were today (Tuesday) bonded for one year in the sum of EC$1,000 or three months in prison for stealing EC$910.10 in groceries from Massy Supermarket.

Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett handed down the sentence at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court, six days after remanding the students to prison for their crime.

The time on remand meant that Nafisa Nayhaya, 19, Ruth Omachi, 23, and Simisola Babatunde, 25, of Belair and Nigeria, spent the Christmas holidays in prison. 

The facts of the case, as presented by prosecutor Corporal of Police Corlene Samuel, are that at about 11 a.m. on Dec. 21, a loss prevention officer on duty at the supermarket received certain information about the defendants. 

As a result, the loss prevention officer warned the trio not to put items into their shopping bags before paying for them.

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The defendants ignored the loss prevention officer and continued to do so.  The loss prevention officer monitored the defendants using the store’s security system and observed that they were placing some items in their shopping bags and others in a shopping cart.

The trio then went to the check-out counter and paid for some of the items but not those in the shopping bags.

They were intercepted at the exit doors and an examination of their receipts showed that they had not paid for items amounting to EC$910.10.

The police were summoned and the women, under caution, admitted to the offence. They were then formally charged.

In mitigation, counsel Grant Connell told the court that Nayhaya came to SVG last January, is a virgin to the law, has no previous convictions, expresses extreme remorse and pleaded guilty at first opportunity. He said she was the one pushing the trolley.

Omachi came to SVG in January 2020, is a second-year medical student, had no previous conviction, was extremely remorseful for her action, pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and was the one who orchestrated the crime. 

Babatunde, who also arrived in SVG in January 2020, is also a second-year medical student, has no previous conviction, was extremely remorseful, and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, the lawyer said.

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Simisola Babatunde, left, and Nafisa Nayhaya, arrive at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. (iWN photo)

The lawyer told the court that there are aggravating features of the case, including his clients’ attempts to conceal their actions.

Mitigating, he said, was the fact that the items were returned.

He said there were no aggravating features of the defendants, adding that they are of good character, showed genuine remorse, and are very young.

Connell said that his clients provided great assistance to the authorities from the very beginning 

“We are all mere mortals,” Connell was saying when the magistrate said that most aggravating in the case was the fact that before the act was completed, the women were warned not to put the items in their shopping bags. 

However, Connell said that the factual matrix that the prosecution presented to the court is something at variance with counsel’s instructions.

The lawyer noted that the defendants had spent six days in prison.

The magistrate emphasised the fact that the defendants are medical students.

 “And they are Nigerians,” Connell added.

“The best of Nigerian students,” Burnett retorted, further highlighting the fact that the defendants are medical students. 

The lawyer said that the six “horrifying days” that his clients spent in prison were “far beyond those who have come before the count and have not even blessed the doors”.

Connell, however, said that he understood the thinking of the court — that the defendants must be made to understand that what they did was wrong.

“They understand,” he said, adding that the stolen items were recovered and are all in a condition that they could be accepted by the supermarket.

“They have every mitigating factor in their favour,” the lawyer said and asked the court not to impose a custodial sentence, saying doing so would be “harsh and unconscionable”.

The magistrate, however, reiterated, as he had done at the beginning of the sentencing, that he was not going to send the women back to prison. 

Connell again restated that the women had spent six days in prison and during that time had been assigned plastic wares for their meals.

Burnett said that the six days on remand were “time for reflection”.

Connell said it was unfortunate that others who have come before the court “have never blessed that blessed institution”.

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The trio arrive at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. From left: Simisola Babatunde, Nafisa Nayhay, and Ruth Omachi. (iWN photo)

He asked the court not to impose a fine and to be “most lenient… 

“I could see your thinking when they went on remand,” he said, adding that his clients were seeking the mercy of the court.

“There will be ramifications of their actions, including the criminal record and how they are treated by the institutions. We are humbly asking to give them a chance. I think they have suffered enough and I don’t think their suffering is over.”

Connell asked the court to invoke Section 37, the effect of which would have been that the women’s criminal record would have been erased. 

The magistrate, however, denied the application.

Meanwhile, in her comments on sentencing, the prosecutor said that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating features of the case. 

“They are remorseful, you could see it before the court today,” she said, referring to the defendants who cried extensively from the time they arrived in court and during the sentencing. 

Samuel asked that the sentence reflect the seriousness of the offence but said that the Crown was not looking for a prison term. 

At this point, Connell added that another fact in the case is that the defendants, when apprehended, expressed, then and there, their remorse and apologised. 

“It’s been some time since I have seen such remorse,” he said.

The magistrate, in handing down his sentence, said he found the defendants’ conduct to be baffling. 

“What I can’t understand is medical students thinking like this,” Burnett said and handed down the sentence.

“I’d say nothing more,” he added. 

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24 replies on “Nigerian medical students bonded for stealing $900 in groceries (+Video)”

  1. I question whether it was necessary to hve them young students spend six days of Christmas in prison for a misdemeanor. I can’t help but think that their being Nigerian with all the negative connotations that sadly comes with that in our nation had to do with this harsh punishment.
    They admitted to their dishonesty. Were they flight risks? Don’t understand at all. They certainly have been made to pay, more money than money.

  2. St Vincent is really a foreigners paradise.If these two footed puss were Vincentians they would be doing time in the big yard.Any other country they would be on the next flight home.I love this country.

  3. This lawyer often echoed the sentiments being a”virgin of the law” in order to minimize the severity of the law and sentence. This excuse is repeatedso often that it is now deafening to the ear. The law provides for a mitigation of in sentences in some cases where the person is not know to be an offendor of the law. As a legal counsel he is entitled to advocate for a lower penality. Thats what he was paid for .

    However, when the thief was caught on his estate picking his oranges.Did he consider the culprit to be a virgin of the law? As they say in vincy “Do so is not like so”.

  4. Stealing is Stealing, even a little child knows that, so I don’t understand when the lawyer says she’s a Virgin . I’m wondering, is this the first time they’re doing something like that?
    Times are hard, lots of folks having it hard but do they go out and shoplift?
    I rest my case.

  5. Hetty+Johnson+ says:

    Vincentians would have been made to pay the full price, so let them too feel the pinch of the law. They were aware that they were doing something illegal. Couldn’t they’ve gone to a church outlet and ask for food? Is it an act regularly performed by them? $900? They are too intelligent for this, be contented.

  6. Medical student or not. They should know better. They were warned not to put the item in their shopping bag and they disregard the warning. Volume speak louder than words. They thought they were untouchable. My thinking they have done this before. If a Vincy had done this in their country. They would of gone to prison and deported. We Vincy is a soft touch and other Nation is making a laughing stock of us. Let a Vincy do what they have done. Mercy Lord prison here we come. Charity begins at Home.

  7. Well, they just let off two big-time thief for making off with a few thousand dollars of other people’s money. They even let off men who gangbang an underaged girl. They let off the government senator and the assistant DPP for high crimes. Now, why in the world would they treat a misdemeanor as if these medical students killed a cow on main street Kingstown? The magistrate must be hoping to get wife somewhere down the road? One thing that I have to say is the treatment of females by the SVG judiciary is extremely poor. But we can say all we want now, it doesn’t even phase them. It’s always old mass over there.

  8. They have no right to removed the items in the first, place you pay for what you can afford they should be deported.

  9. This is an extremely harsh and unfair treatment for such a petty crime.There was no mention of the cause or reason for such behavior,I strongly sense that it is based on poverty and the inability to provide adequately for one self.
    It is extremely hard to study while enduring hunger pain and assimilating in a foreign land.
    Get rid of the slave like mentality and stop holding kangaroo court with peoples lives and their future.

    This is really barbaric on all levels.

  10. Why should the magistrate be lenient with these students when they were warned about their actions by the loss prevention office but yet, continue to act the same way. Before people bawl for leniency in this matter they should have ponder what would have been the fate of Vincentians students faced with the same circumstances in Nigeria or any other country. Their asses should have jailed and deported immediately after serving their times. People who go out of their way to commit crimes must suffer the consequences of their actions.
    Vincentians are one hell of a people anna. I could remember some time reading on this same news platform about the Community College Student who took the beautiful products from Jax. She was prosecuted and dealt with fully by the court. I surely did not see an outpouring of sympathies are pleading for leniency in her case. Why because she is Vincentians? My thoughts are that might be just so. Yet, now dem dey yah ah beg break for thieving Nigerians. Whether dem ah doctor or priest the law is the law and once broken they must suffer the consequences of them damn actions. This is what so wrong with this sick country – the law is only to punish the poor, weak and vulnerable people of this country.

  11. Any other country u be seriously lock up for just a chocolate..when these trio left home what was there plan?
    But grant Connell great job

  12. All points and objectives considered. We all know that stealing is wrong whether you are Vincentian or not.
    Do you realize that some people.. Vincentian or not, do steal as a means to survive due to economic hardship.
    Perhaps these women have undetected mental illnesses, such as anxiety, stress and or even bipolar disorder.One will never know.I certainly don’t know.
    One thing I do know for sure,is ,regardless of wether you are Vincentian or not fair should always be fair.
    Apparently,not so in St Vincent.

  13. Augustus Primus says:

    A bit heavy handed in my opinion, considering the nature of the crime, the remorse and clean records of the students. Jail time? Hmm…

  14. Hope they learn a valuable lesson from this, the govt should deport them back to Nigeria. Why do they think it’s acceptable to go into a supermarket in a foreign country that welcomed them with open arms. Then, turn around and steal? talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

  15. Stealing is stealing, no sympathy here deal with them the sane way you deal with everyone else, they are adults and know what they were doing, if they weren’t caught the would repeat the same action but because they were caught they are showing crocodile tears, send them back to their country. We have enough problems with our own citizens.

  16. The students can justifiable argue that they have poured thousands of dollars into our economy by paying vat and accomodation. However, a crime is a crime for which the penalty must be appropriate regardless to country of origin of the criminnal.

    In Regina v Sussex it was held that the law must not only be done but it must be seen to be done.The students seems to be presumptous, they were notified they monitored but ignored the warning. One wonders how many times they have committed the same act. Virgin of the law does not mean to decriminalize the act.

  17. In agreement with Dexter & Jacko Lantern. Everyone need a second chance especially during this time of giving. Can’t help….that’s how I was brought up. These women could have reached out for assistance….if only they had the requisite information.

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