What is the punishment for stealing in Nigeria? Stealing no matter how little has grave consequences under the Nigerian Legal system. This write-up examines these consequences thereof which a person caught stealing in Nigeria will face.
What is Stealing?
According to the Blacks Law dictionary, Stealing is the illegal taking of the property of another with the intention to keep it unlawfully.
Under Section 383(1) of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act, a person who fraudulently takes anything capable of being stolen or fraudulently coverts to his own use or to the use of any other person anything capable of being stolen is said to steal that thing.
Thus, where you take something from someone with Intent to permanently deprive the person of it’s use, you have stolen. For example, if you are very hungry and you decide to go to a nearby shop and silently take bread, carry it back home and eat. Your act of taking that bread away from the shop constitutes stealing, whether or not you eventually ate the bread.
Furthermore, It is instructive to note that Stealing is different from Robbery. Often times people mistake these two offences, therefore it is important to clarify you on the distinction between them.
Stealing on one hand is the act of taking something from someone with the intention to deprive the person of it. While Robbery on the other hand is the illegal taking of a property from a person in or out of the person’s presence by use of violence or intimidation. In simple words, robbery is the act of Stealing with violence and it is punishable by imprisonment of not less than 21years.
I trust you now understand the difference that exist between Stealing and Robbery. Let’s now consider the requirements that must be fulfilled for one to be liable for Stealing.
Requirements for Stealing
1. There must be Intent to steal: This is a vital requirement for the offence of Stealing. A person will be liable for Stealing where any of the following intents can be proved:
(a) Intent to permanently deprive the owner of the thing;
(b) Intent to permanently deprive any person who has any special property in such property that was stolen;
(b) Intent to use the thing stolen as a pledge or security, Intent to part with on a condition as to it’s return which the person taking or converting it may be unable to perform;
(d) Intent to deal with it in such a manner that it cannot be returned in the Condition in which it was at the time of the taking and finally in the case of money,
(e) Intent to use it at the will of the person who takes or convert it, although he may intend afterwards to repay the amount to the owner.
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2. That the thing stolen must be a thing capable of being stolen: Section 382 of the Criminal Code Act enumerates the things that are capable of being stolen under the law. Thus, where a thing claimed to be stolen falls within the provision of Section 382, it constitutes stealing. But where the reverse is the case, stealing can’t be said to occur.
For example, Land is not capable of being stolen, therefore you can’t be accused nor convict a person of stealing a Land.
3. That the ingredients of stealing are fulfilled: These ingredients are that the thing or property stolen must be owned by a person, must be capable of being stolen and the property stolen must have been fraudulently taken or converted.
These ingredients must be proved beyond reasonable doubt, and when it is eventually proved against a person accused of stealing such person is liable to the Punishment for Stealing.
Punishment For Stealing according to the criminal code
The punishment for Stealing is prescribed in Section 390 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act which state as follows: Any person who steals anything capable of being stolen, is guilty of a felony and is liable, if no other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for three years.