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(Last Update July 16, 2020)

One of the most striking features among the people in the moats or Iya enclosure or villages during Ogiso kings was the similarity or uniformity when handling crimes The type of punishments melted out to offenders were also very similar all Over the communities even where there was no iya the distribution of Iya into primary settlement and non primary by (Darling 1985).

There was also remarked punishment with seriousness of the crime Committed. They strictly enforced it no matter who was involved. The decision of the edonwere or the council of elders, or the chief priests in judgment involving capital punishment Ohien uwu) were strictly enforced according to the law of the land In these early periods, the punishment could even be extended sometimes to the members of the families of an accused or the offender it’ found guilty.

Although traditionally in pre-Ogiso and throughout Ogiso period no major conflict leading to war were actually reported between two groups but it was known that when one group killed a member of the other that was regarded as a crime to which it immediate action was not taken, it may result in a bloody feud, revenge and counter revenge. This might lead to wars.

Wars were prevented between two groups because of kingship system in these periods, serious matters were often reported to the Ogiso. Enogie. Okaevbo, Edion-evbo or even the Odionwere.

Other crime beside murder, manslaughter, arson, theft and adultery which could be atoned for with money and fines were proportioned to the offences- If an offender had no money, he must satisfy the fine by corporal punishment. Robbery, rape, seduction, abortion were all punishable by flogging or whipping.

Witchcraft, murder, piracy, conspiracy highway and death were treated accordingly, but treason and spying were offences punishable by death or committing suicide. There was no prison where prisoners or offenders found guilty could be kept for a long time. Oba Ewedo in 1255 A.D. was known to be the first king of Benin to build a prison where criminals were kept. But in Ogiso periods, crimes were dealt with immediately and summarily to avoid long terms of imprisonment Fines charged on crimes were divided as follows:

First, the person injured was satisfied out of it; then the Odionwere, enogie and the four elders (edionene) such¬† part that went to them was known as ( Odion I ko kua) ¬†meaning “ the elders cannot meet and settle matters on empty stomach” The remaining part of the fine could go to the women and Ighele or Eroghae age groups.If a man committed rape, he was considered to have married the girl, if she were not a marriageable girl, the accused would be fined.

Ordeals were one of the greatest safe-guards of justice in the ancient Edo There was a time in the early times when liars were reluctant to expose themselves to what was done to accusers. In most cases, both the accuser and the accused were forced to undergo the same ordeal. The people believed that gods had power to come to justice. That was why the invocations of gods or juju were common features in ordeals. The appeal in gods or “juju” prevailed throughout the pre-Ogiso, the ogiso periods, even to the I8th century. It had greater influence on committing crimes and hence crimes were lesser in their societies. The “juju” cursed by the chief priest or made on accuser to take oath on certain charms or gods were sometimes very effective indeed and served as a deterrent to others.

Trial by ordeals oath by making criminals to drink some concoctions such as the sasswood (iyin) was common features. This was always meted on witch craft which were very rampart, but difficult to prove, trial by ordeal or oath taking was universal in those early periods.

There were others like the greasing of a cock’s Feacher which was pierced through the tongue of an accuse, but if the quill remains slicking, he was pronounced guilty (Talbot, 1926).

It was however obvious that most of the forms of ordeals were dangerous and could not reveal the truth. But taking oaths on some charms or gods had been proved to be most effective, but very slow some took months or years before gods or charms could prove accusers’ innocence

Oaths on some gods or charms could kill a whole family, unless that family was bought by paying heavy sums of money to the priest of such god or charms. There was a change in later periods when Monarchy. (Ogiso) came into the scenes. Most communities moved towards political administration and centralization under the kings. The harshness of judicial system was reinforced, by the rulers who manipulated the administration of justice in the way they liked through judicial and religious instructions. Some of the kings established more centers for oaths taking and even controlled by them.

Some of them used these centers to suppress and control crimes in the society because if one lied when taken oaths, he could die instantly It also killed thieves when they are cursed for stolen properties.

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