A Federal high court in Lagos has convicted an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Yisa Olarenwaju Adedoyin on the basis of a plea bargain arrangement he reached with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The plea bargain agreement is dated May 2, 2017.
The judge, Justice Mohammed Idris arrived at the decision after the Commission re-arraigned in absentia the immediate past Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, alongside three officials of INEC namely: Christian Nwosu, Yisa Olarenwaju and Tijani Bashir.
In sentencing the INEC official, who is the 2nd defendant, Yisa Olarenwaju Adedoyin, Justice Idris held that “There is no doubt that the second defendant is an elderly man.
“It is also not in contention that the second defendant is a first time offender.
“This court will tamper Justice with mercy.
“The court hereby adopts the plea bargain agreement as the judgment of the court. ”
In plea bargain agreement, it was stated that,” Upon the conviction of the second defendant, the honourable court ordered his forfeiture to the Federal Government all the parcel of land and its appurtenances measuring 100ft by 100, situated at Taoheed Road, Bufo-Osho Village, Ilorin-South Local Government Area, Ilorin, Kwara state which property was acquired and developed with the sum of N23, 000,000.00 (Twenty Three Million Naira) from the proceed of the 2nd defendant’s unlawful acts.
“That a fine N10, 000,000.00 (Ten Million Naira) is proposed to this honourable court to be imposed on the 2nd defendant upon his conviction on count 4 of the amended charge.
” That in paying the fine of the sum of N10, 000,000.00 (Ten Million Naira), the 2nd defendant shall raise a draft of the sum of N5, 000,000.00 (Five Million Naira) in addition to the sum of N5, 000,000.00 (Five Million Naira) already recovered from him vide the attached draft.
“That the honourable court shall direct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in whose name the draft of N5, 000,000.00 (Five Million Naira) was raised by the 2nd defendant to transfer the value of the said draft to the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account of the Federation.
“The 2nd defendant shall within 7 days after the payment of the fine imposed by this Honourable Court enter into a bond with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission never to be involved in economic and financial crimes within and outside the shores of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The EFCC had re-arraigned the defendants over their alleged involvement in money laundering.
But they all pleaded not guilty to the six count amended charge made against them by the anti-graft agency.
Prior to the rearrangement of the defendants, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo had informed Justice Idris that the 2nd defendant, Olarenwaju had indicated his intention to change his plea from not guilty to guilty plea and also reached a plea bargain arrangement with the commission.
Oyedepo further informed the judge that the anti-graft agency had filed the 2nd amended charge, with a prayer that same should be accepted and read to the defendants for them to take their pleas.
It would be recalled that at the last hearing on the matter, Justice Idris had thrown out an earlier plea bargain arrangement reached at by the then convicted 1st defendant, Christian Nwosu over allegation of money laundering with the anti-graft agency which he had earlier pleaded guilty to.
The judge had clearly maintained that the plea bargain arrangement cannot save the convict from serving a stiffer sentence.
Justice Idris made a declaration that the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) stipulates that such a convict deserves a sentence that is more stiffer.
It is recalled that the Commission had dragged the immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, alongside the three officials of INEC over their alleged involvement in money laundering.
But the former Petroleum minister according to the Commission is still at large.
As at the time the INEC officials were arraigned before Justice Idris, Nwosu had pleaded guilty to the charges, while Adedoyin and Bashir pleaded not guilty to the same charges.
This then prompted the EFCC to put the court on notice concerning a plea bargain agreement between it and Nwosu.
But in handing down his judgement, Justice Idris maintained that “The penalty set out in paragraph 4 of the plea bargain agreement entered into by the accused with the EFCC, ran contrary to the provisions of sections 16 (2) (b) of the ACJA.
“Besides a forfeiture of two landed properties in Delta State, as well as a forfeiture of the sum of N5 million recovered from the accused, paragraph 4 of the plea bargain also provides: “That a fine in the sum of N500,000 is proposed to this honourable court, to be imposed on the first defendant upon his conviction on count seven of the amended charge.
“The agreement also provides that within seven days after payment of the fine, the accused shall enter into a bond with the EFCC, never to be involved in economic and financial crimes within and outside Nigeria.
“It appears to me that from the provisions of the ACJA, the appropriate sentence should be given for the offence charged.
“The first defendant was charged with offences contrary to section 16 (1) of the money laundering prohibition amendment act.
“Section 16(2) of the said Act provides that any person who commits an offence under sub section 1, is liable upon conviction, to an imprisonment term of not less than two years or fine in the sum of not less than 10 million or both.
“This provision is clear and unambiguous; it is for the above reason that I find the proposal in paragraph 4 of the plea bargain as inadequate; a sentence in my view is more appropriate given the circumstances of this case.
“The law also provides that the judge informs the accused of such sentence, to enable him make a choice.“
The matter has been adjourned until May 15, 2017, for counsels to return with the mind of addressing the court as to whether the case should be transfered to another judge for same to start afresh.
According to the charge designated FHC/L/106c/2017, the anti-graft agency made an allegation that the INEC officials together with Alison-Madueke on March 27, 2015, conspired among themselves to directly take possession of a total sum to the tune of N500, 760 million, which formed parts of proceeds of unlawful act.
Specifically, the anti-graft agency pointed accusing fingers at Tijani Inda Bashir for taking possession of a sum to the tune of N164, 880 million, which forms part of the proceeds of unlawful act, as gratification.
On the other hand, Yisa Olanrewaju and Christian Nwosu were said to have gotten the sum of N70, 050 million and N30 million respectively from Tijani Inda Bashir, without going through financial institutions.
According to the anti-graft agency, the offences offends Sections 18(a), 15(2)(d), 1(a) 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012, and punishable under Sections 15(3) 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
But the accused persons informed the judge that they are not guilty to the all the counts charge.
Counsel to the EFCC, Oyedepo told Justice Idris of a development wherein one of the accused, Christian Nwosu, had applied to the Commission for a plea bargain.
Oyedepo added that sequel to the plea bargaining agreement dated April 4, 2017, the EFCC has been able to recover a sum to the tune of N30 million in cash and in material.
The Commission’s counsel argued further that the first defendant, who is an INEC Director/Administrative Secretary, signed and received the sum of N262,880 million, from Ilorin, Kwara state branch of the bank, and that the fund was left in the custody of the third defendant (Yisa Inda Bashir).
Oyedepo equally contended that the sum was kept in an Hi-lux van and paying in cash payment without going to financial institutions.
The prosecutor added that the third defendant, paid the sum of N30 million to the first defendant (Nwosu).
The Commission’s lawyer maintained that upon conclusion of the Investigation, the first defendant (Nwosu) was invited and his statements were taken with caution, and that the receipt of the N30 million was recovered from him.
Oyedepo said: “The sum of N5 million have been recovered from the defendant’s account, as well as the landed properties, an undeveloped land and a developed property, lying at Owotomi, in Delta state, which the defendant had agreed to forfeit to the Federal Government (FG).
“The recovered N5 million has been kept in the anti-graft agency’s account domiciled with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).”
Shortly after conclusion of the review of fact of the case, Oyedepo prayed the court for the conviction of the defendant as charged.
But lawyer to the 1st defendant (Nwosu), Mrs. Adaku Mbama prayed the court to show mercy in slamming its sentence who she contended had shown some sense of honesty, age, and returned all that he collected to the Federal Government.
Justice Idris consequently convicted Nwosu as charged.
Meanwhile, on the second and third defendants that pleaded not guilty to the charge, the judge admitted them to bail in the sum of N50m with two sureties each.
Justice Idris held that the sureties must be landed property owners within the court’s jurisdiction.
The sureties, according to the judge must have evidence of three years tax payment, while the two defendants are to submit their international passport with the court’s Deputy Chief Registrar (DCR).