N500M Election Bribe: Court Adjourns Trial Of 3 INEC Officials
The sentencing of one of the three Independent National Electrical Commission (INEC) alleged to have collected money from the former Minister of Petroleum Mrs Alison Madueke to pervert the 2015 general election could not hold today due to the absence of the accused in court.
When the matter came up for trial today Friday, the Trial Judge Justice Mohammed Idris was informed that the accused persons were not in court.
Justice Idris then adjourned the matter till April 27, 2017 for the sentencing of one of the accused that has pleaded guilty and continuation of the trial of others
The three officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), where alleged to have received money from former Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, for the purpose of manipulating the outcome of 2015 General Election.
They were arraigned on charges bordering on conspiracy, gratification, money laundering, and making cash payment exceeding the amount authorised by law without going through financial institutions.
The three INEC Officials are: Christian Nwosu; Yisa Olanrewaju Adedoyin, and Tijani Inda Bashir.
EFCC had in the charge FHC/L/106c/2017, alleged that the three INEC Officials alongside Deziani Alison-Madueke, the former Minister of Petroleum Resource on March 27, 2015, conspired among themselves to directly take possession of total sum of N500, 760 million, which formed parts of proceeds of unlawful act.
Tijani Inda Bashir was alleged to have taken possession of the sum N164, 880 million, which form parts of the proceeds of unlawful act, as gratification, while Yisa Olanrewaju and Christian Nwosu were alleged to have received the sum of N70, 050 million and N30 million respectively from Tijani Inda Bashir, without going through financial institutions.
The offences according to the EFCC are contrary to 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.
The three defendants pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
However, the EFCC Prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, informed the court that despite the not guilty plea of the defendants, one of them, Christian Nwosu, had applied to the anti-graft agency for a plea bargain.
Oyedepo said following the plea bargaining agreement dated April 4, 2017, the anti-graft agency has been able to recovered the sum of N30 million both in cash and material.
Giving the facts of the case against the first defendant, Oyedepo informed the court that the EFCC received an intelligence report that former Petroleum Minister, Alison-Madueke received total sum of $115 million, which was kept in custody of Fidelity Bank and that the said $115 million, was successful converted to Nigerian Naira.
He added that the bank acting on the oral instruction of the former Petroleum Minister, used parts of the money to gratified officers of Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC), in the conduct of 2015 General Elections.
Oyedepo stated further that it was from the money that the first defendant (Nwosu) received cash payment of N30 million.
Oyedepo also stated 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 Fidelity bank, and that the fund was left in custody of the third defendant (Yisa Inda Bashir).
The prosecutor also stated that they kept the money in Hi-lux van and paying in cash without going through financial institutions.
He added that the third defendant, paid the sum of N30 million to the first defendant (Nwosu).
Oyedepo stated 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.
The court admitted both the statements and the receipt as exhibits A-A6.
Oyedepo stated that 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.
He also stated that the recovered N5 million has been kept in the anti-graft agency’s account domiciled with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Upon the conclusion of the review of fact of the case, the prosecutor urged the court to convict the defendant as charge.
However, counsel to the defendant, Mrs. Adaku Mbama, pleaded with the court to be lenient in sentencing her client, whom she said has demonstrated sense of honesty, age, and returned all that he collected to the Federal government.
Consequently, the Presiding Judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, said ‘in line with the plea of the defendant coupled with the fact and exhibit tendered by the prosecution the defendant is hereby convict as charge’.
Justice Idris however, reserved the sentence of the defendant till Friday.
On the second and third defendants that pleaded not guilty to the charge, the judge admitted them to bail in the sum of N50 with two sureties each.
The sureties the judge must be landed property owner within the court’s jurisdiction, with evidence of three years tax payment, while the two defendants are to submit their international passport with the court’s Deputy Chief Registrar (DCR).
Their trial was then adjourned till today April 7.