INEC Bribery Scam; Plea Bargain Or Not, I Won’t Go Below What The Law Says—Judge

* Scales of Justice * Source: Iconfinder

 

 

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos today, told the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), that it would not impose punishment that is not in tandem with those stipulated by the law on accused persons, irrespective of the plea bargaining arrangement agreed upon between the anti-graft agency and the accused.

Justice Mohammed Idris made the declaration today during the resumed trial of three INEC, officials charged for collecting bribe to pervert the 2015 general election.

Three officials of INEC were 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 have earlier been arraigned before Justice Idris 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.

The three accused were specifically charged for taking possession of the sum of N500, 760 million, which formed parts of proceeds unlawful act.

However, why one of the accused, Christian Nwosu pleaded guilty to the charges under a plea bargaining arrangement with EFCC, the other two pleaded not guilty.

Nwosu under the bargaining agreement with the government has agreed to forfeit two landed properties to the Federal Government at Okotomi Layout Obodogwugwu Quarters, Okpanam , Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State which he allegedly bought with the bribe money and another N5,000,000.00 which was found in his account .

The prosecution also agreed with the accused for a court sentence of N500, 000 fine, thereby given way for the sentencing of the accused.

However, there was a twist to the matter today, during the expected sentencing as the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris refused to sanction the plea bargaining agreement particularly the ground that seeks for N500,000 fine.

Justice Idris said the N500,000 fine agreed under the plea bargaining arrangement runs contrary to the provisions of Section 16 2B of the Money Laundering Act which stipulated two years jail term or N10million fine for an offender.

Consequently the trial judge informed the accused if in the face of the development he would still be sticking to his plea bargaining agreement with the EFCC or not.

The defence counsel, Mrs Adiku Mbama pleaded with the court for a short adjournment to enable the defence team assess the situation properly.

Tijani Inda Bashir was alleged to have took possession of the sum N164, 880 million, which form parts of the proceeds of unlawful act, as gratification.

EFCC in charge marked FHC/L/106c/2017, alleged that the three INEC Officials alongside Dr. Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former Minister of Petroleum Resource, had on March 27, 2015, conspired among themselves to directly take possession of total sum of N500, 760 million, which formed parts of proceeds unlawful act.

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.

EFCC in charge marked FHC/L/106c/2017, alleged that the three INEC Officials alongside Dr. Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former Minister of Petroleum Resource, had on March 27, 2015, conspired among themselves to directly take possession of total sum of N500, 760 million, which formed parts of proceeds unlawful act.

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.

Given fact of the case, the EFCC Prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi 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 a new generation Bank, and that the said $115 million was successful converted to Nigerian Naira. Adding that the bank acting on the oral instruction of the former Petroleum Minister, used parts of the money to gratified officers of INEC, in the conduct of 2015 General Elections.

He stated further that it was NJ 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 the bank and that the fund was left in custody of the third defendant (Yisa Inda Bashir).

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.

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 prosecutor, the defendant is hereby convict as charge’.

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