N264.8m bribe: Two INEC officials sentenced to 7 years imprisonment
By Akin Kuponiyi
Two INEC officials, Christian Nwosu and Tijani Bashir who received N264.8 million gratification from former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke towards the build-up to 2015 General Elections were on Friday sentenced to seven years imprisonment.
The Presiding Judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, in his verdict while sentencing the two convicted INEC officials said “The two convicted INEC officials acted in breach of their duty and in disrepute manner. The INEC officials must know that their conduct must meet the required standard and must be responsibly and accountable. This country must not be allowed to degenerated to anarchy; any one who acted contrary to the law must be dealt with in accordance to the law, especially those who play ignoble roles, section 3 of the law in which the convicts were charged provide for terms of imprisonment and fine. The court will tamper justice with mercy, but the message should be sent to INEC that anyone found guilty will be dealt with in according to the provisions of the law.
“The sentence of the convicts are as follows: the two convicts are sentenced to 7 years each on count one, 7 years each on count two, 5 years each on count three, 5 years each on count four, Tijani Bashir sentenced to 7 years on count five, 7 years on count six, 7 years on count seven, 7 years on count 8,while the two convicts are sentenced to 7 years each on count nine. The sentences are to run concurrently. The properties and monies recover from the convict are to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
Nwosu is to forfeit to the Federal Government of Nigeria a landed property at Akpanam , Asaba Delta state valued N5million, (empty land) 2, Akpanam Delta State (House) valued N20 million and a cash of N5 million hile Bashir is to forfeit a four-bedroom flat at 6 Umme Street, Wuse, Abuja, valued N27 million.
Before the court sentenced the convicts, their counsel, Victor Opara, leading six other lawyers while pleading for leniency on behalf of the convicts, urged the court to tamper justice with mercy; he told the court that the convicts were first offender, the prosecutor Mohammed Idris confirmed this.
The two convicts were present in court on Friday. The convicts were convicted yesterday while their sentence were differed till today because of the absence of the first convict (Nwosu) on the ground of ill health. The trial of the convicts started on April 6,2017.
The EFCC had preferred a criminal charge against the convicts. One of them, Yisa Adedoyin, earlier was convicted by the court after he pleaded guilty to the charges.
The convicts were said to have accepted cash gratification from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Allison-Madueke, in the build-up to 2015 general elections.
The anti-graft agency accused them of accepting the said gratification, which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.
When the case was mentioned today, Mr Obinna Okereke announced his appearance for Nwosu, and informed the court that the convict was immediately informed to come down from Enugu after the court issued the order yesterday.
He, however, said that after Nwosu arrived Lagos, he was informed that he fainted at the park and had been rushed to a hospital at Ajangbadi in Lagos, where his blood pressure was said to have read 200/140
He also urged the court to grant a short adjournment to enable his appearance in court, adding that there was also a subsisting appeal in the instant case before the Court of Appeal.
Again, Oyedepo objected to the prayer for adjournment and citing the provisions of sections 305 and 314 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, he urged the court to proceed to deliver his judgment.
The prosecutor, described the request as a gimmick to stop the judgment.
He added: “A defendant who was able to travel from Enugu to Lagos, suddenly fainted when he arrived his destination; he did not faint on the way, I urge the court to refuse this excuse and proceed with the judgement.”
In a bench ruling, Justice Idris dismissed the request for adjournment on the grounds that by the provisions of the law, his judgment ought to be delivered within 90 days after adoption of addresses.
Delivering his judgment afterwards, which lasted for about 47 minutes, Justice Idris gave a clear insight as to what constituted Money laundering, conspiracy, as well as circumstantial evidence.
The court held that it was satisfied from the testimonies of prosecution’s witnesses which included an operative attached to the Special Task force of the Economic and financial crime commission, EFCC, Mr Usman Zakari who in his evidences tendered such as receipts of payments duly signed by the convicts, that the prosecution had been able to discharge the burden of proof on it, which in any case needs not be total.
Again, the court held that it was not in doubt that the convicts were guilty of the offences of conspiracy, as they both met in the bank to accept the cash payments of N70.05 million and N30 million out of the total sum of N264.8 million dole-out by the ex petroleum minister.
The court held: “I agree with the prosecution that the manner in which the transaction leading to this charge was consummated, shows clearly a meeting of the minds.
“As stated earlier, the defendants showing their meeting of minds to commit the alleged offences, went to the bank, handed the cash to the second defendant, who conveyed same as instructed by the first defendant.
“They were not beneficiaries of any financial instruments or bank instrument, with which they can go to the bank to carry out such transaction; they made such cash payments without going through any financial institution and concealed, retained and used same.
“Any person who contravene any provisions of the money laundering Act, is liable upon conviction, to an imprisonment term of not less than seven years imprisonment and not more than 14 years imprisonment.
“To prove its case, the prosecution need not call all the witnesses, but only such witnesses necessary to prove its case.
“In the light of the forgoing, I hereby find the accused guilty as charge.”
Following the absence of the first accused, the court deferred his sentencing to January 25, and ordered that the second accused who was present in court, be remanded in the EFCC custody pending sentence.