Lagos Court Convicts 2 ex-INEC Officials Over N264.8m Gratification
Justice Mohammed Idris who has been elevated to the Court of Appeal, but concluded the case on a fiat, convicted the ex-officials.
He, however, adjourned sentencing of the convicts until Friday to enable Nwosu to appear in court.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) prosecuted the ex-officials and one Yisa Adedoyin, who had earlier been convicted by the court after he pleaded guilty to the charge.
The EFCC said that the convicts accepted money from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the build up to the 2015 general elections.
The anti-graft agency said that the convicts ought to know that the money formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.
The ex-officials were re-arraigned after their co-accused (Adedoyin) opted to change his plea by admitting complicity in the offences.
Nwosu and Bashir maintained their pleas of not guilty and began defence on Sept. 19, 2018, and Sept. 21, 2018, respectively.
After conclusion of trial, parties adopted their final addresses on Nov. 8, 2018, and the court adjourned until Jan. 23 for judgment.
On Jan. 23, the court was ready for judgment, but was informed that Nwosu was sick and on bed rest.
The defence urged the court to grant an adjournment to enable Nwosu to appear.
Although the prosecution kicked against adjournment of the judgment, the judge adjourned it until Thursday, and ordered that Nwosu be brought to court unfailingly by 9.am.
When the case was called on Thursday, Mr Obinna Okereke announced appearance for Nwosu and informed the court that although Nwosu came to Lagos from Enugu, he fainted and had been rushed to a hospital at Ajangbadi in Lagos.
He prayed the court to grant a short adjournment to enable Nwosu’s appearance in court, adding that there was a subsisting appeal in the case.
Again, prosecution objected to the prayer, citing the provisions of Sections 305 and 314 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act,
The prosecution described the request as a gimmick to stop the judgement.
“A defendant, who was able to travel from Enugu to Lagos, suddenly fainted when he arrived at his destination. I urge the court to refuse this excuse and proceed with judgement,” prosecution counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, said.
Idris dismissed the request for adjournment on the grounds that by the provisions of the law, the judgment ought to be delivered within 90 days after adoption of addresses.
In the judgment, which lasted for 47 minutes, Idris gave an insight as to what constituted money laundering, conspiracy, as well as circumstantial evidence.
He held that the court was satisfied with the evidence of prosecution witnesses and exhibits tendered such as receipts of payments duly signed by the convicts.
He held that the prosecution convinced the court beyond reasonable doubts that the ex-officials committed the offences.
The judge said that the court was not in doubt that they were guilty of conspiracy, as they both met in a bank to accept cash payments of N70.05 million and N30 million out of the total sum of N264.8 million gratification from Alison-Madueke.
He 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. They made such cash payments without going through any financial institution, and concealed, retained and used same”.
“Any person who contravenes any provisions of the Money Laundering Act is liable, upon conviction, to an imprisonment term of not less than seven years and not more than 14 years. In the light of the forgoing, I hereby find the accused guilty of the charge,” he held.
Following the absence of the first accused, the court deferred sentencing to Jan. 24 at noon, and ordered that the second accused, who was present in court, be remanded in the EFCC custody pending the sentencing. (NAN)