Following a plea bargain agreement, Justice Muhammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, today convicted Yisa Olarenwaju Adedoyin, an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for receiving bribe to compromise the 2015 general election.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had charged Mr. Adedoyin for receiving a cash payment of over N70m from Tijani Inda Bashir, a 3rd defendant in the matter. Mr. Bashir had received N234.88 million from the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Deizani Allison-Madueke, for disbursement to his colleagues in the electoral commission.
Under the terms of the agreement, Mr. Adedoyin forfeits to the Federal Government of Nigeria a parcel of land measuring 100ft by 100, in Buda-Osho Village, Ilorin-South Local Government Area of Kwara State, and pay a fine of N10m.
Reading his judgment, the judge said he accepted the agreement and that the court would temper justice with mercy considering that the defendant is an elderly person and also a first offender. He also noted that the agreement is in consonance with Section 270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Acts (ACJA).
“N5 million has been recovered and surrendered,” Justice Idris said. “Assets attached in excess of N30 million has been recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. It is not in contention that the 2nd defendant is a first-time offender, therefore the court will temper justice with mercy. It is in this light that I find the plea agreement entered into between the Federal government of Nigeria and the second defendant acceptable”.
Meanwhile, Christain Nwosu, an administrative secretary with INEC and 1st defendant in the suit, who had earlier entered into a plea bargain agreement, abandoned the plea and changed his plea to not guilty. Nwosu’s new counsel, Obinna Okereke, accused the anti-graft agency of hoodwinking his client into the earlier plea bargain agreement.
Nwosu had agreed to plea bargain but the process hit problems when the judge insisted he would impose a heavier fine as stipulated by the provisions of the law on which the charge was preferred. Nwosu had agreed to a fine of N500,000 in addition to the N5 million recovered from him during the course of the investigation, but the judge insisted that the fine must be N10m, according to Section 16(2)(b) of the ACJA.
Rotimi Oyedepo, representing the EFCC, presented an amended charge to which Nwosu and Mr. Bashir pleaded not guilty. Oyedepo then asked that the file be sent to the Chief Judge for reassignment since the provision of ACJA stipulates that a judge who had heard and rejected a plea bargain agreement of a defendant cannot preside on the matter should the defendant decide to change his plea.
Responding to this, Nwosu’s lawyer argued that the court need not be in a hurry to return the case file to the chief judge for reassignment. He affirmed that the judge retained jurisdiction in the matter and that his client could not be held to have entered into any plea bargain as he was not given the liberty to choose his counsel and he was ill-advised by the counsel provided by the EFCC.
He urged the court to take the bail application of his client as he had been in the custody of the EFCC for over a month.
Justice Idris adjourned the matter till May 15 for the counsel to address the court on the issue of transferring the case file to the chief judge, and also for hearing on the bail application of the 2nd defendant.