Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court, Lagos has sentenced two former staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Christian Nwosu and Tijani Inda Bashir, to an accumulative 91-year jail term after finding them guilty of their involvement in the laundering of N264.8 million in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had alleged that the money was proceed of unlawful activities, specifically that it was part of the $115 million largesse doled out by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke to influence the outcome of the election.
They were re-arraigned by the EFCC on an amended nine-count charge on March 7, 2018.
Justice Idris had on January 24, 2019 convicted them, and fixed sentencing to today, January 25, 2019.
In his ruling, Justice Idris held that: “It is the vision of INEC to serve as an independent and effective election management body that is committed to the conduct of a free, fair and credible election for sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
“These convicts, by their conducts, acted in breach of the said objective and vision of INEC.
“Their actions were a disgrace to the institution.
“INEC officials must be made to understand that their conduct must be conducted within the ambit of the Law and that anyone who breached this Law will be dealt with to the fullest.
“It must be understood that leadership and governance are serious matters that should be handed over to and handled by the most patriotic persons, most informed minds and the brightest brains for purposes of accountability, responsibility and the strength of our nation.
“This country must not be allowed to descend into anarchy and despondency.
“This country cannot afford an unhealthy electoral body.
“As we are going into the forthcoming election, INEC must note that this country deserves a credible election and anyone that acts contrary to the Law, must be dealt with decisively.
“In this regard, the country only needs those with indomitable courage, implacable political will to perform their duties.
“Those who play ignoble roles must be identified and removed immediately.
“The penalty prescribed in Section 15(3) and 16 (2b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act under which the defendants were found liable provides for terms of imprisonment and in some instances options of fine or both.
“In the light of the above the court will temper justice to the extent only permitted by the Law itself.
“Again, a strong message must be sent to INEC that the eyes of the world are on them. The entire nation is watching and those who decide to act contrary to their oath of office will be identified; and when they are identified, they will be prosecuted and if found guilty, will be punished”.
The trial judge, thereafter, sentenced Nwosu to seven years imprisonment on counts one, two and nine; and five years imprisonment on counts three and four.
Inda-Bashir was sentenced to seven years on counts one and two; five years on counts three and four; seven years on counts five, six and seven; eight years on count eight; and seven years on count nine.
The sentences are to run concurrently.
The Court also ordered Nwosu to forfeit to the Federal Government of Nigeria a landed property at Okpanaman in Delta State valued N5 million, another landed property at Okpanaman, Delta State valued at N20 million, and the sum of N5 million raised in favour of the EFCC.
Inda-Bashir was ordered to forfeit to the Federal Government of Nigeria a four-bedroom flat located at 6, Umeh Street, Wise 2, Abuja.