Admin l Monday, August 22, 2022
IKEJA, Lagos, Nigeria – A Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos on Monday convicted Oluwagbemileke and Zakariah for illegal sale of Caterpillar belonging Alpha Dredging Limited.
They were convicted and sentenced by Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo to 7 and two years for the first and second respondents respectively. In line with the provisions of the Advance Fee Fraud (AFF) Act.
While convicting them, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo said that the prosecution succeeded in proving essential ingredients of the charges against the first defendant on all the 7 counts but succeeded in proving two against the second defendant.
The judge ordered the first defendant to pay fine and restitute accumulative sum of N1million, while the second defendant, Zakariah is ordered to pay fine and restitute accumulative sum of N500,000.
Oluwagbemileke and Zakariah were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on seven count charge of conspiracy, stealing and obtaining money under false pretense.
The two, Oluwagbemileke and Zakariah conspired within themselves and sold a caterpillar belonging to Alpha Guide Dredging Limited for the sum of N5 million.
According to court proceedings, the first defendant claimed he had the directive of the company to sell the caterpillar packed in his compound since the company owed workers salaries and told the second defendant to pose as a director in the company to facilitate smooth sale of the caterpillar.
In his confessional statements in the police station tendered before the court, the first defendant confessed that they sold the caterpillar for N5 million and shared the proceeds among themselves and has restituted N450, 000 shortly after his arrest. The second defendant however insisted that he did not share in the proceeds but that whatever he received was commission for assisting to look for a buyer to facilitate sale of the Caterpillar even though he agreed to pose as a director in Alpha Guide Dredging during the sale.
Lawyer to the first and second defendant however pleaded for mercy and that the first defendant was a first time offender who has lost his wife in the course of the trial and now has children and a grand mother to cater for. He told the court that the wife of the second defendant has equally abandoned him, leaving him to cater for his children and that the judge should give them option of fine since they have almost restituted the stated sum for sale of the Caterpillar.
Justice Taiwo noted that it is a matter that should ordinarily should have gone for settlement since they have already restituted some amount.
Anticipating that the judge was going to minimize the sentence, the EFCC prosecutor M.S Owoede told the court that the first defendant was convicted under Advance Fee Fraud, and therefore merits the minimum sentence of 7 years as prescribed in the AFF Act.
He drew the attention of the court to Appeal Court judgement in Lucky VS the State, stressing that the trial judge found the defendant guilty under the AFF Act and imposes 6 years jail.
But that the Supreme Court and found it astonishing and that though the defendant was charged under the AFF Act, the Appeal Court awarded 6 years when the minimum sentence under the AFF Act is 7 years, forcing the Supreme Court to apply the minimum of 7 years prescribed by the law, stressing that the court had no discretion in the matter.
Owoede said law was so made to serve as deterrent asked for and pleaded with the court to apply for the minimum mandatory sentence of 7 years without option of fine for the first, and also to order the defendant to pay outstanding amount.
“In the event that the court decides on option of fine, we asked the court to tie the restitution to the option of time put differently, the second defendant should not have option of fine until restitution due to experience.
“ I have two cases in judgements that I want to declare the defendants wanted for refusing to restituted after paying fine, one is 109 million the other 24 million, they paid the fine but failed to restitute.
“Please give and order that the restitution must be paid before the second defendant will exercise the option of fine”, he told the court.
But the defense lawyer stood his ground stressing that but for disagreement the matter would have since been settled, stressing that while the nominal complainant asked for N250,000, his clients said they can only part with N200,000 hence the matter went for full trial.