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Samuel Okolie: How EFCC plea bargain is encouraging fraudsters

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Samuel Okolie

The concept of plea bargain which has its provenance from the united state of America, is simply an arrangement between the prosecutor and the defendant whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for or more lenient sentence or an agreement to drop other charges.

There are profusion and cornucopia of advantages inherent in plea bargain. These advantages are aptly and concisely captured by the court in federal republic of Nigeria Vs Lucky Igbinedion (2014) LPELR 22760 where my Lord, Ogunwumiju provided a panoply of Plea Bargain advantages as follows:

(a) An accused can avoid the time and cost of defending himself at trial, avoid the risk of harsher punishment and the publicity the trial will involve (b) The prosecution saves time and expense of a lengthy trial (c) Both sides are spared the uncertainty of going to trial (d) The court system is saved the burden of a lengthy trial on every crime charged.

Furthermore, in addition to the advantages adumbrated by my noble lord, Ogunwumiju JCA above, it is my considered opinion that the raison dêtre for plea bargain is to ensure crime deterrence which is the spirits and letters of the law and discourage people from engaging in criminal activities. Unfortunately, the modus operandi of the economic and financial crime commission with regards to the manner that they enter into plea bargain arrangement with suspect under their cocoon is mind numbing and bewildering. This, will be elucidated anon.

CASE STUDY

Jimmy Carter once said that plea bargaining only serves the prosecutors and the criminal not the end of justice. This aptly describe the scenario with the EFCC, as regards to plea bargain. For example; one Prince Henry Okotie had on Monday the 23rd of August 2021, arraigned before justice Silvanus orji of the high court of the federal capital territory, Abuja. Henry Prince Okotie pretended to be one Thomas Thud on face book, and used such fake identity to obtain the sum of $ 1,500 (One thousand five hundred dollars) from one Richamar, a citizen of the Philippines under the guise of being in a romantic relationship with her.

Mr. Prince Henry Okotie entered into plea bargain with the EFCC and based on his guilty plea, he was convicted and sentence to six months imprisonment with an option of fine of 100,000 (One hundred thousand naira). Now, for someone who defrauded another to the time of 700,000 (Seven Hundred thousand naira) which is about the equivalent of $ 1, 500 (One Thousand five hundred dollars) to be asked pay a paltry sum of a hundred thousand naira as punishment so as to avoid residence in Penitentiary. One will begin to imagine the debilitating level of absurdity under the guise of plea bargain.

Similarly, In August 26, 2021, the EFCC entered into plea bargain with the trio of Oladapo, Olawale, Victor Benjamin and Adeboyega Idowu, wherein the trio pleaded guilty to the charges of impersonation, after the trio had successfully defrauded an American citizen to the fine 19, 650 (nineteen thousand six hundred and fifty thousand dollars). The court on the strength of the plea Bargain, sentenced the convict to 2 years imprisonment or an option of fine of N200,000 (two hundred thousand naira). In order word, for a crime of over N10,000,000 (Ten million Naira) if the money is converted to dollar, a convict is asked to pay a seemingly infinitesimal sum of Two hundred Thousand naira only. This is actually a mockery of the crime, the convict committed.

Furthermore, this absurdity under the cover of plea bargain was taken to a different level of ad absurdum when on the 25th of June 2021, one victor Obokparo having successfully defrauded some American citizen to the tune of 5,000 (five thousand united state dollar) which is approximately two million five hundred thousand naira was convicted and sentenced to prison terms of 6 months or an option of fine N20,000 (twenty thousand naira) this option of fine was predicated on the strength of the plea bargain entered into between EFCC and the convict.

Gleaning from the above, will a person who was asked to pay a seemingly insignificant sum of twenty thousand naira having committed a fraud as huge and humungous as more than two million five hundred thousand naira be deterred from further committing crime? Conversely such penalty will only embolden and encourage such a person to continue to commit crime. It will further serve as manure and fertilizer to breed more crime.

More so, as a Legal Practitioner who is vastly familiar with bail applications in the EFCC and the various courts in Nigeria. I know how serious and very difficult it is to get bail at the EFCC, averagely for a suspect to get bail, such a person is asked to provide a person as a surety, such a surety, must have landed property within jurisdiction, (such landed property will have a C of O) or a surety who is at or above level 14 at the civil service, or a surety who must have travelled to the united state of America or Europe, and such a surety must be required to deposit his or her international passport with the agency. Sometimes, the agency may require such a surety to have all the above qualifications to stand for a suspect as a surety in the EFCC detention facility. The question now is how many Nigerians will be able to have reliable surety who will provide a landed property with C of O if such a Nigerian is at the EFCC detention facility.

Now it is quite puzzling and flummoxing that an agency who will make obtaining bail by a suspect at it’s detention facility extremely difficult, will willingly enter into a plea bargain with a suspect where on conviction will be allowed to pay a paltry sum of twenty or fifty thousand naira.

It must be pointed out that this lenient sentencing giving to suspect at the behest of the EFCC has only embolden the convict to commit more crime. For example one Joshua Oluwatobi who is an ex convict was on the 24th of November 2021 docked again for cyber fraud, his previous conviction, probably on plea bargain, did not dissuade him from committing more crime. It is for this reason that one must commend and applaud some judges who has refused the more lenient option of fine or a minor prison term, in favour of some stringent sentencing. For instance, the very brave, courageous and doughty justice Joyce Abdulmalik of the Federal High Court, Ibadan judicial division, who on Monday May 6, 2019 rejected the term of plea bargain presented on behalf of Oladimeji Omotola Abiola, an internet fraudster. Instead of the 6 months prison term proposed in the plea bargain agreement, the judge sentenced Oladimeji to one year, saying too liberal sentencing would not achieve deterrence, which was meant to be the spirit of the law against crime. It is gratifying that some other judges have tendentiously taken similar stance.

In summation, let me implore the immortal words of the revered jurist, the one fondly referred to as the Socrates of the supreme court ,Justice Chuwudifu Oputa who in Joseph Josiah V the state, (1985) 1 NWLR (PT 1) 125 at 141 aptly postulated that: Justice is not a one way traffic, it is not justice for the appellant only. (in this case the EFCC) Justice is not even only a two way traffic; it is really a three way traffic. Justice for the appellant, justice for the victim and finally justice to the society whose social norms and value is desecrated and broken by the criminal act complained of. It is my submission that the EFCC should heed to this sacred and immortal dictum of the philosopher jurist by ensuring that whenever, they enter into a plea bargain arrangement they should endeavor that the society whose action of the suspect had been serially abused and debased should get justice by ensuring a harsher sentencing.

Samuel Okolie is a Lagos- based Legal Practitioner.

[email protected]
08066756987

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One dies as bushfire destroys over 90 farmlands in Yobe

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The Yobe State Government, through the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), has confirmed the death of one person in a bush fire that gutted farmlands in some communities in the Gulani Local Government Area of the state.

SEMA, via its verified Facebook page, gave the confirmation after its response team carried out an assessment visit to the affected communities.

It also noted that over 90 farmers, who were at the eve of harvest, lost their farmlands to the disaster.

“In the early hours of Tuesday the 30th and 1st of December, 2021; over 90 farmers in Gulani local government who are at the eve of harvest lost their farmlands due to bushfire with one farmer reported dead.

“SEMA response team along with the LGA Chair visited the scene to commiserate with the victims on behalf of the Government and to conduct on the spot assessment”, the agency posted.

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It disclosed that five communities, Bularafa town, Makera Village, Makera Fili, Juggolgam as well as Gulani town, were affected.

“While commiserating with the victims, the Executive Secretary of SEMA Dr. Mohammed Goje assured the victims of Governor Mai Mala Buni’s readiness to come to their plights and support them within available resources to cushion the hardship they might encounter after investing everything for this harvest”, it assured.

Recall that DAILY POST reported that Gulani is regarded as one of the food baskets of the state, hence many expressed concern that the bushfire which destroyed farmlands in the area may affect crop production this year in the state.

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One dies as bushfire destroys over 90 farmlands in Yobe

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Geodesists proffer solution to incessant building collapse in Lagos, others

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Geodesists under the auspices of the Nigeria Association of Geodesy (NAG) have said that lack of deformation surveys for monitoring of structures is the major factor responsible for frequent building collapse in Lagos State and other major cities in the country.

The association, which is a group of scientists and researchers specialised in scientific areas of surveying, said this in a communique issued at the end of their annual conference, theme “Geodetic Solutions to Multi-Disciplinary Problems”, held at Federal School of Surveying, Oyo.

DAILY POST recalls that a 21-story building collapsed on November 1st in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State. No fewer than 40 people lost their lives as a result of the incident.

Our correspondent recalls that another building on November 17th collapsed in the Badagry area of Lagos State.

NAG has however said that the absence of deformation surveys for monitoring of structures such as high-rise buildings, bridges, and dams is responsible for the frequent building collapse in Lagos and other cities.

The association, in the communique made available to DAILY POST through its President, Professor Timothy Oluwadare Idowu, insisted that the only solution to reduce incessant building collapse is to ensure speedy implementation and compliance to the Federal Government’s policy on deformation monitoring of infrastructures.

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NAG suggested that an acceptable format for the generation and presentation of deformation monitoring data should also be developed, in order to reduce incessant building collapse across the country.

The association explained that the alarming rate of retreating Lake Chad is a major international boundary issue that has consequential conflict potentials in the country.

It observed that the “Absence of deformation surveys for monitoring of structures such as high-rise buildings, bridges and dams is responsible for the frequent collapses of such structures in the country.

“Inadequate monitoring and poor understanding of subterraneous activities particularly in areas of intensive mining results in the poor estimation of the environmental impacts of these activities.

“Lack of accurate geoid model for the country is a major problem in the development of a common and unified reference system for the country. Insufficiency of gravity data in the country is a setback for geoid determination and modeling.

“The alarming rate of retreating Lake Chad is a major international boundary issue which has consequential conflict potentials for major socio-economic and national security concerns”.

NAG while speaking further suggested that there is a need to ensure speedy implementation and compliance to the Federal Government’s policy on deformation monitoring of infrastructures so as to reduce incessant cases of building collapse in the country.

“Speedy implementation and compliance to the Federal Government’s policy on deformation monitoring of infrastructures. An acceptable format for the generation and presentation of deformation monitoring data should also be developed. An acceptable format for the generation and presentation of deformation monitoring data should also be developed.

“Geodetic solutions to the spatial dynamics of Lake Chad retreating shorelines should be adopted for sustainable planning and management of the socio-economic activities and the mitigation of environmental impacts of the shoreline retreat, particularly as it relates to the Nigeria border sectors where significant variations are noticeable.

“Geodesy should be considered to stand alone as a full departmental programme in an appropriate faculty/school within university and polytechnic systems to deeply enrich researches in geodesy options like space geodesy, marine geodesy and geophysical exploration amongst others”.

Geodesists proffer solution to incessant building collapse in Lagos, others

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Idoma billionaire businessman, Ochacho, Sen Abah Moro meet Ortom on Benue development

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A billionaire businessman and philanthropist, Mohammed Adah, popularly known as Ochacho, on Wednesday, met with the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom to discuss ways of developing the state.

Ochacho and his entourage were led to the Benue Peoples House in Makurdi, the state capital, by the Senator representing Benue South Senatorial District, Comrade Patrick Abba Moro.

Governor Ortom, while addressing the press after meeting with Ochacho, acknowledged the infrastructural developmental strides of the Ochacho Foundation particularly in the construction of roads in Benue South.

He said although Ochacho is not into politics, he is a Benue son who is adding value to the development of the state and needs collaboration.

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Ochacho’s younger brother, Alex Enokela Ogbe, who is the CEO of the foundation, in a remark, expressed gratitude to God for making the Ochacho Foundation representative of good works.

He urged his supporters to remain calm as they will soon hear from him on the way forward.

Other members of the delegation included the State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Sir John Ngbede, members of the Benue State House of Assembly from Zone C, and Chairman of Ado local government council, Hon. James Oche.

Others are Prof. Agbo Madaki, Hon. Chris Aba, Hon Mrs. Abeje Egwa, PDP state Woman leader, Hon Egli Johnson Ahubi, former Deputy Speaker BNSHA, Hon Mike Audu, House of Assembly Member, Adoka/Ugboju among many others.

Idoma billionaire businessman, Ochacho, Sen Abah Moro meet Ortom on Benue development

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