The Ikeja Special Offences Court on Wednesday sentenced Ayodeji Oluokun, an assistant pastor of the Redeem Christian Church of God (RCCG), City of David Parish, Victoria Island, Lagos, to two years imprisonment for issuing a $1.6 million dud cheque.
Mr Oluokun was charged alongside his company, Peak Petroleum Industry Nigeria Ltd., on an amended six-count charge bordering on the issuance of dud cheque, stealing and obtaining money under false pretences.
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo, in her judgment, held that the prosecution had successfully proved the charge of issuance of a dud cheque against the defendants.
Ms Taiwo, however, discharged and acquitted the defendants of stealing and obtaining money under false pretences.
She explained that the defendant had issued two cheques amounting to $1.6 million, which was dishonoured due to a lack of funds in his account.
“If the defendant was truly expecting some money till the end of July 2014 as claimed by him, he would have waited till he received the money before issuing the cheque on June 24, 2014,” Ms Taiwo said.
“He is hereby found guilty of counts one and two of issuance of dud cheque.
“The defendants, however, are discharged and acquitted of stealing and obtaining money under false pretences as the prosecution failed to establish the facts against them,” she said.
The judge thereafter sentenced the first defendant to two years in prison or payment of a N2 million fine and the second defendant to a fine of N2 million.
She ordered the convict to make restitution of $1.6 million to the nominal complainant within 18 months.
The defence counsel, Edoka Onyeke, in his allocutus, prayed the court to grant the convict a non-custodial sentence, adding that he was a pastor and could use his pastoral work to serve humanity through community service.
Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Samuel Daji, however, urged the court to convict the defendants as charged.
He argued that the convict and the nominal complainant had not been on talking terms, thereby making the terms of restitution difficult to meet.
He also prayed the court to order the defendant to forfeit his property to pay up the debt.
“The defence counsel said he is a pastor. My lord, the more reason he should be given a custodial sentence in order to serve as deterrent to others,” Mr Daji added.
The EFCC counsel had submitted that the defendant issued a Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Ltd. cheque of $1.6 million payable to GOSL Nigeria Ltd.
He said when presented for payment, the cheque was dishonoured on the ground that there were no sufficient funds standing to the credit of the account on which the cheque was drawn.