Three INEC officials arraigned over N23bn Diezani bribe
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on Wednesday, arraigned three officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission for allegedly taking bribes to compromise the 2015 general elections.
The accused persons, Christian Nwosu, Yisa Adedoyin and Tijani Bashir were said to have, on March 27, 2015, taken bribes from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
They were on Wednesday arraigned on seven counts before a Federal High Court in Lagos.
Charged along with them was Diezani, who was said to be at large.
The charges pressed against the defendants by the EFCC bordered on conspiracy, acceptance of gratification and money laundering.
The EFCC, in the first charge, alleged that Nwosu, Adedoyin and Bashir, in connivance with Diezani, took possession of N264.88m, which the anti-graft agency said they “ought to have reasonably known formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: gratification.”
The defendants were said to have, on March 27, 2015, made a cash payment of N234.88m without going through any financial institution.
Adedoyin was said to have received N70.05m cash from Bashir on March 27, 2015.
Bashir was said to have, on the same day, taken possession of N64.88m while Nwosu was said to have received and used N30m.
The prosecution said the accused persons acted contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act 2012 and were liable to be punished under sections 15(3) and 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
When the charges were read to defendants before Justice Mohammed Idris, the first defendant, Nwosu, admitted receiving a cash of N30m as alleged by the EFCC.
The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, informed the judge that Nwosu had elected to enter into plea bargain with the anti-graft agency.
Oyedepo added that already, Nwosu had returned N5m while he had also surrendered the title document of a landed property he purchased for N25m in Delta State.
Reviewing the facts of Nwosu’s case, Oyedepo informed the court that the EFCC acted on an intelligence report that Diezani had stashed $115m (N23bn) in a bank with an oral instruction to the bank that the money should be changed to naira while part of it should be given to certain INEC officials in the run-up to the 2015 general elections.
The prosecutor said N30m out of the money was traced to Nwosu, who kept it in a Hilux van in Ilorin.
Oyedepo urged the judge to convict Nwosu as charged in view of his plea and the evidence adduced.
Consequently, Justice Idris held, “In line with the plea of the defendant coupled with the facts and the exhibits tendered by the prosecutor, the defendant is hereby convicted as charged.”
However, the convict’s lawyer, Mrs. Adaku Mbama, pleaded with the judge to temper justice with mercy in deciding the fate of her client.
Justice Idris adjourned till April 7, 2017 to sentence Nwosu.
Meanwhile, Adedoyin and Bashir pleaded not guilty to the charges.
They were subsequently admitted to a bail of N50m each with two sureties in like sum.
The judge said the sureties must own landed property in Lagos and were to show evidence of three years tax clearance.
The defendants were directed to deposit their passports in the custody of the court’s registrar.
Justice Idris ordered that they should be remanded in prison custody pending when they would meet their bail conditions.