An official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Christian Nwosu, has admitted collecting the sum of N30 million from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to compromise the 2015 general elections.
He made the confession yesterday during his arraignment alongside two other INEC staff before Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court in Lagos by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Nwosu was arraigned by the anti-graft agency alongside Yisa Adedoyin and Tijani Bashir on a seven- count charge of conspiracy, acceptance of gratification and money laundering to the tune of N264,880,000 from the former minister.
Nwosu received the N30 million as Director and Administrative Secretary, INEC, Kwara State. Alison-Madueke, who was said to be at large, was also charged with them. The three INEC staff were accused of taking bribe from the former minister on March 27, 2015, to compromise the elections. Count one of the charges reads:
“That you, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke (still at large), Christian Nwosu, Yisa Olanrewaju Adedoyin and Tijani Bashir, on or about the 27th day of March, 2015 in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired among yourselves to directly take possession of N264,880,000 which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: gratification and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2002 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
Another count reads: “That you, Christian Nwosu on or about the 27th day of March, 2015 in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, directly used the sum of N30,000,000 which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: gratification and you hereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2)(a) of the money laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.” When the charge was read to the three accused persons, the first defendant, Nwosu, owned up to receiving N30 million as alleged by the anti-graft agency.
The other two defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to all the counts. Addressing the court on Nwosu’s admittance, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, told Justice Idris that the accused person had, prior to his arraignment, opted to enter into plea bargain with the commission. Oyedepo added that Nwosu had already returned N5 million to the commission, while he had also surrendered the title document of a landed property he purchased for N25 million 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 $115 million in a bank with a directive 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. Oyedepo revealed that the N30 million traced to Nwosu was kept in a Hilux van in Ilorin. He added that Nwosu had also made confessional statement upon his invitation by the EFCC. Oyedepo said: “The first defendant also gave account of the properties he used the money to acquire. He brought the title documents to the EFCC office.
“Having demonstrated remorse and given useful information to aid the prosecution of the case, he has entered into an agreement to forfeit the properties to the Federal Government. The properties are listed in the paragraphs 1 and 2 of the plea bargain agreement.
“The EFCC has recovered the N5 million left from the first defendant, having spent N25 million to acquire properties.” Oyedepo later tendered Nwosu’s confessional statement and the document with which he acknowledged the receipt of the N30 million. The two documents were later admitted as exhibits by the court. Oyedepo later sought for Nwosu’s conviction by the court as charged in view of his plea and the evidence adduced.
Granting Oyedepo’s request, 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.” Nwosu’s lawyer, Mrs. Adaku Mbama, in her allocutus, however, pleaded with the judge to temper justice with mercy in deciding the fate of her client. Justice Idris has adjourned till Friday to sentence Nwosu.
The two other accused persons who pleaded not guilty were, however, admitted to bail of N50 million each with two sureties in like sum by the court. The sureties, according to the judge, must own landed property in Lagos and were to show evidence of three-year tax clearance. The defendants were equally directed by the judge to deposit their international passports with the court’s registrar. They were also to be remanded in prison custody pending when they would perfect their bail conditions.
In the first count, the EFCC alleged that Nwosu, Adedoyin and Bashir, in connivance with Diezani, took possession of N264.88 million, which they “ought to have reasonably known formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: gratification.” The defendants were also said to have on March 27, 2015 made cash payment of N264.88 million without going through any financial institution. Adedoyin was said to have received a cash sum of N70.05 million from Bashir on March 27, 2015.
Bashir was said to have, on the same day, collected N64.88 million while Nwosu equally received and spent N30 million. The offences, according to the prosecution, are contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act 2012, while the accused persons were also liable to be punished under Sections 15(3) and 16(2)(b) of the same Act.