The Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday sentenced a former Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Administrative Secretary in Kwara State, Christian Nwosu to seven years imprisonment.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, arraigned him for accepting a bribe from former Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Also sentenced to seven years was his co-accused, a former INEC official, Tijani Bashir.
EFCC said the defendants conspired to directly take possession of N264,880,000, which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of an unlawful act – gratification.
Mr Nwosu, who had initially pleaded guilty to receiving N30million bribe from Mrs Alison-Madueke to rig the 2015 general election results at his arraignment on April 5, 2017, changed his plea to not guilty when he was re-arraigned.
Mr Bashir was accused of indirectly taking possession of and retaining N164,880,000, which he reasonably ought to have known forms part of gratification.
He also concealed N30million, being part of the proceeds of an unlawful act: “criminal misappropriation”.
The alleged offences were committed on March 27 and April 7, 2015 and violated provisions of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.
Justice Mohammed Idris, who concluded the case despite being elevated to the Court of Appeal, had on Thursday held that the prosecution proved the case beyond reasonable doubt.
The judge, however, could not pass a sentence on the defendants due to Nwosu’s absence due to Ill-health.
Handing the final verdict on Friday, Justice Idris sentenced Nwosu to seven years imprisonment on counts one and two, and five years on counts three and four.
He sentenced Bashir to seven years on count five, and seven years on counts six, seven and eight.
Justice Idris sentenced them both to seven years each on count nine.
The judge also ordered the forfeiture of property in Asaba, the Delta capital worth N25million, as well as N5million cash seized from Nwosu.
Bashir is also to lose his Abuja property.
The sentences are to run concurrently, the judge held.
Justice Idris said: “The convicts were officials of INEC and were expected to conduct themselves as impartial umpires in carrying out their activities.
“I understand it to be the mission of INEC to serve as an independent and effective election management body that is committed to the conduct of free, fair and credible election for sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
“These convicts by their conduct acted in breach of these objectives. Their actions were a disgrace to the institution and a threat to democracy.
“INEC officials must be made to understand that their conduct must be within the ambit of the law and that anyone who breaches the law will be dealt with to the full extent of the law.
“It must be understood that leadership and governance are serious matters that should be handed over to the most patriotic, best-informed minds and the brightest brains for purposes of accountability, responsibility and prosperity of our nation.
“This country must not be allowed to descend into anarchy, despondency and political infamy by the conduct of an official of government.
“This country cannot afford an unhealthy electoral body as we go into the forthcoming election. INEC must note that this country deserves a credible election. Anyone that acts contrary to the law will be dealt with.
“In this regard, the country only needs those with indomitable courage and impeccable political will to perform this duty and those who play ignoble role must be identified.
“Evil communication, they say, corrupts good manners. In the light of the alocutus, the court will temper justice with mercy to the extent only permitted by the law.
“Again, a strong message must be sent to INEC that the eyes of the world is on them. The entire nation is watching and those who decide contrary to their code of office will be identified.
“When they are identified, they will be prosecuted and if found guilty will be punished severely.”
Before the verdict, defence counsel Victor Opara had urged the court to temper justice with mercy, saying Mr Nwosu was a first offender.
He said the convict served in INEC for 35 years and is now 64 years and unwell.
Bashir’s lawyer K.I. Marcus also urged the court to consider that his client is a single parent who lost his wife last October and is taking care of four children alone.