Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal Court, Abuja has been released on probation, a 25-year-old cybercrime defendant, Aifuwa Courage Osasumwem.
The judge exercised discretion and declined to uphold a plea bargain agreement Osasumwem entered with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The deal with the commission followed Osasumwem’s arraignment and guilty plea to impersonation of an American with intent to defraud.
The judge explained that the principle behind his decision was that some of the youths can still be saved by counselling and probatory punishments rather than tainting their future through conviction.
Osasumwem was arraigned last Wednesday and he pleaded guilty to the one-count charge.
Prosecution counsel, Mrs A. Amedu called the attention of the court to the plea bargain agreement filed in the court’s registry on March 16, 2021, which was signed by the defendant’s counsel, P. O. Osime, the prosecutor, the defendant and the Investigating Officer on March 11, 2021.
She prayed the court to make the plea bargain agreement the judgment of the court.
But the judge declined, noting among others that punishment is not the main aim of the criminal justice system, but that it is also geared towards rehabilitation so that the convict will know that crime does not pay.
Justice Taiwo said: “I am of the view that some of these youths can still be saved by counseling and probatory punishments to let them know that their future is tainted if they are convicted.
“They can never be appointed to any position in the public service and in fact, their private lives are also tainted. Who wants to be called an ex-convict? Going further they can never contest for any public office as an ex-convict. In fact, they carry all through their lives from youth, the indelible mark of a criminal or ex-convict.
“I will in the light of the above refrain from convicting and sentencing the defendant. This means I will not give effect to the plea bargain agreement in view of the fact that with respect to the defendant, I will exercise my powers under the ACJA 2015.
“Based on the provisions of ACJA 2015, which I have reproduced above, I have put into consideration the age of the defendant, that he is still young and thus can still turn a new leaf and be a responsible person; I have put into consideration the trivial nature of the offence and I have come to the conclusion that it is inexpedient to inflict a punishment on the defendant but expedient to release him on probation.
“I shall therefore not convict the defendant but I shall discharge him conditionally by entering into a recognizance and by this, he will depose to an affidavit to be of good behaviour and not to engage in any criminal activities henceforth.”
The judge held that the defendant’s father, who was in court when he took his plea shall be his surety who shall also depose to an affidavit that he will henceforth counsel the defendant and monitor him so that he will not engage any longer in any criminal activity.
“It is hereby also ordered that once a month from October 1, 2021, for six months inclusive of the month of October 2021, the defendant shall appear at the EFCC office in Abuja for counseling. His counselor will be the prosecutor or any officer in charge of counseling at the EFCC office,” he held.
He warned the defendant and his surety that failure to visit the EFCC, his recognizance will be forfeited and the court will give effect to the terms of the plea bargain.
“The defendant is hereby warned that if he is caught engaging in a similar criminal act for which he is charged to this court or any other court in Nigeria or if he engages in any criminal activity, the court will not be lenient on him. He will be given the maximum sentence if found guilty of any offence. On this note, the defendant is hereby discharged,” Justice Taiwo held.