A High court sitting in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, has sentenced a 23-year-old man, Yusuf Salawu, to five years imprisonment for an offence bordering on internet fraud.
The offence is contrary to section 354(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Kogi State, 2017 (ACJLKS, 2017) and punishable under section 320 of the state’s penal code.
The judgment was delivered in a summary trial by his lordship, Hon. Justice Josiah Joe Majebi, the Chief Judge of the state and presiding Judge of the High court one, in a suit instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with file number HCL/80C/2022.
The defendant’s counsel pleaded with the court to tamper justice with mercy because his client was a first-time offender who was already remorseful, unhappy and regretted committing the crime.
The court’s verdict followed the defendant’s plea of guilt after the singular charge of internet fraud was read to him as presented before the court by the prosecution counsel to EFCC, Andrew Akoja.
Summary of the charge states in part that between 2021 and 2022 and at Lokoja, within the judicial division of the court, the convict did knowingly have under his control, the gross sum of N56.3m in his Access Bank account with number 0798947121. The said amount was partly the gross sum of N116.6m which was reasonably suspected to have been unlawfully obtained. EFCC averred that Yusuf thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 320 of the penal code.
It states further that “upon his arrest, he made confessions to have been engaging in cybercrime (internet fraud) since 2019 till 2020 when he started operating more as a picker. He mostly picks funds for several names who provide account details for wire fraud which are in turn converted to Naira and paid into his Access Bank account which sums he controlled.
“He was discovered to have used his Infinix and Techno phones which are proceeds /instrumentalities of his criminal activities. He has, however, raised an Access Bank draft of N1,550,000:00 representing the balance in his account of the fraudulent sums he controlled using his account and also the title document to plot No.2A, Block 21, TPS 08 Extension, Peace Community, Lokoja, for N7.5m part of proceeding of his crime (which) has been recovered as well.”
The convict pleaded guilty to the charge read to him and admitted the commission of the offence while confirming that the particular substance of the offence was true.
“They are true. I had Fifty-six million, three hundred and seventeen thousand, seven hundred and sixty Naira (N56,317,760) in my Access Bank account which is part of the sum of One hundred and sixteen million, six hundred and eighty-five thousand, seven hundred and nineteen Naira (N116,685,719) which is as contained in the charge. I am a student. I obtained the said money illegally and used part of the said money to build a house which the EFCC has taken from me. I understand the charge and my plea for it. I still plea that I am guilty.”
His lawyer, A. O. Jonathan subsequently told the court that Yusuf was a first-time offender and sought the court’s leniency.
However, Justice Majebi granted the request by leniently convicting and sentencing the defendant under section 320 of the penal code.
“The defendant has pleaded guilty of the said offence charged and is hereby convicted of the offence under section 320 of the penal code of Kogi State.
“I have passionately considered the plea of mitigation of the punishment to be passed on the defendant and consider same in sentencing the defendant.”
He was thus sentenced “to a term of five years imprisonment for the offence punishable under section 320 of the penal code of Kogi State has failed to show cause why you should not be sentenced for the offence. You will spend the time at the Nigerian Correctional Center, Kabba.”
The court was told during the proceeding that the defendant had no legal business of his own just as the defendant also stated that the money found in his account belonged to his friends whom he had no idea of the business that they do. All he knew was that they asked for his account number which they transferred money into and he later withdrew the money for them from which they settled him on certain agreed percentages.
The prosecution counsel had as well consequently drawn the court’s attention to provisions of the EFCC Act which confers on her the power to ensure forfeiture to the Federal Government of assets or properties traced to illegal acquisitions or embezzlement belonging to persons convicted upon successful prosecution.
While sentencing him without an option of a fine, the Judge advised him and other young ones to be hardworking, patient and take life easy so that they don’t rush to climb the ladder of success only to fall uncontrollably as agents of crime and other social vices.
Justice Majebi also used the delivery of the judgment to counsel other youngsters in the state to avoid acts capable of derailing them and jeopardizing their future.
He said courts in Kogi State would not hesitate to apply the law on whoever has been satisfactorily proven to have committed any offence.