Wahab Hammed, a ward leader for the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state’s Surulere Local Government Area, has been convicted by the Lagos High Court, located in Ikeja, to a year in prison or, alternatively, pay a N1 million fine.
A sentence was imposed on the defendant by Justice Ismail Ijelu following his conviction on two counts of conspiracy and bribery.
The defendant and one Segun Ijitola, who is currently at large, conspired on February 25, 2023, to corruptly pay bribes to voters during the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly Elections, according to EFCC Prosecutor Samuel Daji, who testified in court during the defendant’s arraignment on Wednesday.
According to Daji, the defendant committed the crime in Surulere’s Unit 28 of Gbaja Girls Junior High School.
Sections 121 (1) and (5), as well as Sections 121 (1) and 1 (3) of the Electoral Act 2022, are violated by the offences.
After the defendant entered a guilty plea, the court postponed the case until Thursday, December 7th, to allow the prosecution’s attorney to analyse the case’s facts in preparation for a conviction and sentencing.
Daji, the EFCC’s legal representative, submitted the statement of the review of the prosecution’s facts against the defendant to the court during the hearings on Thursday.
Daji also told the court that, “The EFCC officers while on election monitoring duties during the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly Election held on the 25th February 2023, received an intelligence report that certain individuals were involved in vote buying and bribery at Polling Unit 28 located at Gbaja Girls High School, Surulere, Lagos.
“After the receipt of the intelligence, the operatives of EFCC who were on election monitoring duties were dispatched to the venue.
“On sighting the operatives, the voters involved in vote buying took to their heels but the defendant was arrested with the sum of N121,000 in N500 denominations.
“He was brought to the EFCC’s Ikoyi office with the exhibit. When he was interviewed, he stated that he is a ward leader of APC in Unit F3 in Surulere, Lagos and he confessed that the money was given to him by one Hon. Segun Ijitola who is a Senior Special Assistant to Chairman Surulere Local Government.
“He admitted that he had shared part of the money to those who ran away and it was to bribe the voters to vote for his party, APC.
“He also admitted that he had spent part of the money. He made voluntary statements of at least 2 pages where he admitted these facts. He also admitted that he is ready to forfeit the sum found with him to the Federal Government being proceeds of criminal activities”.
The money that was taken from the defendant was also admitted as exhibit by the court along with the defendant’s statements.
Additionally, the prosecutor asked the court to acknowledge the facts as they were given, find the defendant guilty, and order the exhibit forfeited to the federal government as profits of crime.
The defendant, for his part, reaffirmed his guilty plea and acknowledged that he understood the facts as they were given by the prosecutor through an interpreter.
Justice Ijelu found the defendant guilty and convicted him based on his satisfaction that he knew the facts examined against him and that he meant to accept them.
The defendant pleaded for mercy. He told the court, “I have never been arrested. If not for the situation of the country, I would not be in this situation. I’m over 70 years old. I’m not fit, I have high blood pressure, ulcer and urinary incontinence and if not for this case, I was to undergo surgery last Saturday. I have not been well since my arrest, and I plead with the court to forgive me.
“I wouldn’t be here in this situation if my children were doing well and working. I have six children who are well-educated and their mom is no more, she is late.”
In his remarks, Mr. Olaniyi Ademola, the defendant’s attorney, requested that the court take note of his client’s voluntary decision to enter a guilty plea. In addition, he mentioned that the client was a first-time offender with no prior convictions.
Justice Ijelu reminded the defendant’s attorney in his sentence that he has an obligation to society to tell his clients the truth. He emphasised to those involved that nation-building requires cooperation from all.
“The defendant has further entrenched himself in the mess that led to his children not having jobs by turning to crime,” he stated. Is that how it works?
“The court has listened to the allocutus of the convict, that he is a first offender and has no criminal record. He also appears to be remorseful.
“S 121 (1) (c) of the Electoral Act 2022 under which the convict was charged states that “any person who advances or pays or causes to be paid any money to any person with the intent that such money shall be expended in bribery at any election, commits an offence and is liable on conviction of a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.
“This section gives the court a discretionary power to exercise. The court finds high culpability on the part of the convict, the harm occasioned by his conduct is significant. The court found no aggravating factor against him.
“In mitigating the sentence, the court considers that he made a guilty plea and has no previous convictions and he is a first offender.
“There’s no doubt that the need to sanitize our electoral process cannot be over-emphasized. Having pleaded guilty, the court takes the view that imposing a non-custodial sentence on this convict may deter him from future misconduct.
“For this reason, Alhaji Wahab Olaniyi Hammed is sentenced to a term of imprisonment for one year or an option of 500,000 on each of the two counts against him. He shall forfeit the proceeds of the crime to the FG.
“He shall also undertake to the EFCC in writing to always be of good behaviour and to never indulge in crime again.”