Court jails APC chieftain for buying vote

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The Lagos High Court in Ikeja has handed down a one-year prison sentence, or a fine of N1 million as an alternative, to Wahab Hammed, a ward leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Surulere Local Government Area of the state.

Justice Ismail Ijelu handed down a sentence to the defendant after finding him guilty on two charges of conspiracy and bribery.

During his arraignment on Wednesday, the EFCC Prosecutor, Samuel Daji, informed the court that on February 25, 2023, the defendant, in collaboration with one Segun Ijitola (who is currently evading arrest), conspired to unlawfully offer bribes to voters during the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly Elections.

Daji stated that the defendant committed the offense at Unit 28, Gbaja Girls Junior High School, in Surulere.

These actions are in violation of the provisions of Sections 121 (1) and (5); 121 (1) and 1 (3) of the Electoral Act 2022.

The defendant entered a plea of guilt, leading to the court adjourning the case until Thursday, December 7th, to allow the prosecution counsel to examine the case details for the purpose of conviction and sentencing.

During the Thursday proceedings, the EFCC counsel, Daji, presented in court the reviewed statement outlining the prosecution’s case against the defendant.

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 court admitted the defendant’s statements as evidence and also admitted as exhibit, the money recovered from him.

The Prosecutor also urged the court to accept the facts as presented, convict the defendant accordingly and order the forfeiture of the exhibit to the Federal Government for being proceeds of crime.

The defendant on his part admitted that he understood the facts as presented by the prosecutor through an interpreter and he reiterated his guilty plea.

Having satisfied himself that the defendant clearly understood the facts as reviewed against him and intended to admit same, Justice Ijelu found him guilty and convicted him accordingly.

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.”

During his statement, the defendant’s attorney, Mr. Olaniyi Ademola, emphasized that his client willingly chose to enter a guilty plea. He further highlighted that the defendant was a first-time offender with no prior convictions.

In delivering the sentence, Justice Ijelu reminded the defendant’s counsel of the responsibility to convey truthful information to clients. He underscored that all parties involved should see themselves as partners in the collective effort of nation-building.

He said, “The defendant has further put himself deeply in the mess that contributed to his children not having jobs by taking to crime. Is that the solution?

“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.”