The Lagos High Court in Ikeja has handed down a sentence to Wahab Hammed, a ward leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the Surulere Local Government Area of the state.
Hammed faced a one-year jail term or, as an alternative, a fine of N1 million.
Justice Ismail Ijelu convicted the defendant on two counts of conspiracy and bribery.
During his arraignment, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) Prosecutor, Samuel Daji revealed that on February 25, 2023, the defendant conspired with Segun Ijitola (who remains at large) to corruptly pay bribes to voters during the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly Elections.
The offense occurred at Unit 28, Gbaja Girls Junior High School in Surulere.
The Defendant’s actions, the court upheld, contravene the provisions of Sections 121 (1) and (5), as well as 121 (1) and 1 (3) of the Electoral Act 2022.
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 defendant pleaded guilty, and the court adjourned to Thursday, December 7 to allow the prosecution counsel to review the case facts in preparation for conviction and sentencing.
During the proceedings on Thursday, the EFCC counsel, Daji presented the defendant’s statements as evidence, along with the recovered money.
The prosecutor urged the court to accept the presented facts, convict the defendant accordingly, and forfeit the exhibit to the Federal Government as proceeds of crime.
The defendant, having understood the facts presented by the prosecutor through an interpreter, reiterated his guilty plea.
Satisfied that the defendant comprehended the reviewed facts and intended to admit them, Ijelu found him guilty and convicted him.
The defendant said:
“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 address, Mr Olaniyi Ademola, the defendant’s counsel, emphasized that his client willingly chose to plead guilty. He further highlighted that the client had no prior convictions and was a first-time offender.
However, in delivering the sentence, the Justice reminded the defendant’s counsel of his responsibility to society—to always convey truthful words to his clients.
The Judge also underscored that all parties involved should consider themselves partners in nation-building.
The Judge 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.”