Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Lagos Special Offences Court, Ikeja, on Wednesday sentenced an assistant pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), City of David Parish, Victoria Island, Ayodeji Oluokun, to two years imprisonment for issuing $1.6 million dud cheque.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Oluokun alongside his company, Peak Petroleum Industry Nigeria Limited, on an amended six-count charge for allegedly issuing dud cheque, stealing and obtaining money under false pretences.
The EFCC counsel, Samuel Daji, told the court that the defendant issued a Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited cheque of $1.6 million payable to GOSL Nigeria Limited on June 24, 2014.
He said the convict and the complainant had not been on talking terms, thereby making the terms of restitution difficult to meet.
He urged the court to convict the defendants as charged.
The counsel also asked the court to order the defendant to forfeit his property in order to pay up the debt.
Daji said: “My lord, from the evidence before this court, the defendant is not committed. It has been nine good years my lord.
“A dollar was N150 at the time the loan was granted to the defendant. The defendant does not even greet the nominal complainant unless it is of utmost necessity.
“There is evidence that the defendants never want to settle this case.
“He is a pastor. My lord, the more reason he should be given a custodial sentence in order to serve as a deterrent to others.
“The court has stated a mandatory sentence. We shall be asking for restitution. I shall be urging the court to order the defendant to forfeit his property so as to use it to pay his debt.”
The defence counsel, Mr. Edoka Onyeke, in his allocutus, prayed the court to grant the convict a non- custodial sentence, adding that he was a pastor and could use his pastoral work as service to humanity, through community service.
“My lord, apart from the defendant being a first offender, if he is incarcerated, he will not be able to carry out the necessary things on behalf of the second defendant so as to make the restitution easy.
“The first defendant is a pastor of a church. This is a very good opportunity for him to engage in community service instead of custodian sentence so as to preach the word of God.
“On a final note, the defendant has promised to involve the nominal complainant in order to make the restitution,” Onyeke said.
In her ruling, Justice Taiwo held that the prosecution had successfully proved the charge of issuance of dud cheque against the defendants.
She, however, discharged and acquitted the defendants of stealing and obtaining money under false pretences.
The judge said: “The defendant issued two cheques in the sum of 1.6 million dollars to the nominal complainant, which was dishonoured because there were no funds in the defendant’s account.
“Issuance of a cheque for lack of credit is a strict liable offence.
“If the defendant was truly expecting some money till the end of July 2014 as claimed by him, he would have waited till he received the money before issuing the cheque on June 24, 2014.”
She said the first defendant knew all of these and still went ahead to issue the cheque.
“It is hereby in the view of this court that the defendant was deliberate in issuing the dud cheque.
“He is hereby found guilty of counts one and two of issuance of dud cheque.
“The defendants, however, are discharged and acquitted of stealing and obtaining money under false pretences as the prosecution failed to establish the facts against them,” she said.
The judge, thereafter, sentenced Oluokun to two years in prison or payment of a fine of N2 million, and the second defendant to a fine of N2 million.
She ordered the convict to make restitution of $1.6 million dollars to the nominal complainant within 18 months.
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