Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Special Offences Court, Ikeja, has sentenced Ayodeji Oluokun, an assistant pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, City of David Parish, Victoria Island, Lagos State to two years imprisonment for issuing a dud cheque of $1.6 million.
Justice Taiwo, in her judgement, discharged and acquitted the convict and his company, Peak Petroleum Industry Nigeria Limited of stealing and obtaining money under false pretences.
He was charged alongside his company, Peak Petroleum Industry Nigeria Ltd, on an amended six counts bordering on the issuance of dud cheques, stealing and obtaining money under false pretences.
Justice Taiw stated that the prosecution had successfully proven the charge of issuance of a dud cheque against the defendants.
According to her, the defendant issued two cheques in the sum of $1.6 million to the nominal complainant which was dishonoured because there was no fund in the defendant’s account.
“Issuance of a cheque for lack of credit is a strictly liable offence. If the defendant was truly expecting some money by 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.
“The first defendant knew all of these and still went ahead to issue the cheque dated June 24, 2014.
“It is hereby in the view of this court that the defendants were 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 acquainted of stealing and obtaining money under false pretences as the prosecution failed to establish the facts against them,” the judge noted.
Subsequently, she sentenced the first defendant to two years in prison or pay a fine of N2 million and the second defendant to a fine of N2 million.
Justice Taiwo ordered the convict to make restitution of $1.6 million to the nominal complainant within 18 months.
The Defence counsel, Mr Edoka Onyeke, in his allocutus, prayed the court to grant the convict a non-custodial sentence.
He submitted that the convict 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 the custodial sentence so as to preach the words of God.
“On a final note, the defendant has promised to involve the nominal complainant in order to make the restitution,” said the defence counsel.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Counsel, Mr Samuel Daji, however, urged the court to convict the defendants as charged, arguing that the convict and the nominal complainant had not been on talking terms, thereby making the terms of restitution difficult to meet.
Counsel to the Commission also prayed the court to order the defendant to forfeit his property in order to pay up the debt.
According to him, “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 defendants. The defendant does not even greet the nominal complainant unless it is utmost necessary.
“There is evidence that the defendants never want to settle this case.
“The defence counsel said he is a pastor. My lord, the more reason he should be given a custodial sentence is to serve as a deterrent to others.
“The court has stated 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 EFCC counsel had submitted that the defendant issued a Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Limited Cheque of $1.6m only payable to GOSL Nigeria Limited which when presented for payment was dishonoured on the grounds that no sufficient funds were standing to the credit of the account on which cheque was drawn.
“The offences contravened Sections 1(1) (b) of the Dishonoured Cheques (Offences) Act, Cap D 11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and Section 285 (1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State and Section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences.