NIGERIA: Man, 32, imprisoned 2 yrs for forgery

CourtA Lagos High Court in Ikeja on Wednesday sentenced a 33-year-old man, Vincent Okonta, to two years imprisonment for forging money orders in various amounts.

Justice Lateefat Okunnu handed the sentence to Okonta, a businessman, after he pleaded guilty to a four-count charge bordering on forgery, which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) brought against him.

The two-year sentence runs from July 26, 2012 when the convict was arrested for the offence at the international wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos.

Okunnu had on Feb.14, rejected a plea bargain deal Okonta entered into with the EFCC after his arraignment.

According to the agreement, both parties urged the court to sentence the convict to 10 months imprisonment beginning from the date of his arrest.

Okunnu, in rejecting the proposal, noted that the evidence before the court showed that the punishment for Okonta’s offence was seven years imprisonment.

She maintained that the minimum sentence for the offence was two years imprisonment as provided by Section 363 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011.

The EFCC counsel, Mr Kayode Oni, had told the court that Okonta was arrested at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, with forged money orders purportedly issued by various foreign banks.

Oni said the money orders, including one purportedly issued by the Royal Bank of Canada, for the sum of 4,500 US dollars, were concealed in pairs of slippers.

He said Okonta’s intention was to illegally transport them to South Africa, but he was nabbed at the airport during a routine search.

Before the judgement, Okonta’s counsel, Mr O. Ojakogo, had pleaded with the court to administer justice with mercy because his client was a first time offender.

Ojakogo said: “The jurisprudence of sentencing is not only to punish the convict but also to reform him.

“The convict has learnt his lessons bitterly and he is very remorseful. We are, therefore, pleading for leniency”.

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