Justice Babatunde O. Quadri of the Federal High Court sitting in Gombe has sentenced to 25 years imprisonment Abdullahi Bello who was prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a five count charge of conspiracy, dealing in and possession of counterfeit Nigerian currency notes.
The offence for which Bello, who was arraigned on October 31, 2012, was convicted, are contrary to Sections 6 (2) (b) and 4 (1) of the Counterfeit Currency (Special Provision) Act CAP C35 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
Bello who pleaded guilty to all the charges is to spend five years in jail on each count, but the sentences are to run concurrently.
Bello had earlier pleaded guilty when he was arraigned on October 31, prompting the judge to adjourn sentencing till Friday November 2, 2012. But on the adjourned date, Bello changed his guilty plea to “not guilty”, forcing the court to adjourn till November 5, 2012.
But in a dramatic twist, Bello stepped into the dock, pleading with the trial Judge and EFCC Prosecution Counsel, Al Qasim Ja’afar, to forgive him for what transpired in court on November 2, when he denied the charges against him. He begged he was wrongly advised by some inmates he met while in prison custody. But the Judge stopped him, advising him to keep his breathe, as his action may be prejudicial to the proceedings of the day.
Prosecution Counsel however amended the six count charges to five before reading the charges all over again to the accused. Prosecution called a witness to prove its case against Bello .
Prosecution witness, Ahmed Bala Mohammed, an operative of the EFCC, narrated to the court how the Commission acted on intelligence report concerning some persons who are in the business of defrauding innocent persons by using fake Nigerian Naira currencies. He told the court how Bello was arrested at the Sabon Main Market on 14 June, 2012. According to Mohammed, at the point of arrest, 38 pieces of suspected counterfeit N500 (Five hundred naira) notes amounting to N19, 000 were found on him.
Mohammed further told the court that forensic examination confirmed the currency notes found on Bello to be fake, as they lacked certain security features and have repeated serial numbers.
Bello confessed he was lured into the business by a neighbour who is presently at large. The accused confessed he had earlier this year been arrested by the Police in Gombe for a similar offence, but was granted bail. He claimed to have introduced some friends and associates, who are now at large, to the fraudulent business.
Following the guilty plea by the accused, EFCC counsel, Ja’afar, prayed the court to convict the accused person accordingly.
Justice Quadri observed that Bello is a serial offender and therefore sentenced him to 5 years on each count with hard labour to serve as deterrent to others.