Why sentenced ex-minister Sarah Ochekpe may escape jail

Former minister Sarah Ochekpe and two others, who were sentenced along with two others, may not be jailed after all.

This is because the convicts have an option of N2 million fine on each of the two counts for which they were sentenced.

The case as we know it.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had dragged Sarah Ochekpe, who served as minister for water resources in the cabinet of former president Goodluck Jonathan, to court for conspiracy and money laundering.

Her co-accused persons are Evan Leo Sunday Jitong and Raymond Dabo, both of whom were deputy director for Goodluck/Sambo 2015 election campaign and former Acting Chairman of PDP, Plateau State respectively.

The EFCC claimed the now convicts received N450million from fugitive former minister Diezani Allison-Madueke to influence the outcomes of the 2015 presidential election.

During their trial, Ochekpe admitted receiving the money, but claimed she handed it to then PDP gubernatorial candidate Senator Gyang Pwajok.

Pwajok could not defend himself as he had died before the 2015 election.

An EFCC witness and staff of Fidelity Bank, Mrs. Anne Gyen,  told the court that it was she who cashed out the money for the former minister.

She said at the time, “I have received a mail from our head office in Lagos ordering me that beneficiaries identified as Sarah Ochekpe, Raymond Dabo and Evangelist LeoJitong would come to our bank and make a withdrawal of N450m.”

The bank staff tendered the withdrawal documents as evidence to support her testimony.

Today’s ruling

Justice H.M Kurya on Tuesday convicted and sentenced the tree accused  to six years imprisonment each on an amended three – count charge bordering on conspiracy and money laundering.

The defendants were convicted on count one, bordering on conspiracy to accept cash payment above threshold under the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2012 (as amended) and sentenced to three (3) years imprisonment with an option of N2,000,000.00 (Two Million Naira) fine each.

On count two, the defendants were convicted and sentenced to three (3) years imprisonment with an option of N2, 000,000 (Two Million Naira) fine each. The sentences are to run consecutively.

By Fola Adeola

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