$7m cash: Accused to forfeit 25% to government

A Federal High Court has convicted Abubakar Tijjani, the man who was arrested with over $7 million cash while trying to travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates from Lagos.
Tijjani was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on September 27, 2012 at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos for failing to declare all the cash he had on him.
Justice C.J. Nweke, on Tuesday, convicted Tijjani after he pleaded guilty to a one count charge filed by the EFCC.
The convict was ordered to forfeit, to the Federal Government, 25 per cent of the over $2.5 million he failed to declare to security agencies.
He will now surrender $637,000 to the Federal Government.
The EFCC, on Tuesday, arraigned him on a one count charge.
When the count was read to him, the accused pleaded guilty.
Having pleaded guilty as charged, A. M. Yusuf, counsel to the EFCC, told the court that the prosecution was ready to proceed with the trial.
Yusuf said Tijjani was arrested after passing through a Nigeria Custom Service check where he declared less than the amount he was carrying.
According to counsel, the accused person declared only $4.5 million on the Customs Currency Declaration Form as against the over $7 million in his possession.
He said a further search led to the discovery of the remaining $2,549,444 hidden in the bag of the accused.
Yusuf presented evidences to buttress his position, which were accepted as exhibits.
Part of the documents tendered were: the Customs Declaration Form “A” and “B”, an International Passport with passport number A000943575, air ticket and boarding pass for the Emirate flight, Mr. Tijjani’s UAE’s Visa and statements made to the EFCC.
Others are the Safe Custody Acceptance and Return forms from GTBank; Custom Incident Report, signed by one J. A. Udie; and the statements of the EFCC Operatives, Adaora Oragudochi and Orgi Chukwuma, who were present when he was arrested.
“My Lord since the accused person has pleaded guilty, I urge this court to accept the fact of the case and proceed with conviction.” Yusuf submitted.
Counsel to the accused person, Ogundare Obafemi, told the court that his client had no record of conviction and pleaded with the court to tamper justice with mercy.
Obafemi said the money involved belonged to a group of people numbering 20, who are business persons.
He said they always buy goods in bulk from Dubai so as to bring down market price and make profits.
Obafemi said Section 12 of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act Cap. F34 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 only specified that such declarations are for statistical reasons and no punishment was stipulated for offenders.
He said the new Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011, which said a percentage of the undisclosed fund shall be forfeited is not known by a number of people because no enlightenment has been carried out on the need to declare funds based on the amended Act.
He pleaded for mercy and leniency and prayed the court to limit conviction to forfeiture.
Yusuf however objected.
He said ignorance of the Law had no basis before the court.
He urged the court to give a proper conviction so as to serve as a deterrent to other people who may engage in the illegal act.
After listening to arguments from both counsels, the judge convicted the accused.
He said he will not hand the convict any jail term but that the convict should serve as deterrent that should guard him against committing such an act in future.
He upheld the defence counsel’s plea for mercy and asked the convict to forfeit 25 per cent of the undeclared sum to the Federal Government.