Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nigerian Judge gives Iranian 17 years jail sentence for arms trafficking

Justice Okechukwu Okeke of the Federal High Court in Lagos monday sentenced an Iranian national, Azim Aghajani, and his Nigerian counterpart, Ali Jega, to 17 years imprisonment each for their involvement in the importation of firearms into Nigeria.

Justice Okeke while delivering his judgment, held that he was not in doubt that the 13 containers loaded with arms were imported into the country, contrary to the claim by the accused persons that the containers contained building materials meant for construction in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia.

The judge, who will be retiring in five days, also declared that the federal government through its lawyer succeeded in tendering before the court emails of the transactions between the convicts.

According to him, "It is my opinion that the moment the security started closing in, the story started changing.

"I sympathise with the second accused person because of the role he played because he thought he was helping his friend.

"It is my view that the accused made a false declaration on the bill of lading. If the goods were truly construction materials, the accused persons should have stated so in the bill of lading.

"There is no doubt that the accused persons and their collaborators deal in the unlawful importation of arms."

The court also ordered that the jail terms would run concurrently from February 1, 2011 when they were first arraigned.

Justice Okeke also directed that the container loaded with firearms be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

But shortly before the sentencing, the counsel to the convicted Iranian, Chris Uche (SAN), had prayed the court to temper justice with mercy, explaining that the defence had cooperated to ensure the speedy disposal of the case.

The lawyer also prayed the judge to exercise his discretion in convicting the accused.

Uche also said: "It would serve no useful purpose in keeping the first accused in Nigerian prisons. I urge your lordship to order his immediate repatriation to his country."

While aligning himself with the submission of the senior advocate, the counsel to the second accused person, Aliyu Musa Yauri, said his client became a convict in his bid to make ends meet, adding that a sentence against the second accused was a sentence against his entire family.

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