Justice Akintayo Aluko of Federal High Court, Lagos has convicted and sentenced a man, Muritala Sanni, who specialized in trafficking young ladies to Libya, for prostitution to 28 years imprisonment.
Apart from the jail-terms, the court also ordered the convicted human trafficker to pay the sum of N2 million for the victim of the heinous crime.
Above orders were made by Justice Akintayo Aluko, while delivering judgment in a 13 count criminal-charge slammed on the convict by the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), last Thursday.
The convict was first arraigned before the court on October 18, 2021 in a charge marked FHC/L/32c/2021, for allegedly recruitment of persons for prostitution; facilitation of foreign trip or travel aimed at promoting prostitution, forcing persons into prostitution, organizing foreign travel which promote prostitution; subjecting persons and individuals into sexual exploitation; harbouring persons for the purpose of prostitution and hiring of persons to Libya to be used for forced labour.
The offences according to the prosecutor, Akinrinlola Oluwakemi, a NAPTIP Senior Legal Officer, are contrary to several sections of NAPTIP Act, 2015 punishable under the relevant provisions of the same Act.
The convict denied and pleaded not guilty to all counts charge and he was admitted to bail in various terms. But he was unable to meet the bail conditions.
At the resumed trial on October 18, 2021, the Convict still maintained his not guilty pleas and the court adjourned till March 30, 2022, for trial.
However, when the matter came up on March 30, for trial, the convicted human trafficker, signified to court his intention to change plea, and he pleaded guilty to all 13 counts charge. The development which made the court to called on NAPTIP prosecutor to review the facts of the crimes.
In reviewing the facts of the crime, the prosecutor, Mrs Akinrinlola called one Ibrahim Adijat Omolara, a Chief Intelligent Officer with the agency, who narrated how the convict was arrested.
Upon conclusion of the review of facts of the crime and tendering and admitting of all exhibits tendered, the prosecutor urged the court to convict and sentence the defendant in consonance with the NAPTIP Act.
The prosecutor, Mrs. Akinrinlola, apart from urging the court to sentence the Convict in accordance with NAPTIP Act, also asked the court to order the convict to pay compensation for the victim of the crime, this she said is in accordance with provision of section 65 (2) of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
But counsel to the defendant, Chief Bello Saka Kayode, in his allucutor, pleaded with the court to tamper justice with mercy in sentencing his client.
Chief Saka particularly, urged the court to consider the period his client had spent in detention. And to also consider that his client is a first time convict, who did not waste precious time of the court.
The Counsel also told the court that his client had became remorseful since he was arrested and remanded, and promised not to engage in any form of crime.
Delivering judgment on the charges, Justice Aluko held that: “The convict was found guilty and convicted on counts one, two, three, four, five, six, eight, 10, 11 and 12 while he was discharged and acquitted on counts seven, nine and 13 in the absence of any credible evidence to sustain the offences in those counts.
“The learned Counsel for the convict made allocutus for him while urging the court to temper justice with mercy.
“Counsel brought to the attention of the court the fact that the convict is a father of under aged children who live with the aged mother of the convict. He submitted that the convict has been in custody since September 30, 2020 and in the process lost his wife.
“The prosecution relying on the provision of section 65 (2) of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015, urged the court to award compensation in favour of victims of the Criminal act of trafficking in persons committed by the convict for them to start a fresh life.
“Counsel to the convict however submitted that the period of time he had spent in custody should be considered as part of the sought compensation.
“I have considered the plea of allocutus made on behalf of the convict. I have considered the fact that he has been in custody since his apprehension.
“The court records does not indicate that he has any known previous criminal record before the commission of the offences for which he was convicted. He can therefore be presumed to be a first offender. I have taken into account all the mitigating factors mentioned and highlighted in sections 311 (3) and 416 ACJA, 2015.
“Going by these provisions, the court has been encouraged to treat each case on its own merit. The court has been encouraged not to pass maximum sentence on a first offender. The period spent in prison custody shall be considered and computed while sentencing.
“The court has been encouraged not to give consecutive sentences for two or more offences committed in the same transaction.
“Having considered all the above highlighted mitigating factors in addition to other consideration, I am of the considered view that the convict ought to be shown mercy as the phenomenon of mercy is that of God and does not belong to the ordinary mortals that we are.
“For the following reasons, the convict is hereby sentenced on each of the counts upon which he was convicted as follows: On count one 2 years; count two 4 years; count three, 2 years; count four, 4 years; count five, 2 years; count six, 2 years; count eight, 2 years; count ten, 4 years; count eleven to 2 years; count twelve, 4 years imprisonment.”
Justice Aluko however freed the convict of counts seven, nine and 13, on the ground that was unable to prove the charges against him.
Justice Aluko also ordered that the terms of imprisonment shall run concurrently on each of the counts. And that the period of time already spent by the convict shall be computed and deducted from his terms of on imprisonment.
On the issue of fine, the presiding judge held that; “the section provides: 65(2) where an offender is convicted of an offence under this Act, the court may order the offender to pay compensation to the victim, in addition to any other punishment ordered by the court.
“Coming from the foregoing, I hold the view that the victims of the convict’s criminal acts are entitled to compensation.
“The sum of N2 Million is hereby awarded as compensation in favour of the victims and against the convict.”