A shop owner, Saheed Ojomu, has been sentenced to five years in prison by a Federal High Court in Lagos for allowing his tenant to use his shop to store Indian hemp.
The 51-year-old Ojomu, whose property housing shops are located on Osho Street, Lagos Island, Lagos State, was given the jail term by Justice Daniel Osiagor after he made a U-turn of his earlier not guilty plea in 2017.
He was arrested with 372.6kg of the banned substance found in one of his shops on March 31, 2017, by the operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
During his arrest and arraignment, he claimed that the banned weed belonged to one of his tenants named Sakiru (now at large) and pleaded not guilty to the charges made against him by NDLEA.
The charge against him reads in part: “That you, Saheed Ojomu, male adult, 46 years old, on or about the 31st day of March, 2017, at No 1, Osho Street, Island, Lagos State, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, being occupier and manager of a shop at No 1, Osho Street, Lagos Island, unlawfully permitted same to be used by one Sakiru (now at large) for the purpose of storing and dealing in 372.6kg of cannabis sativa, a narcotic drug similar to cocaine, heroin and LSD and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 12 of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, Cap N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
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In the course of his trial, the prosecution called two witnesses and tendered exhibits which were admitted by the court.
However, at the resumed trial of the suspect on Wednesday, his counsel, Mrs Vivienne Ekwegh, informed the court that her client had decided to change his plea and her position was confirmed by the prosecutor, Mrs N. J. Mamza.
With the new development, Justice Osiagor asked that the plea be retaken and facts of the charge reviewed by the prosecutor.
Upon reviewing the facts of the charge, the prosecutor, Mrs Mamza, urged the court to convict and sentence the accused in accordance with the relevant laws that he was charged with.
But counsel to the convict, Mrs Ekwegh, described her client as a victim of circumstance as he was unaware that his tenant warehoused the banned weed in his property.
She, therefore, urged the court to award an option of fine in lieu of custodial sentence.
Justice Osiagor sentenced the convict to five years imprisonment with an option to pay a fine of N300,000. In addition to the monetary fine, the judge ordered the convict to perform three weeks of non-custodial community service.