Former registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Dibu Ojerinde, is considering opting for a plea bargain in his trial over N900 million fraud charges at Federal High Court in Abuja.
Mr Ojerinde’s new lead counsel, Ibrahim Ishyaku, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), announced this on Tuesday.
He pleaded with the judge, Obiora Egwuatu, to give his client 24 hours to discuss the planned plea bargain agreement with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), the agency prosecuting him.
The senior lawyer informed the judge that the trial could commence if after 24 hours, the matter could not be resolved.
“My Lord, our plea is that we be given 24 hours to explore the possibility of plea bargain to resolve this matter and we ask that the trial be adjourned for the period to enable us come up with our terms of settlement,” Mr Ishyaku said.
ICPC lawyer, Ebenezer Sogunle, did not object to the request but insisted that the trial would proceed in case the plea bargain failed.
Meanwhile, the judge slated February 9 for report of the plea-bargain to be presented.
Plea bargain agreement system allows a defendant to negotiate a lighter punishment, saving the prosecution the rigour, time and resources a full blown trial would have required.
But the system has been thoroughly abused in Nigeria with many defendants accused of high -level looting of public funds often getting away with a mere slap on the wrist.
The anti-graft agency had, on July 8, 2021, arraigned the former JAMB Registrar on an 18-count charge bordering on diversion of public funds to the tune of over N900 million.
He was said to have committed the offences during his time as the head of the National Examination Council (NECO) and JAMB.
Mr Ojerinde, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was later admitted to bail in the sum of N200 million.
The court had granted N200 million bail to Mr Ojerinde after he was arraigned.
ICPC had in 2020 obtained a court order for the confiscation of various assets, including schools, filling stations, and houses traced to Mr Ojerinde.