A Federal High Court in Lagos has sentenced a 29-year-old Ghanian, Patrick Mensah, to 17 years imprisonment for dealing in marijuana without lawful authority.
Mensah’s imprisonment followed his conviction on Monday by Justice Okon Abang.
The judge, who pronounced the Ghanian guilty on the strength of his confessional statement and the evidence tendered by the prosecution, said he was “satisfied that the accused person committed the offence and he is hereby convicted as charged.”
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency had, on April 2, 2015, arraigned Mensah before Abang on one count of dealing in 27.6 kilogrammes of “vegetable leaves” which tested positive for canabis sativa.
The counsel for the prosecution, Mr. Orji Kalu, had told the court that the offence contravened and was punishable under Section 11(c) of the NDLEA Act, Cap N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Mensah pleaded guilty.
While reviewing the facts of the case on Monday, Kalu told the court that the convict was caught by NDLEA operatives at Abule Egba in Lagos, in possession of the outlawed substance.
The prosecution supported its case by tendering various exhibits before the court including the bulk of the marijuana seized from Mensah and the confessional statement that the convict was said to have freely made to the anti-narcotic agency.
Following the admission of the exhibits in evidence against the convict, Kalu urged the court convict Mensah as charged.
“My Lord, in view of the guilty plea of the accused person and all the evidence tendered by the prosecution in this matter, we pray Your Lordship to convict the accused person as charged, in line with Sections 218 and 285(2) of the Criminal Procedure Act,” Kalu said.
Abang accordingly convicted Mensah.
Okaka asked the court to show leniency in sentencing Mensah as he was a first offender with no previous record of conviction and for having pleaded guilty to the offence in the first instance.
The defence lawyer also urged the court to consider the fact that his client had been in the prison custody for almost a year and had lost touch with his family in Ghana.
“My Lord, he is deeply remorseful for the offence he committed and has promised to go back to Ghana at the end of his punishment.
“My Lord, he has been in detention for the past one year; he has gone through trauma and has lost touch with his family in Ghana as a result of his one year of incarceration.
“My Lord, I most passionately urge the court to temper justice with mercy and give him a second chance as he is still a young man,” Okaka pleaded.
But Abang, who said he had listened dispassionately with Okaka’s allocutus, described Mensah as an ungrateful foreigner who entered and was accommodated in Nigeria since 2010, “eating and drinking” only to pay the country back with evil.
The judge, in pronouncing the sentence, said the decision of the court in criminal matters should be such that it would discourage crime in the society.