Adekunle Jaiyeobi Oluwajana, “a Nigerian by birth and a citizen of Canada,” was fined XCD600.00 and ordered to pay the sum forthwith or be jailed for one week if he defaults; the married man was also deported pending his fulfillment of all of his current obligations to this State.
According to “the facts” as read by Prosecutor police constable Chewitt-Harry, Oluwajana was granted a 6-months stay by Vincentian immigration authorities when he disembarked here on December 16, 2020.
After his 6-month visa expired on June 15, 2021, the Nigerian visitor who claimed to have married a Vincentian-Canadian citizen in Nigeria sometime in 2015, applied for “an extension to stay” but was only granted an additional week to get his affairs in order.
He refused to leave on July 23 – the appointed date for his immigration-department-mandated departure – then “several efforts were made to locate the defendant which proved to be futile,” the female prosecutor read.
At approximately 8:10 p.m., on Sunday September 5, a team of Rapid Response Unit members of the Royal SVG Police Force, headed by Sergeant 403 John, received “some information” and mobilized “in search of the defendant.
“The defendant was met at home; he was detained, and he was brought to the Central Police Station where he was handed over to the immigration authorities. He was also interviewed and cautioned by immigration officer Primus in the presence of immigration officers Harry and Doyle.
“He did not give a statement, please your Honor. The offence was pointed out to him, he was arrested and charged and given a copy of the charge sheet,” XXXX continued.
On Wednesday 8, September, Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne charged the Nigerian father of one, that he “on the 16th of June 2021 at Argyle in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and within the 3rd Magisterial District did fail to leave St. Vincent and the Grenadines before the expiration of [his] permit pursuant to Section 18 (4) contrary to Section 27(D) of the Immigration Restriction Act Cap 144.
“Guilty or not guilty? Guilty or not guilty Sir?”
He responded: “not guilty and guilty.”
The Chief Magistrate rejected that response even as she offered an explanation. She said: “No. It’s only one option.”
Oluwajana then attempted to present some cause for having overstayed his time here but Chief Magistrate Brown interrupted to clarify.
“It’s either you left before the expiration of your permit. Did you leave before your permit expired?”
To which the defendant meekly replied: “I didn’t.”
“You didn’t. Then you’re guilty. So, that is what you’re here for so then that’s guilty.”
After listening to “the facts as stated by the prosecution” Chief Magistrate Browne posed several questions to the defendant who appeared without legal counsel before explaining the nature of the charge that he was brought up on.
The Court learnt – among other things – his marital status, the fact that his only child was a 12-year-old girl and that he has been travelling annually to St. Vincent for several years.
“These immigration offences are strict liability offences, it’s just tragic offences. So, it’s just like – did you cross over the road right where it says ‘left turn’ and you crossed over on the right and you should have gone left – same thing. So, there’s no way of getting around it.
“Once you’re found in contravention of that it’s a strict liability. Having been found in violation or contravention of the law – we have no difficulty and we welcome persons to come to the State; we will give them time to stay and it’s either extended or not.
“Therefore, you don’t want to run afoul of your chance to come back. Having done that, the logistics now to apply for a new visa and all that could be avoided. You could just go and then you return.
“But not being in compliance therefore and being found guilty –”
Oluwajana again attempted to sway the Court.
“That Section maintains as to why I violated which I am trying to say I didn’t violate it – I knew what I was doing,” he said.
The Chief Magistrate thanked him for his input and proceeded to highlight the applicable options from her available list of punishments.
“There are some options for sentencing available: fines up to $2500 – it can’t exceed that amount and there’s an imprisonment option – 6 months. But – ok, it’s only the fine that’s applicable.
“So, I’m going to fine you for the violation.”
At this point Crown Counsel in the Attorney General’s Chambers, Kezron Walters, reminded the judge of an application for a removal (deportation) order which was filed in immigration officer Primus’ name.
The Chief Magistrate acknowledged that the order would be granted and proceeded to explain to Oluwajana why he was only being fined $600.00.
“A number of things were considered – you pled guilty at the first instance, you have no violations known and presented to the Court or criminal records.”
The defendant then opted to try one more time to have his say:
“The reason I am in St. Vincent is because I was sent by God Almighty – ”
Chief Magistrate Brown did not allow any further use of the Court’s time for that case.