A former director of the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, South-WestNigeria, Professor Benjamin Ogunbodede who was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment on Tuesday, has claimed that he and two other persons convicted alongside him spent N177million to bribe lawmakers and some employees of the Federal Ministry of Finance.
Justice Nathaniel Ayo-Emmanuel of the Federal High Court, Ibadan, had on Tuesday, sentenced Ogunbodede, to 40 years imprisonment for corruptly enriching himself to the tune of N177 million.
Zacheus Tejumola, a former Chief Accountant of the institute, was also sentenced to 40 years imprisonment while Clement Adenose, another staff, bagged four years in jail.
In a judgment which lasted over two hours, Ayo-Emmanuel said that he convicted the trio based on the overwhelming evidence against them.
The judge, however, said that he had no reason to convict them on count 13 due to want of evidence. “There is no ambiguity in the facts tendered by the prosecution that the three convicts conspired, converted and stole the hazard allowance of N177 million belonging to the staff of IAR&T.
“Ogunbodede and Tejumola are therefore, sentenced to 40 years imprisonment each for their roles for counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16.
“Adenose is sentenced to four years in prison. The sentences will, however, run concurrently,” Ayo-Emmanuel stated.
However, Ogunmodede claims he and two other persons convicted alongside him spent N177m to bribe lawmakers and some employees of the Federal Ministry of Finance. They claimed that a huge part of the money was used to bribe members of House of Representatives and some staff of the Federal Ministry of Finance who facilitated the release of the fund for the research institute, Punch reports.
Earlier, Mr Tunde Olupona, the counsel to Ogunbodede, had pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy in sentencing his client. He argued that his client lacked administrative experience in running such a sensitive position.
Similarly, Mr I.A Salawu and Mrs Yetunde Adegboye, counsel to Tejumola and Adenose, pleaded with the court to show mercy to their clients, citing various portions of the constitution.
However, Mr Nkwuruka Amana, the counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), urged the court to sentence the convicts in accordance with the stipulation of the law.
Ogunbodede, Tejumola and Adenose along with 10 others had since 2014 been standing trial over a 16-count charge bordering on conspiracy, unlawful conversion and stealing of N177 million hazard allowance belonging to the staff of the institute.
Ten of the defendants had earlier pleaded guilty and opted for plea bargain arrangement. Nine out of the 10 previously convicted were different companies which Ogunbodede, Tejumola and Adenose indirectly used to siphon the N177 million.
Olupona, who spoke after the judgment, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that he and his other colleagues were still studying the judgment and would in due course take appropriate decision on whether to appeal or not.
The conviction of the trio is coming on the heels of the directive by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, to heads of the divisions of courts to create special courts for corruption and financial crimes cases.
Onnoghen said this directive is to end the unnecessary delay associated with the prosecution of corruption cases.
The CJN also ordered that all lists of pending corruption cases in the various courts be forwarded to the NJC.