A Federal High Court in Ibadan yesterday disclosed that a former Director General of the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IART), Apata, Ibadan, Oyo State, Prof. Benjamin Ogunmodede and the former chief Accountant of the institute, Zaccheus Tejula, volunteered that they used part of the subvention given to the institute by the federal government to bribe members of the House of Representatives and some staff of the Federal Ministry of Finance because they facilitated the release of the fund to the institute.
Consequently, the court sentenced them to a 40-year jail term without an option of fine over the diversion of N177million from the N600million subvention given to the institute by the Federal Government.
Ogunmodede, a professor of agriculture and clergy in the Anglican Church, was sentenced along with Tejumola and another colleague, Adenekan Clement, by Justice Nathaniel Ayo-Emmanuel.
The trio were dragged to the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2011 on a 16-count charge bothering on conspiracy, unlawful conversion and stealing of school subvention.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Ayo-Emmanuel sentenced each of the accused to four years imprison on each of the counts, as it applied to the convicts. The court held that the 40-year jail term would run concurrently.
The judgment stated that the convicts diverted over N177million from N600million received as subvention from the federal government to pay salaries of workers and execute certain projects in the institute, adding that the convicts did not follow due process in some executed projects.
The court explained that the cross examination of the convicts and the evidences presented before the court showed clearly that they were guilty of the charges.
According to the judgment, the convicts told the court that they used part of the money to grease the palms of members of the House of Representatives and some staff of the Federal Ministry of Finance because they facilitated release of the fund to the institute.
The court held that bribery and money laundering are prohibited in Nigeria and punishable under the law, saying the reason for the punishment served on the trio was to deter the commission of such offences.
The court said: “It must be borne in mind that the primary function of judicial sentencing is to serve as a deterrent for those with similar criminal tendencies, and for rehabilitation of the accused. The two reasons are sociological in nature.”
The lead counsel to the EFCC, Nkereuwem Anana, who commended the judgment in a chat with journalists after the court proceedings, described the punishment served on the convicts as an indication that Nigeria is serious about nipping corruption in the bud.
The defendants’ counsel, Mr. Tunde Olupona, who stood in for the lead counsel, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), said the legal team would review the judgment.