An Anglican Reverend and Professor, who embezzled school fund and claimed to have bribed some members of the House of Representatives has been sentenced to 40 years imprisonment.
He also claimed that a part of the loot went to some officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance.
Professor Benjamin Ogunmodede, a former Director General of the Institute of Agricultural, Research and Training (IAR&T), was on Tuesday slammed with 40 years imprisonment without an option of fine, by Justice Ayo Emmanuel of a Federal High Court in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Also sentenced were the Institute’s Accountant Zaccheus Tejumola and a staff member, Adenekan Clement.
The Professor, a Reverend of the Anglican church, and the two others were arraigned on a 16-count charge of conspiracy, unlawful diversion, and stealing of school subvention among other criminal offences.
It all started in 2011.
Justice Emmanuel sentenced the accused for four years per charge.
However, the 40-year imprisonment will run concurrently.
The court held that the accused diverted over N177 million from N600 million received as subvention from the Federal Government to pay salaries of workers and execute certain projects in the institute.
They however failed to follow due process in the execution of the projects.
Justice Emmanuel held the accused persons during the cross examination and the evidences presented by their prosecutor showed clearly that they were guilty of the charges.
The judgment indicated that the defendants had said they used part of the money to bribe members of House of Representatives and some staffers of the Federal Ministry of Finance after they facilitated release of the fund for the institution.
He had identified one Mr Makanjuola, a member of the House of Representatives committee on Agriculture, as one of the recipients of N50 million “Thank You” gift for facilitating the release of N606 million to the institute by the Ministry of Finance. He, however, failed to name other members of the House of Representatives who received the alleged N50 million bribe.
Justice Emmannuel said bribe and money laundering are prohibited in the country adding that it is punishable offense under the law.
He noted that the reason for the punishment was to serve as deterrent to those who are contemplating mismanaging public funds.
“It must be borne in mind that the primary aim of judicial sentencing is to serve as deterrent to those with such similar criminal tendencies and for rehabilitation of the accused. The two reasons are sociological in nature,” the judge added.
Speaking with journalists after the court rose, the lead counsel to the EFCC, Nkereuwem Anana said the judgment is an indication that Nigeria’s fight against corruption is in progress.
He commended the court for the judgment saying it would serve as deterrent for other public office holders who are embezzling public fund.
The lead counsel for Professor Benjamin, Mr. Tunde Oluponna said the judgment was very fair to all the parties, adding that the legal team would review the judgment and decide on the way forward.