The High Court of Abia State has sentenced the traditional ruler of Ipupe community in Ubalaka, Umuahia South local council, Eze Bob Ubiaru, to two years in prison for embezzlement of funds.
Spokesperson for the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Mrs. Rasheedat Okoduwa said in a statement yesterday that the money was meant for the compensation of his community for the installation of public power infrastructure on their sacred land.
The traditional ruler was arraigned alongside the Secretary to the palace, Patrick Iyke Ubiaru, before Honourable Justice Agwu Umah Kalu for fraudulently converting to personal use, N40 million out of the N60 million paid to Ipupe community by the National Infrastructure Power Project (NIPP) as compensation to relocate the community shrines in order to give way for the power project that passed through the area.
Meanwhile, the ICPC has arraigned a former Chairman of Benue State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Mr. Iho Anum Achusa, and a staff of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Abuja, Mr. Donald Orya Anagenda for alleged conspiracy, bribery and using their offices to confer corrupt advantage on themselves.
The judge granted the accused persons bail and adjourned the case to October 14, 2016.
The charge against the traditional ruler, who was the first defendant in count one, was brought under Section 363(1) and punishable under Section 390(9) of the Criminal Code Cap 80 Laws of Abia State 2005.
Delivering his judgment, the trial judge held that the prosecution had proved the case in count one beyond reasonable doubt, in that there was enough evidence to show that the first defendant did not use the money to relocate the community’s shrines but actually converted the money to his personal use.
Justice Kalu, however, discharged and acquitted the first defendant on count two on the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove that the first defendant was a public officer as stipulated in Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
With respect to the second defendant, the trial judge held that although the prosecution clearly proved alteration against the second defendant, the prosecution, however, failed to prove that he was at the material time in the employment of the Eze-in-Council which was one of the ingredients of the offence.
The judge, therefore, convicted Eze Ubiaru on count one and sentenced him to two years imprisonment or a fine of N3 million, while the second defendant, Patrick Ubiaru, was discharged and acquitted.
Justice Kalu also held that the sum of N10 million in the deposit account of First Bank Plc fixed by Eze Ubiaru from the proceeds of the crime be forfeited and given to the true representatives of Ipupe community who are to be identified by the chairman of Umuahia-South local council of the state.
Also, the judge also held that the shares bought by the Eze from the proceeds of the crime be forfeited, sold and the money realised be given to the same representatives of Ipupe community.
The two SUBEB officers were arraigned before Honourable Justice A.O Anum of Benue State High Court No. 2, Makurdi on a four-count charge of contravening sections 12, 18(d), 19 and 26(1c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
The prosecuting counsel of ICPC, Sunny Ezeana Esq and Abayomi Adepoju Esq averred that sometime between October and November 2013, the accused “conspired … to knowingly hold private interest in a contract awarded by Benue State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to Brown Sugar Global Resources Limited for training of teachers on ICT to the tune of N97.5 million.”
The first accused, Mr. Donald Orya, while being in the employment of UBEC, Abuja was further charged for ‘’knowingly holding private interest in a contract awarded by SUBEB to Brown Sugar Global Resources Limited for training of teachers on ICT contrary to and punishable under Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000’’.
The second accused, Mr. Iho Achusa was also charged for ‘’conferring corrupt advantage upon yourself when you received the total sum of N14 million from the contract sum awarded to Brown Sugar Global Resources Limited thereby committing an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.”