...LG chair on the run
From: Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri
A local government Supervisory Councilor and a politician in Borno State have been sentenced to two years imprisonment by a Maiduguri High Court for diversion of about 300 bags of rice provided for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the state by an international humanitarian agency.
The Supervisory Councilor for agriculture in Mafa Local Government Area, Umar Ibrahim, and a local politician, Bulama Ali Zangebe were, on Thursday, jailed under Section 96 and 97 of Penal Code Law Cap 345 Laws of the Northern Stated of Nigeria by Borno State High Court 13 for criminal conspiracy and criminal misappropriation of bags of rice meant for IDPs in Mafa Local Government Area.
They were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“I have considered the plea of the accused persons and the provision of the law. You are therefore sentenced to two years imprisonment,” Justice Fadau Umar declared in his judgment.
Beside, the court ruled that the two to pay N1 million each to Borno State government while it equally ordered the forfeiture of N50, 000 recovered from the two by EFCC.
The court said the first issue on whether or not the council official and the politician conspired to sell bags of rice given to IDPs in Mafa by the Norwegian Refugee Agency (NRC), was determined in favour of the EFCC.
On the second issue of EFCC’s right to sue the accused, in Maiduguri, the court ruled in favour of the commission, citing relevant legal precedent and laws.
According to EFCC brief, the two accused persons, acting on the instruction of the chairman Mafa Local Government Area, Shettima Lawan Maina, still at large, conspired and sold the bags of rice sometimes in December 2017 despite the inscription “Not For Sale” on the bags. They confessed to have sold each bag at the cost of N8,500 and remitted N8,000 to the LG Chairman, Shettima Lawan Maina while they kept N500 as their share of the business. A total of N1,440 million was realised by the accused from the sales of the rice.
They also said they received the instruction of the chairman to sell the bags of rice over claims of IDPs complaining of change of foods. They said the council intended to use the money to buy corn or corn grits in exchange for the rice for IDPs use, a claim which the court dismissed as untrue, noting that the corns found in Mafa store was purchased a month before the council official conspired to sell the bags of rice.
Counsel to EFCC, Khalid Sanusi described the judgement as a boost to the anti-corruption crusade champion by the commission. “The judgment has been given and we are happy about it. It is a boost to the anti-corruption campaign of EFCC to rid our country of graft and other financial crimes. We are not persecuting but prosecuting offenders,” he told Daily Sun at the court.
Until now, there have been allegations of stealing and diversion of foods meant for IDPs at camps for displaced persons in Borno State, prompting the state government to ordered probe into the allegation.