Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
An Okene High Court on Friday sentenced a former Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Zacheaus Atte, to 19 years imprisonment for embezzling N19 million, being monies meant for farmers in Kogi State.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) had dragged the former commissioner before the high court on an 11-count charge bordering on conspiracy, diversion of funds and other sundry issues.
After due prosecution of the case with all evidence tendered and witnesses testified in the case, the trial judge, Justice JJ Mejabi, however, found Atte guilty of 7 of the 11-count charge.
Atte was sentenced to a total jail term of 19 years, with 5 years of imprisonment each on counts 1 and 3 without an option of fine for collecting the sum of N11,937,000 and N8,873,766.85, respectively, being monies meant for “the raising and distribution of Oil Palm Sprouted Nuts Seedlings” to cocoa farmers in Kogi State which he failed to raise nor distribute to the affected farmers.
The offence is contrary to and punishable under Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000 (ICPC Act).
He was also sentenced on count two to five years imprisonment without an option of fine “for receiving the sum of N350,000, being amount earmarked to defray the transportation costs of the farmers during the cocoa seedlings distribution exercise” but failed to do so. This is also an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 19 of the ICPC Act.
The former commissioner was further sentenced to 1-year imprisonment each on counts 8 to 11 for “spending from the sum of N2,849,953.75, being amount earmarked for the purchase of office equipment on what he called Statewide Sensitization Tour; visit to Lagos from Lokoja on issues of Power Tiller; and Video Coverage” contrary to and punishable under section 22(5) of the ICPC Act.
While reading his judgment, the trial judge justified the conviction of the former commissioner noting that the ICP had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and that the conviction will serve as a deterrent to other corrupt public office holders.