A Federal High Court in Lagos has sentenced a former Acting Director-General of NIMASA, Calistus Obi, to seven years imprisonment for N136 million fraud.
Mr Obi was on May 23, 2019 convicted along with Alu Dimas, an aide to Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former Director-General of NIMASA.
They were arraigned along with two companies, Grand Pact Limited and Global Sea Investment, on April 12, 2016, on an eight-count charge bordering on conspiracy, conversion and money laundering to the tune of N136million (One Hundred and Thirty Six Million Naira).
Justice Olatoregun had found the first defendant guilty of counts five, six, seven and eight. The second defendant was also found guilty of counts two and four.
Consequently, Justice Olatoregun had adjourned the case till May 28, 2019 for counsel to address the court on sentencing.
At the resumed sitting, counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, argued that the defendants wasted the time of the court, so they did not qualify to enjoy the discretion of the court in not imposing the maximum sentence.
He said: “This is a time we must begin to make statements that send a signal to public servants and those entrusted with public funds not to betray the trust imposed on them as the court had found in this case.
“The first and second defendant converted the total sum of N111 million to their personal use, while the first, third, and fourth defendants converted the sum of N114 million to their personal use.
“The court has the power to order them to refund the money and compensate the Agency for the funds already utilised.
“We also urge the court to order the forfeiture to the Federal Government of the sum of N30 million recovered by the EFCC from the first defendant.”
Oyedepo also urged the court to order the forfeiture of a hotel, La Diva Hotel and Events Centre in Asaba, Delta State, belonging to the first defendant, to the Federal Government, adding that “Doing this will also send a warning signal to intending members of the public, who want to dip their hands into public funds.”
He further urged the court to make an order imposing a 100 percent fine on the third and fourth defendants, as contained in the provisions of sections 15(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Acts, ACJA, on corporate bodies found guilty of such allegations.
Counsel to the first convict, Mobolaji Kuti, urged the court to temper justice with mercy, saying, “My Lord, my client is a first time offender, with no past criminal records.”
Kuti further told the court that his client had been actively involved in public service in the country, including being a former chairman of a local government and a founder of a charity organisation.
Kuti further told the court that his client was in the EFCC detention for a month before being arraigned.
Counsel to the second defendant, Collins Ogbona, told the court that the prosecution had failed to prove its case against his client beyond reasonable doubt.
He said his client was just used as a conduit pipe for being a Personal Assistant to his boss in the Agency.
Ogbona, who said his client was kept in the EFCC custody for three months, therefore, urged the Judge to temper justice with mercy.
He added that “if my client is found guilty, I pray my Lord to pronounce a non-custodian sentence.”