A former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Clement Illoh, was on Thursday sentenced to five years in prison for stealing N14.1 million from the Nigerian government.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Mr Illoh before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Special Offences Court in Ikeja, Lagos.
The EFCC in a statement said the convict was first arraigned on October 16, 2017, on a three-count charge of stealing by conversion of property.
It said Mr Illoh, who was also responsible for supervising several programmes under the defunct Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), committed the crime in January 2015.
The EFCC said the SURE-P supervisor allegedly awarded fictitious contracts to himself, using his personal company and friends.
It added that Mr Illoh converted the money from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
The SURE-P initiative was a social empowerment programme established by the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in January 2012 to manage the government’s share of savings from the removal of fuel subsidy.
The programme was, however, dissolved in 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Illoh pleaded not guilty to the charge against him, thereby setting the stage for his trial.
The prosecution, on March 7, 2018, closed its case, following the cross-examination of the fourth prosecution witness, Theresa Braimoh, a retired Director of Productivity, Measurement, and Labour Standard.
The EFCC said the counsel to the defendant, Bolaji Ayorinde, had earlier urged the court to strike out the case on the grounds that the prosecution could not establish a prima facie case against his client.
In his response, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, had told the court that the prayer of the defence amounted to contesting the obvious.
“The evidence of the four prosecution witnesses and the legally admissible evidence marked and admitted as exhibits A to F are enough to link the defendant to the charges preferred against him by the EFCC,” Mr Oyedepo had argued.
Mr Oyedepo had further told the court that the defendant transferred public funds to the tune of N14, 176,000.00 from NIMASA to his company, Clement& Bob Associate’s account for personal use, instead of retiring the money to NIMASA.
“In the extrajudicial statement made by the defendant, he admitted that he is the owner and signatory to the account of Clement & Bob Associate and that the company does not have any contract or business transaction with NIMASA,” Mr Oyedepo said.
Delivering her judgment, Justice Taiwo held that the prosecution had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“The defendant’s action is in gross violation of the financial regulation and it shows that the defendant failed to abide by the laid down procedures,” the judge said.
Consequently, Justice Taiwo convicted Mr Illoh on counts one and two and sentenced him to five years imprisonment on both counts without an option of fine.
The Judge, however, discharged the convict on count three “due to the fact that the convict did not conceal stolen funds.”
Justice Taiwo also ordered that the convict make restitution by paying the N3.5 million he withdrew in cash and the N3.5 million recovered from him by the EFCC during investigation into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.