SPOT THE DIFFERENCE, only in Naija!
23rd January, 2013, a magistrate court in Abeokuta sentenced one Adesina Mustapha to 2 years imprisonment for stealing VEGETABLE LEAVES (ugwu) worth N5000 without any option of fine.
28th January, 2013, a court in Abuja sentenced former police pension boss to 2 years imprisonment for embezzling N23.3 Billion with option of N250,000 fine.
An Abuja High Court became the punch line to a tasteless joke today when it sentenced John Yakubu Yusufu, standing trial on charges of stealing N32.8billion in the Police Pension scam, to two years on each of three charges, and then offered him a go-home option of a fine of N250,000 ($1,500).
Wisely, Mr. Yusufu accepted the judge’s kind offer, parted with N750,000 ($4,500), and walked into freedom with the rest of his loot.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said in a statement it would “study the ruling and respond appropriately.”
Before Justice Talba Mohammed, Mr. Yusufu had dramatically pleaded guilty to counts 18, 19 and 20 of the offense of grand theft and money laundering involving N32.8 billion ($204 million), in connivance with Essai Dangaba, Atiku Abubakar Kigo, Ahmed Inuwa, Wada, Mrs. Veronica Uloma, Sani Habila Zira, Mrs. Uzoma Cyril Attang and Christian Madubuike.
At today’s trial, the EFCC amended the charges and introduced two more suspects, Mrs. Uzoma Cyril Attang and Christian Madubuike.
Mrs. Attang was however not produced in court as she is said to be a powerful woman. She was however identified as a Director of Finance at the Ministry of Communication; between 2007 and 2008, she served as a Director at the Police Pension Fund.
During that short span, Mrs. Attang amassed so much wealth that in one account, at the United Bank of Africa, she had N500 million and the Code of Conduct tribunal brought charges against her. Those charges were then swiftly quashed as the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, allegedly waded into the case on her side.
The EFCC said in its statement that Mrs Attang was “removed from the list of accused persons due to her absence in court,” but that she will be arraigned at a later date.
Count 19, one of the three that Yusufu pleaded guilty to, reads: “That you John Yakubu Yusufu between 27th January, 2009 and 25th November 2009 at Abuja in the Abuja Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory converted to your use certain property, to wit the sum of N1,364, 285, 419.95 ( One Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty Four Million, Two Hundred and Eighty Five Thousand, Four Hundred and Nineteen Naira and Ninety five Kobo) belonging to Police Pension Office domiciled in its account with First Bank of Nigeria Plc and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 309 of the Penal Code Act, Cap. 532, Laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria, 2007.”
According to the EFCC, prior to the ruling, the defence counsel, Theodore Bala Maiyaki pleaded with the court for leniency. “My Lord, his conduct has shown respect for this honourable court, he has saved the time of my Lord and being a first offender, with no previous record of conviction, I urge the court to temper justice with mercy and sentence him with least possible terms.”
He also pleaded that Yusufu has a serious heart condition and is the bread winner of not only his immediate family but of numerous others.
However, prosecution counsel Rotimi Jacobs reminded the court that Section 309 of the Criminal Procedure Code prescribes a maximum of 2 years imprisonment, a fine or both for the offence which the convict had pleaded guilty to.
He said, “The court needs to send out the message that the era of stealing public funds with impunity is gone. Having regards to the amount and properties involved, the duty imposed on the convict, it would not be good to convict him without regards to assuaging the feelings of Nigerians especially the pensioners.”
Mr. Jacob urged the court to convict Mr. Yusufu accordingly. He also submitted an application seeking for the forfeiture of 13 properties found in Gombe GRA and Abuja which the EFCC seized from Yusufu as proceeds of crime.
Mr. Jacobs said the process of illegally withdrawing and sharing monies among the accused persons started in 2007 and ended in 2009; within that period, Mr. Yusufu came into office, met the unwholesome practice and continued with it. He told the court that apart from the 13 properties confiscated from him, the sum of N325 million found in his account should also be forfeited.
Mr. Jacobs later protested the slap on the wrist handed down by Justice Mohammed, warning that it will defeat the fight against corruption.
Apart from the jail term, the EFCC said the former assistant director of Police Pension office will forfeit 32 properties. They include two units of a 3 bedroom semi detached bungalow at R2, A and B, sunny homes, Dakwo District, Abuja; two units of 3 bedroom semi bungalow- detached at M24, A and B, sunny homes Dakwo homes, Dakwo District Abuja; four units of a 3bedroom semi- detached bungalow, managed by Daniel at sunny homes, Dakwo District, Abuja; eight units of an Estates of two bedroom flats, at Gombe, GRA; one unit Semi-detached Duplex at house 21, 4th Avenue, Gwarinpa, Abuja; four units of a 2 bedroom semi-detached duplex at Bricks city, Kubwa road, Abuja and one unit of Semi- Detached Duplex, at 14B Democracy crescent, Gaduwa, Abuja.
He will also forfeit the sum of N325, 187, 867.18 in cash.