Army jails colonel 7 years for defrauding Bayelsa

By The Citizen

THE General Court Martial (GCM) of the Nigerian Army Tuesday found Lieutenant Colonel R. A Ahangba, with service number N9827, guilty on two count charges of fraudulently obtaining N150 million from the Bayelsa State government in 2011 and conduct prejudice to service discipline.

Ahangba, who was also charged for disobedience to standing order, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment by the court martial, which concluded trial yesterday.

The President of the GCM, Brigadier General Edward Nze and the Judge Advocate, Captain Chukwudi Okonkwo, headed the court martial. It was revealed during proceedings that the convict obtained the money from the Bayelsa State government to help facilitate voting for the former governor, Timipre Sylva, in the 2011gubernatorial election.

Nze said the decision of the court was subject to superior authority, which, in this case, is the Army headquarters, adding that the officer serving the sentence automatically means he is dismissed from the Nigerian Army.

He said: 'As a rule, ex-convicts don't serve in the armed forces and so if the superior authorities enforce the decision of the court, it automatically means that the officers has been dismissed.'

The convicted officer was arrested in 2012 following a letter from the late former National Security Adviser (NSA), General Andrew Azazi, which was directed to the Army headquarters, stating that the officer impersonated him to obtain money from the Bayelsa State government.

It was gathered that the convict had contacted some officials of the state government falsely on behalf of Azazi and asked for N150million to execute projects in some of the communities in Ekeremo Local Government and in turn would secure electoral votes for their principal officer.

According to the evidence of bank documents of the convict, which was tendered as exhibit in the court, the state government had actually transferred the said amount into his bank account, which he diverted into obtaining shares from First Bank and UBA registrars.

From the lump sum of money he fraudulently obtained, he was said to have given N5million and N8million to one Lieutenant Agaku and another unidentified lady in the bank.

Investigations revealed that although the money was intended to facilitate some community projects, the convict had no intention of executing them as he speedily moved the money to his private account.

While reading the findings of the court, Nze said: 'The court has no doubt in mind that the accused person suggested the projects to officials of the Bayelsa State government from the evidence before this court.

'Again, the evidence before this court showed that he collected the said money from the state government as shown by bank documents tendered as exhibit P7 to P10. Also evidence before the court shows that the NSA never used the money.'

'Thus he never assisted the Bayelsa State government in winning or canvassing for votes in his state as alleged by the convict.'

While admitting that the decision of the court is binding on their client, the lead counsel for the accused, Ifeanyi Mmaduabuchi of Femi Falana Chambers, said they would appeal the verdict.

'We are aggrieved that we are going to Appeal Court but as at now, the judgment is binding. However, there are certain issues we have brought up that were not addressed.'