N170m fraud: Court frees Ogbulafor, as co-accused bags five years jail

By The Citizen

A Federal Capital Territory High Court in Maitama,  Abuja, has discharged and acquitted a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Vincent Ogbulafor, of the entire 17 counts of fraud relating to contract verification exercise in 2001.

On the other hand, the second accused person, Emeka Ebila, who was then the Secretary of National Economic Intelligence Committee, the body which was tasked with the verification exercise, was convicted and jailed five years for the alleged offences.

The jail terms of five years on each of the counts are to run concurrently.

Ogbulafor was then the Minister of Special Duties supervising the activities of NEIC, which was set up in 2001 for the verification and payment of debts owed to local contractors by the Federal Government.

Justice Ishaq Bello, in his judgment on Thursday, held that from the evidence before the court, there was no nexus between Ogbulafor, who was the Minister of Special Duties when the offences were allegedly committed, and the alleged crimes.

But the judge said Ebila's confessional statement tendered before the court without any objection from his lawyer, was a corroboration of the allegations leveled against him by the prosecution.

Ebila, whose absence from court on two previous occasions had stalled the delivery of the judgment, was wheeled into the courtroom wearing a neck brace.

The court rejected the plea by Ebila's counsel, A. A Nwogu, for the sentencing on the account of her client's ill health. The court said though, the accused could be seen on the wheelchair, there was no medical report disclosing his true state of health before the court.

The accused are being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission for offences they allegedly committed in March 2001.

The PDP chief, who was then the supervising minister of NEIC and Ebila, were alleged to have defrauded the Federal Government to the tune of over N170m through payments to contractors for jobs that were not carried out.

According to the ICPC, the offences committed contravened Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000, among other provisions of the same law.