Court Jails Five Rural Electricity Agency Directors over N5.2bn Fraud

By Olawale Oyegbade, Osogbo, S/W Bureau Chief
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Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal High Court, Gudu, Abuja has convicted and sentenced former directors of the Rural Electricity Agency, (REA) to various jail terms for their culpability in a N5.2billion scam.

The convicts include Engr. Samuel Ibi Gekpe, former Managing Director, REA; Simon Kirdi Nanle, an accountant in REA; Engr. Kayode Orekoya, Director of Projects; Abdusamad Garba Hahun, Assistant Director and Kayode Oyedeji, Head of Legal Department.

However, the second defendant, Dr. Abdullahi Aliyu, a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Power was discharged and acquitted.

They were charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC for criminal breach of trust in fraudulently awarding contract for Grid Extension and Solar Electricity from the amended 2008 Budget of REA.

The acting Head of Media and Publicity EFCC, Tony Orilade told The Nigerian Voice that the convicts fraudulently facilitated the withdrawal of the sum of N119.7million from the account of the agency, domiciled in Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

In the course of the trial, the prosecution led by Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, called seven witnesses before closing its case. Rather than open its defence, the defendants through Paul Erokoro, SAN, made a no case submission which was overruled by the court and thereafter were called upon to open their defences.

Dr. Abdullahi Aliyu’s "no-case" submission was, however, upheld on appeal and he was consequently discharged and acquitted.

The first and third defendants rested their cases on that of the prosecution. The fourth-sixth defendants testified in person. Final addresses were filed, exchanged and adopted. Upon adoption of the respective final addresses by the prosecution and the defence, the court adjourned for judgment.

In a significant judgement, the court dismissed the application of Gekpe, the first defendant, which challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the charge. On the substantive charge, the court found that the prosecution had established by evidence all ingredients of the offences against the defendants.

The defendants were accordingly convicted and sentenced as follows: First defendant sentenced three years imprisonment with an option of N5million fine; the third- sixth defendants were sentenced to three years imprisonment with an option of N500,000 fine each.