Former Chairman of the Board of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Chief Olabode George, who was on Friday set free from his ex-convict toga through a judgment of the Supreme Court has said that he has finally been vindicated.
In a statement entitled ‘Glory to God Almighty’, released shortly after the judgment was delivered, George said: “I have seen the goodness of the Lord today. The Almighty God in his infinite mercy and the sanctity of his wisdom has reconfirmed the true tenet of the eternal and abiding justice: The innocent may fall, the innocent may stumble, but he will never suffer in vain. Truth may live a difficult life. But it will always prevail.
“I am now out of the darkness and shadows of evil. The light of God has shined upon me. I now give praise to the good Lord for his abundant mercy and grace. I thank my dear wife Roli for believing in me and staying the course through thick and thin. I extend my heartfelt appreciation to the leader of our Party, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and every member of our great party from the ward level to the highest organ.
“Today, the truth has prevailed. The good Lord has vindicated me. But I hold no grudge, no grievances against any man. I am strengthened in the firmness of the integrity of our Judiciary. I am proud that this nation still has men and women who will never serve the hour to mangle the truth, who will stand for the purity of justice no matter the transient temptings of the moment. There is indeed an abiding moral here: we must never abandon our convictions. We must never surrender our highest principles. We must never serve the hour to distort the truth. The road may be rough. Our challenges may be harsh and bruising. But we must trudge along. We must be constantly guided in the sanctity of the goodness of the Lord.
“Today, I am born anew. Light has now prevailed over darkness. The crucibles of yesterday now remain in the past. I am confronted with a new beginning. My focus, my vision, the total predication of my being is again anchored on service to our dear nation. I have no vaulting ambition. I have no giant dreams or aspirations.
“My fixity is our nation. We must recommit ourselves to selfless service. We must recommit ourselves to rebuilding the broken places. We must eschew bitterness and malignity. We must transcend the narrow podium of ethnicity and tribal prejudice. We must shun the invidious partisan venom that will distort the truth merely to destroy a perceived opponent.
“This nation is greater than all of us. Let us protect it. Let us serve it with all our hearts and with the fear of the Lord. I remain a humble patriot without malice. I remain a mariner with a story to tell. I have witnessed the goodness of the Lord”.
A panel of judges at the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Friday quashed the conviction handed the former NPA Board Chairman who was jailed for corruption by a Lagos High Court in 2009.
The court discharged and acquitted George claiming that prosecutors at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had no evidence of his intention to commit fraud at the NPA.
The panel of judges headed by Justice John Afolabi Fabiyi ruled that the charges of “contract splitting” upon which George, a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, was convicted is unknown to law.
In October 2009, a Lagos high court judge, Justice Olubunmi Oyewole, sentenced the former the NPA Board Chairman along with five others to 2 years imprisonment without an option of bail.
They had expected to walk away as free men but the Court dashed their hopes when it sent them to jail on a 47 count charges ranging from disobedience to lawful order and abuse of office by splitting contracts among others.
Chief Olabode George was the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) from 2011 to 2003, he was also Director-General of the Yar’Adua-Jonathan Presidential Campaign Organisation in 2007 and a former National Deputy Chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
In his judgment, Justice Olubunmi Oyewole said: “When public office is abused, the entire populace is assaulted. This must not be condoned or treated with kid gloves. If the quality of service in our public life is to be altered to the appreciable standard of the civilised world, the right deterrent should be given. For the right deterrent to be served, therefore, sufficient firmness must be demonstrated.”
He afterwards declared: “The penalty for disobedience to lawful order is a maximum of one year imprisonment. I hereby sentence all the defendants to six months imprisonment on counts 8,9,10,11,12,15,16,19,20,21,22,23,24, 25,26,27,28, 29,32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40 and 41. Also, I sentence them to two years for each of the convicted counts of contract inflation.”
George; Aminu Dabo, an NPA former Managing Director; Captain Olugbenga Abidoye; Zaina Maideribe; Aminu Tafida and Sule Aliyu who were members of the board were sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment each on the ground of abuse of power and disobedience to a lawful order from the Presidency. The judge found them guilty on 47 out of the 68 counts charge for which they were arraigned.
The former NPA Board Chairman and members lost their appeal at the appellate court in January 2011.