A panel of judges at the Supreme Court of Nigeria today quashed the conviction handed the former Board Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Chief Bode George, earlier jailed for corruption by a Lagos High Court.
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.
A panel of judges headed by a judge, John Afolabi Fabiyi JSC, 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 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 Lagos High Court, Ikeja, 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 Peoples 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 appelate court in January 2011.
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