Justice A. T. Mohammed of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has convicted and sentenced a former Special Adviser to Dan Abia, erstwhile managing director of Niger Delta Development Commission, George Turnah, and two others: Ebis Orubebe and Uzorgor Silas Chidebere, to six years imprisonment for obtaining money under false pretence, money laundering, conversion of funds and forgery contrary to Section 1 (1) (a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.
They were jailed on Thursday, September 7, 2023, having been found guilty of charges preferred against them by the Port Harcourt Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The defendants were originally arraigned by the EFCC in May, 2017 and re-arraigned on January 25, 2021, on 23-count charges bordering on obtaining by false pretence, money laundering and abuse of office to the tune of N2,894,500,000 (Two Billion, Eight Hundred and Ninety-Four Million, Five Hundred Thousand Naira).
Count 6 of the charge reads: “that you, George Turnah Alabh, Uzogor Silas Chidiebere, El-Godams Global Services Ltd., Turnoil and Gas Nigeria Ltd, Kolo Creek Petroleum Dev. Ltd, Celtic Pride Consult and Events Ltd, Yenagoa Mall Ltd, The Incorporated Trustees of Concerned Niger Delta Initiative, Adaka Boro Marine Services Ltd, Sugarland Integrated Farms Nig. Ltd, Geohan Telecommunication Nig. Ltd and others at large, on or about the 24th day of November 2014, at Port Harcourt, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did take possession of the sum of Seven Hundred and Eight Million Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N708,500,000.00) which you reasonably ought to know that the money was obtained by a false pretence from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) purportedly for the purpose of providing quick win jobs for 300 youths and women groups and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under 15 (3) of the same Act”.
Count 23 of the charge reads: “that you George Turnah Alabh in 2014 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did receive the sum of $100,000.00 (One Million United States dollars) (at the exchange rate of N184 to a Dollar) cash from one Umar Lawal of Hakuri Global Concept exceeding the statutory limit without going through a financial institution and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 16 (2) (b) of the same Act”.
They pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.
Prosecution counsel, I. Agwu, called several witnesses and tendered documents to prove the case against the defendants.
Justice Mohammed convicted and sentenced them to two years imprisonment each, starting from the date of their arrest. The 1st defendant was ordered to pay N1,000,000 (One Million Naira only) as an option of fine while the 2nd and 3rd defendants are to pay N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira only) into the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Additionally, the 4th, 6th and 10th defendants are to return the sum of One Hundred and Eighty Million Naira (N180,000,000). Other restitutions include, N5,000,000, (Five Million Naira only) traced to the 1st convict, N100,000,000 (One Hundred Million Naira only) traced to the 6th and 10th convicts, N50,000,000 (Fifty Million Naira only) traced to Optimal Standard. They are to be forfeited to the NDDC.
Others are: N46,760,843.61 (Forty-Six Million, Seven Hundred and Sixty Thousand, Eight Hundred and Forty-Three Naira, Sixty One Kobo), N494,371.86 (Four Hundred and Ninety-Four Thousand, Three Hundred and Seventy-One Naira, Eighty Six Kobo), N13,000,000 (Thirteen Million Naira) and Twenty-Three Million, Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N23,500,000) to be forfeited to the NDDC by the 9th, 4th, 2nd and 3rd defendants respectively.