A former Director General of the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, Prof. Benjamen Ogunmodede, was on Tuesday sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment without an option of fine by a Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan, Oyo State, for mismanaging funds meant for the payment of salaries and execution of projects in the school.
Two workers at the account section of the institution, Zacheus Tejumola and Adenekan Clement, were jailed along with Ogunmodede.
The trio had been arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in 2011 on 16 counts bordering on conspiracy, unlawful conversion and stealing of school subvention, among others.
Justice Ayo Emmanuel, who gave the ruling, sentenced the convicts to four years’ imprisonment on each of the counts they were found guilty of.
The judge, however, ordered that they would spend the jail terms concurrently.
Ogunmodede and others were accused of diverting N177m out of a subvention of N600m released by the Federal Government for the school. The sum (N177m) was said to have been spent without due process.
In their defence, the convicts claimed that a huge part of the amount was used to bribe members of House of Representatives and some workers of the Federal Ministry of Finance who facilitated the release of the fund for the research institute.
But Justice Emmanuel ruled that Ogunmodede and others were clearly guilty of the charges preferred against them.
He said bribery and money laundering were illegal and had been prohibited in the country, adding that they were punishable under the law.
The judge said the sentence would serve as a deterrent to public office holders who are contemplating on mismanaging public funds.
“We must have it in our mind that the primary reason for sentencing a guilty person is to serve as a deterrent to those with such similar criminal tendencies and for rehabilitation of the accused. The two reasons are sociological in nature,” he added.
Ogunmodede’s counsel, Tunde Olupona, from the chambers of Rotimi Akeredolu, said the legal team would review the ruling and decide on the next step.
The EFCC lead counsel, Nkereuwem Anana, said the judgment was an indication that the war against corruption was being won.
He added that the judgment would send a message to others who are mismanaging or embezzling public funds that the long arm of the law would catch up with them.