The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday secured the conviction and sentencing to 40 imprisonment of Prof. Benjamin Adefemi Ogunbodede, a former Director-General, Institute of Agriculture Research and Training, IART, Ibadan, Oyo State.
The judgment was delivered by Justice Nathaniel Ayo-Emmanuel of the Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan.
Ogunbodede was prosecuted alongside Zacheaus Tejumola, the institute’s accountant, Adenose Clement and Jalekun Omotowoju on a 17-count charge bordering on conspiracy, misappropriation and diversion of funds to the tune of N177 million.
Trouble started for the convicts following a petition dated December 17, 2012 written by the Academic Staff Union of the institute, alleging that Ogunbodede falsely claimed to have used the sum of N115million to pay hazard allowance to the members of staff of the institute in December 2013.
It was also alleged that Ogunbodede claimed to have used the sum of N15million to harvest crops.
However, investigation revealed that he actually spent N800, 000 to harvest the crops.
The convicts had all pleaded not guilty to the charge when they were arraigned on June 16, 2014, thereby setting the stage for their trial.
In the course of the trial, the prosecution presented 15 witnesses and tendered relevant documents, which were all admitted in evidence.
Also, in 2016, 10 other accused persons in the matter had pleaded guilty to the charge and subsequently entered into a plea bargain arrangement with the commission.
Justice Ayo- Emmanuel said the prosecution had proved its case beyond any reasonable doubt.
He, therefore, convicted and sentenced the first and second accused persons to 40 years imprisonment without an option of fine.
The third accused was sentenced to four years imprisonment without an option of fine.
The sentences are to run concurrently.
Mr Tunde Olupona, the counsel to Ogunbodede, had pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy before his client was sentenced.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that he said his client lacked administrative experience in running such a sensitive position.
Similarly, Mr I.A Salawu and Mrs Yetunde Adegboye, counsel to Tejumola and Adenose, pleaded with the court to show mercy to their clients, citing various portions of the constitution.
However, Mr Nkwuruka Amana, the counsel to EFCC, urged the court to sentence the convicts in accordance with the stipulation of the law.
Olupona, who spoke after the judgment, told journalists that he and his other colleagues were still studying the judgment and would in due course take appropriate decision on whether to appeal or not.