8th March, 2022
Mr. Ikechukwu Onuh, an associate of Dr. Philips Nto, former Abia state Commissioner for finance, has been ordered to refund N550M to the Abia state government.
Justice CCT Adiele of Abia State High Court 2 sitting in Umuahia, made the order on Monday.
Onuh is the Managing Director of Consolidated Business Network Limited.
He and and his company were ordered to make the refund.
Justice Adiele ruled that the money was a proceed of fraudulent activities and should be paid back to Abia State Government.
He however discharged the three accused, including Nto.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), had accused Onuh, Nto; Onuh’s company, of conspiracy and contravening sections 16, 19 and 26 (1) of the Corrupt practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
Dr. Nto was charged with using his position as a commissioner to confer corrupt advantage on his associates, Onuh and Consolidated Business Network Limited.
Nto authored some letters introducing the 2nd and the 3rd defendants to Keystone Bank Plc, on which basis the sum of Seven Hundred Million Naira (N700,000,000) belonging to Abia State Government was paid into their account with the same Keystone Bank Plc.
Counsel to ICPC, Enosa Omoghibo, in the course of the trial informed the court of how the 2nd and 3rd defendants only remitted N150M out of the said amount to the State Government’s account while holding on to the remaining balance.
Prosecution further proved how N549M was eventually transferred to a certain Bureau De Change account in exchange for the dollar equivalent.
While putting up his defence, the 1st defendant, Nto called in a forensic expert witness who established that the letter purportedly authored by him on which basis the 2nd and 3rd defendants received the said sum of Abia State money into their account were forged as they were not authored by him.
However, the prosecution counsel in a swift move shifted focus from the defendants to the money, and relying on Section 47 (1) (b) of the Commission’s enabling law, prayed the court for order of refund and forfeiture of the said N550m, to Abia State government.
He argued that the learned trial Judge should convict the 2nd and 3rd defendants of the lesser offence of acts “constituting a felony, to wit: forgery which is contrary to and punishable under sections 13 and 14 of the Act, which sections 223 and 229 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 endorses.
The trial judge while delivering judgement on the matter discharged and acquitted the defendants.
He however agreed with the prosecution that he has proved beyond reasonable doubts the said N550M is property of Abia State government and not the defendants.
The judge ordered the 2nd and 3rd defendants to refund and forfeit the said money to Abia State Government within 30 days from the date of the judgment.
The Commission has set in motion machinery for the recovery and refund of the money to Abia State Government