Date Published: 10/28/09
Bode George's Conviction: Victory for EFCC?
PDP chieftain, Bode George, and five of his accomplices, accused of perpetrating an N85billion fraud at Nigeria Ports Authority(NPA), were on Monday sentenced to 28 years imprisonment without an option of fine. George and his gang were convicted by Justice Olubunmi Oyewole of the Ikeja High Court.
George, who for several years paraded the national scene like an untouchable and king maker, was specifically convicted on the 35 of the 68-count charge. His crimes include contract splitting, inflation, abuse of office and disobedience to lawful order.
Justice Oyewole held that all the accused persons were guilty of splitting numerous contracts as members of the NPA board from 2001 to 2003.
In his allocutus, leasd counsel to George, Tunji Ayanla(SAN), appealed for leniency. He said his client and the other five accused persons did the right thing but followed the wrong procedure. It is pertinent to note that George was represented by four SANs, while the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) was represented by Festus Keyamo.
During the 18 month trial, a major prosecution witness , Mustapha Bukar, a director in the transport ministry said his panel discovered that over 29, 626 contracts were split and inflated by George and his cronies on the board, before they were awarded.
The fall of the almighty “ King George” is instructive. It underscores the fact that even though high profile criminals like James Ibori, Lucky Igbinedion, Tony Anenih, Peter Odili, Victor Attah, ectc still roam the streets, throwing around their ill-gotten wealth, there is still hope for the anti-graft war being spearheaded by the EFCC.
EFCC boss, Farida Waziri, and Information Minster, Dora Akunyili, had in separate interviews with pointblanknewss.com, took shots at the judiciary for standing in the way of justice even when there are overwhelming evidence. While Akunyili lamented about the case of the Onitsha based fake drug baron, Waziri is yet to get over the slap on the wrist Igbinedion received in court after robbing his state blind.
The EFCC boss decried situations were defense counsels in concert with judges try to throw spanner in the works despite all the evidence before them. It is against this background that she is calling for the setting up special courts to try the cases of these high caliber thieves. But the question is, who are going to run the show in the special courts?
Of course, some skeptics are saying Justice Oyewole would have given George a slap on the wrist if not because of the Olusegun Obasanjo, and Justice minister, Mike Aondoaka factor, but the message is clear…these high profile criminals cannot be lucky all the time.
While we give kudos to the EFCC, Keyamo and Justice Oyewole, we urge the bench and the Nigeria Bar association (NBA) to look into the cry by EFCC and call some of its members to order.
Just like the majority of Nigerians, we urge the EFCC not to relent, but to pursue other high profile looters until they are put behind bars. We also urge the EFCC to look into the tenure of Anenih when he was Works minister, and his tenure at the NPA.