27 October 2009

Nigeria: Surprise, Shock As George, Others Land in Kirikiri

The aura and the enthusiam of the defendants and their lawyers were high. They were hopeful and convinced that they have done their best and also proved their innocence on the 63-count charge levelled at them.

However, the three hours judgment read by Justice Joseph Oyewole of an Ikeja High Court proved them wrong.

By the end of the judgment, the defendants -- Chief Olabode George, the former Peoples Democratic Party chieftain; former NPA Managing Director, Mr. Aminu Dabo; Captain Olusegun Abidoye, Mr. Abdullahi Aminu Tafida, Mr. Zanna Maidaribe and Mr. Sule Aliyu were sent to jail for 28 years. Without the option of fine

They are, however, to spend two and half years behind bars as the sentences are to run concurrently.

Moment before the judgment was concluded, there was a graveyard silence inside Court 41 where the matter was going on and on the court premises.

The party supporters who thronged into the court in their hundreds were disappointed, raining abuses on whoever was perceived to be behind the travails of the top politician.

However, George maintained his calm and did not betray emotions.

Some of the supporters wailed to demonstrate their feelings about the judgment.

As early as 7 a.m, loyalists of George, from within and outside the state had besieged the court in anticipation of his acquittal from the allegations.

They had followed the proceedings during the trial until judgment was delivered.

At the conclusion of the case, yesterday, 62 anti-riot policemen were dispatched to the court premises to maintain peace and order.

The two gates leading to the court premises were condoned-off, to ward off eventualities.

George and the other accused persons had engaged the services of prominent lawyers, including Joe Gadzama, Tunji Ayanlaja, Dele Adesina - all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), and several junior lawyers.

The Head of the EFCC legal office in Lagos, Mr. Mohammed Hassan, had started the case before the commission engaged the services of Mr. Festus Keyamo, who saw it off at the High Court.

Several witnesses were called during the trial which suffered many delays either due to power supply problem or excuses from lawyers requesting adjournment based on technicalities.

During the trials, the defence counsel led by Ayanlaja had canvassed some technical loopholes on the charges before the court and why their clients should be discharged and acquitted of the offences.

However, the prosecution led by Keyamo established that indeed, the act of the board contradicted known laws, it asked the court to convict them as charged.

Delivering judgment, Justice Oyewole threw them off balance and held that they were guilty of the offences.

After the judgment, the supporters, who were restricted by security operatives wailed and cried, attributing the judgment to a ploy to quench the rising political profile of George.

While awaiting the vehicle to transport them to the Kirikiri Prison, the supporters and the lawyers discussed in hush tones, saying the judge should at least granted him and the other convicts the option of fine.

The supporters who wore different Ankara uniforms left the court in anger as the accused were moved to the prison in a Black Maria pick-up van with number-plate PS 523AO/1 at 3.45 pm.

The man, Bode George

Commodore Olabode Ibiyinka George (rtd.) ( B.Sc, MBA, psc) was born on November 21, 1945 in Lagos.

He was a member of former President Olusegun Obasanjo's kitchen cabinet while he was in office between 1999 and 2007.

George was appointed Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), while Obasanjo was in office.

Media revelations concerning his indictment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), then headed by Mr. Nuhu Ribadu for fraud at NPA were rife during Obasanjo's tenure but he was widely rumoured to have been shielded from prosecution by the former president.

However, the case of fraud against him and several other former members of the NPA Board was exhumed and charged to court when the current Chairman of EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri, assumed office.

George was very active in politics of PDP in Lagos State.

COSEG hails judgment

THE Coalition of Oodua Self-Determination Groups (COSEG), has hailed the judgment which sentenced Chief Bode George and others to prison.

It also applauded the judiciary for standing against all odds to sentence 'almighty' George of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to jail without an option of fine.

COSEG, in a statement signed by its Director of Publicity and Media, Mr. Gbenga Soloki, in Lagos, on Monday, applauded the judiciary for standing as a true arbitrator and the last hope of the country.

It also praised EFCC for showing true commitment in fighting corruption.

The group said the judgment had shown that nobody is above the law.

It argued that it will serve as deterrent to all public office holders' now and in future not to involve in looting the treasury.

COSEG stressed: "We commend the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission's crusade against corruption and we enjoin it not to relent in fighting against corruption and bring to judgment all other looters of our treasury in the past and in future."

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