October 3, 2014

N180M Fraud: Court frees Ogbulafor


Prince Vincent Ogbulafor

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA—Reprieve came the way of erstwhile chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, yesterday as an Abuja High Court in Maitama discharged and acquitted him from the 17-count criminal charge preferred against him by Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC.

In his judgment, Justice Ishaq Bello held that the anti-graft agency failed to establish its allegation that the former PDP boss, while in office as the Minister for Special Duties in 2001, used three fake companies ýto divert funds from the coffers of Federal Government to the tune of about N180 million.

However, the court relied on a confessional statement made before ICPC by the 2nd accused person in the matter, Mr. Emeka Ebilah, and sentenced him to five years imprisonment without an option of fine.

Ebilah, who was a member of the National Economic Intelligence Committee, NEIC, which was set up by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to verify debts owed local contractors, had confessed before ICPC that he supervised the illegal diversion of funds to the three bogus companies which he said was partly owned by the ex-PDP chairman.

While under interrogation, he confessed that Ogbulafor, through one Mr. Chris Nwoke, collected kickbacks of N2 million and N28 million from him to facilitate the release of funds to the said fake companies.

He further admitted that the fake companies, Henrichiko Nig Ltd, DHL Consultants and Chekwas Industries, used forged documents to collect N82.6 million, N11.5 million and N6.2 million, respectively, from Federal Governmentý for executing non-existent contracts.

Nevertheless, while on trial, the 2nd accused, Ebilah, denied the confessional statement, insisting that one Bassey Mohammed, an operative of ICPC, compelled him at gunpoint to indict Ogbulafor.

Though Ogbulafor who testified for himself, told the court that he was the one that nominated Ebilah into the NEIC, he, however, denied receiving any money from him as kickback.

Ogbulafor told the court that the 2nd accused person only gave him N2 million as a donation for his campaign activities, stressing that he had already resigned his ministerial position at that time.

In his judgment, Justice Bello held that there was no evidence indicating that Ogbulafor at any material time, had a relationship with any of the three companies involved in the fraud or acted as a director in any of them.

The judge also noted that the 1st accused was never a member of NEIC nor participated in the verification of contracts, “and there is no evidence whatsoever to prove that the 1st accused removed money whatsoever from any of the companies.”

He described the allegation that Ogbulafor collected kickbacks through one Mr. Nwoke as “hearsay evidence,” adding that ICPC failed to establish a link between the 1st accused and the charge.