By Soni Daniel
Abuja – The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, yesterday, charged a United Kingdom-based Nigerian Professor of Neurology, Reuben Oluwakinmilehin Obaro and his wife, Mrs. Ayodele Olubunmi Obaro, a practicing nurse in the UK, to court for misappropriating N233.6 million belonging to the Federal Government.
The suspects, who are facing an eight-count charge before Justice A. O. Ebong of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Zuba, were charged for allegedly committing several offences including misleading officers of the Commission, frustrating investigation and misappropriating funds meant for the establishment of a stroke centre in Nigeria being funded by the defunct Subsidy Re-investment Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).
ICPC informed the court that the actions of the husband and wife violated Sections 25 (1) (a), 15 and 16 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under the same sections.
Details of the case revealed that the couple had proposed to SURE-P for the establishment of a ‘Specialised Stroke Centre for the management of the rising incidence of stroke among Nigerians to be run by them for the government.
Using their company, Stephen James Healthcare Limited, they allegedly accessed a seed grant of N450 million in January 2015 from SURE-P for the construction and purchase of medical equipment for the centre to be known as Stephen James Stroke Centre for Excellence.
However N185 million out of that money they had received was purportedly used for the payment for a plot of land which they had already secured since 2013.
Further details show that the Obaros retrieved N37 million out of N57 million paid to a Lagos medical supplies company, JUNCI, for the supply of medical equipment to the centre for their personal use.
The accused persons were also accused of colluding to embezzle N11.6 million of the SURE-P seed grant, which they used to procure a Toyota Prado jeep for their personal use.
One of the charges reads, “That you, Obaro Reuben Oluwakinmilehin (Dr.) and Obaro Ayodele Olubunmi, (Mrs) and Stephen James Healthcare Limited sometime in September, 2016 or thereabouts at Abuja, being entrusted with the sum of N450 million being seed grant from SURE-P intervention funds for the strict use for the construction and equipping of a Stroke Centre, did commit criminal breach of trust by dishonestly misappropriating the sum of about N186 million out of N450 million given to you, strictly for construction and purchase of equipment for Stephen James Stroke Centre for Excellence, contrary to Section 311 and punishable under Section 312 of the Penal Code CAP 532 laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja 2006”.
Counsel to the Obaros, J.M. Egwuonwu (SAN), urged the court to sustain their administrative bail, after they had pleaded not guilty to all the counts when they were read to them.
Justice Ebong ruled for the stay of the administrative bail granted earlier to the accused persons by ICPC.
The case has been scheduled for 30th and 31st May, as well as 1st June, 2018 for accelerated hearing.