By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA – Three years after an aggregate sum of N36.5million incredulously vanished from coffers of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, Zonal Office in Benue State, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Friday, arraigned the culprits.

JAMB
JAMB

Those the anti-graft agency docked before an Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama over the alleged fraud, were the State Coordinator of JAMB office in Makurdi, Mr. Samuel Umoru and the Clerical Officer, Mr. Philomina Chieshe.

It will be recalled that Mrs. Chieshe had in the wake of the development, insisted that the whooping sum of N35m was swallowed by a mysterious snake she said invaded the JAMB office.

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In count eight of the charge before the court, EFCC, disclosed that the lady had under further interrogations in June 2016, claimed that a total sum of N36.5m, being value of the shortfall of unremitted e-JAMB cards, “disappeared as a result of manipulation from the Kingdom of Darkness”.

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The agency told the court that the 2nd Dependent offered such unbelievable explanation, knowing same to be false, and thereby committed an offence contrary and punishable under section 139(a) of the Penal Code Law.

Aside alleging that the two defendants connived to misappropriate funds belonging to JAMB, they were said to have in 2015, offered N48, 500. 00 bribe to an auditor, Mr. Ibrahim Oba, who was sent to Benue from Abuja office of the organization to vet the accounts.

They were said to have in their respective capacities, committed criminal breach of trust with respect to 410 units of Change if Course Cards of JAMB, as well as failed to remit proceeds from the sales of e-facility cards belonging to the examination body

The defendants allegedly committed the fraud that was blamed on ‘the mysterious snake’, between August 2014 and July 2016.

The prosecution maintained that their action was contrary to sections 97(2), 308, 315 and 139 of the Penal Code Law, likewise section 17(1) (c) of the of the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act, 2000.

Meantime, the duo, pleaded not guilty to the eight-count charge marked CR/339/19, even as they begged the court through their lawyers, Mr. A. I. Ihejirika and Mr. Mark Pace, to release them on bail, pending the determination of the case against them.

However, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Ekele Iheanacho, urged the court to remand them in prison custody, alleging that they violated terms of administrative bail that was earlier granted to them by the EFCC.

He said the defendants had at a time, refused to report to EFCC office as they were requested to do.

Iheanacho told the court that he would need time to respond to bail applications that counsel to the defendants served on him before the proceeding commenced.

Nevertheless, trial Justice Peter Affen, requested to know if there were peculiar circumstances EFCC would want to rely upon to persuade the court to refuse bail to the defendants.

Noting that various prisons in the country are presently over congested owing to constant remand of awaiting-trial inmates involved in cases that are ordinarily bailable, Justice Affen, said he was not minded to remand the defendants in Kuje prison as requested by the EFCC.

“A look at the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, will show that the law has gone beyond reasonable suspicion. Except there are very cogent and concrete reasons why bail should be denied, the law said they are entitled to bail.

“As our law stands today, refusing bail is now the exception rather than the rule.

“I do not feel disposed to send them to Kuje which is already over congested”, the Judge added.

Rather, the court, directed that the defendants should remain in EFCC custody till Monday when their bail applications would be heard and determined.

The prosecution had earlier notified the court that the detention facility in the EFCC was also over-congested owing to recent raids the agency conducted.

Meantime, in a related case, the court equally remanded the State Coordinator of JAMB Zonal Office in Plateau State, Mr. Yakubu Jekada, who was alleged to had between 2009 and 2016, “dishonestly misappropriated the sum of N11, 189, 000. 00”, belonging to the body.

EFCC, in the charge marked CR/340/19, said the fund was proceeds from the sale of e-facility cards of JAMB.

Though the prosecution originally planned to arraign three other JAMB officials, Daniel Agbo, Priscilla Ogunsola and Aliyu Yakubu, over the same alleged offence, however, Justice Affen said he was indisposed owing to his involvement in election matters that are time-bound.

Some of the charges against the defendants, read: “That you, Philomina Chieshe, sometime in June 2016, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, being legally bound to furnish the management of Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) information on the financial status of the JAMB between 2015 and 2016, stated that the sum of N36, 510, 500 being value of the shortfall of unremitted e-JAMB cards disappeared as a result of manipulation from the Kingdom of Darkness, which claim you knew to be false and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 139(a) of the Penal Code Law.

“That you, Samuel Sale Umoru and Philomina Chieshe, sometime in June 2015, in Benue State within the jurisdiction of this honorable court while respectively being the State Coordinator and the Clerical Officer of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board Zonal Office, Makurdi, corruptly gave the sum of N48,500 (Forty Eight Thousand Five Hundred Naira) to Ibrahim Oba, a staff from Abuja Office of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), in order to forbear the said Ibrahim Oba from properly auditing the financial records of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, Benue Zonal Office and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 17 (1) (b) and punishable under section 17(1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act, 2000”.

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