An Ikeja High Court in Lagos State on Tuesday sentenced a middle-aged prisoner, Ikechukwu Ogbu, to 18 years’ imprisonment for defrauding a bank manager, Mr Patrick Edetchukwu, of N12.3 million.
Ogbu committed the offences while in prison serving a 10-year sentence at the Kirikiri Maximum Prison for an undisclosed crime.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ogbu was charged alongside Chuks Ibebugbu for conspiring to defraud Edetchukwu.
The men were initially arraigned on June 10, 2011 on a 10-count charge by the EFCC, bordering on obtaining money by false pretences and stealing.
NAN reports that Ogbu defrauded Edetchukwu between May and October 2009 at the Kirikiri Prison of N12.3million under the pretext that he was detained by the EFCC for allegedly bringing $2.5 million into the country.
Justice Lateefa Okunnu, however, in her judgment on Tuesday discharged and acquitted Ibebugbu due to insufficient evidence provided by the prosecution during the trial.
She noted that prison officials aided the crime by allowing Ogbu to open a bank account and wear regular clothes instead of prison uniform.
Ogbu’s physical appearance tricked Edetchukwu during his visits to the prison into believing that he was not a convicted prisoner, she said.
“By allowing the defendant to wear mufti clothes, the Kirikiri Maximum Prison facilitated the crime,” she said.
Okunnu pronouncing the sentence said, “I have listened to the plea of counsel.
“I have noted that names of a lot of notable personalities were put on the line during the planning of this crime and I have also noted that the defendant has remained unrepentant.
“I sentence the defendant to 18 years each on counts two to 10.
“The sentence is to run concurrently,” Okunnu said.
Earlier, the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr Nnaemeka Omewa , had told the court that the accused told the complainant that he needed some money to clear himself from the anti-graft agency.
Omewa said that the convict promised Edetchukwu that the $2.5 million in the custody of the EFCC would be deposited in the branch of the Bank PHB where he was the manager.
The prosecutor said that Edetchukwu, a branch manager of the defunct BankPHB now Keystone Bank, had wanted to meet his account’s deposit targets at the bank.
He believed Ogbu’s tale and sourced funds to give Ogbu to ‘sort himself out’ at the EFCC, the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor also requested for a stiff sentence for Ogbu from the court.
He said, “In just two years of his serving part of his 10- year prison term, he committed this heinous crime; imagine what will occur when he is allowed to live freely in society
“I hereby urge Your Lordship to pass maximum sentence on the first defendant,” Omewa said.
However, the lawyer to the convict, Mr Olanrewaju Ajanaku, in his plea for mercy before the court, asked for a light sentence, saying that Ogbu was now a changed man.
“I pray that the court should temper justice with mercy; the defendant has been in custody since 2009.
“His wife died in 2014, he has three children who are of tender ages, his wings have been clipped and he is now a changed man.
“I will like you to give him a new shot at life. During my visits to the prison, I made some enquiries and they said that he is a changed person,” he said.