ALLEGED N41M FRAUD: Court Martial sentences MWO Oyebanji, 3 others to 21-yr imprisonment, reduction in rank…to refund stolen money

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By Robert AKPAN, Senior Investigator Reporter, Lagos/

A General Court Martial sitting in the Benue State capital, Makurdi before Air Commodore Nazib Aliyu has sentenced 4 accused persons in the alleged theft of N41million naira belonging to the Air Force Multipurpose Cooperative Society to 21 year imprisonment and reduction in rank respectively. The accused persons, Messrs Flight Lieutenant Sherifi Olawoore, Flying Officer Ademola Adekoya, Master Warrant Officer MWO Michael Oyebanji and Warrant Officer WO Paul Atteh were alleged to have conspired among themselves to commit the crime contrary to sections114 and 103 (d) of the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and sections 312, 287, 96 and 309 of the Penal Code Cap P3 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. Though the time the alleged fraud was committed was not stated in a statement by the Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola and made available to CrimeWorld magazine, it stated that in delivery the lead judgment, President of the GCM, Air Commodore Nazib Aliyu pronounced the 4 accused persons guilty as charge based on their respective roles. The statement reads:  “Four executive members of the 151 Base Services Group 151 BSG Multipurpose Cooperative Society, Makurdi, who were standing trial before a General Court Martial GCM, sitting at the Nigerian Air Force NAF Base, Makurdi for criminal misappropriation of over N41,000,000.00, were, on 24 September 2020, awarded various sentences. The 4 NAF personnel, who were arraigned before the GCM for Misappropriation of Cooperative Funds, amongst other offences, include Flight Lieutenant Flt Lt Sherifi Olawoore, Flying Officer Fg Offr Ademola Adekoya, Master Warrant Officer MWO Michael Oyebanji and Warrant Officer WO Paul Atteh. The personnel were sentenced based on their levels of involvement. Delivering his judgment, the President of the GCM, Air Commodore Nazib Aliyu, pronounced the 4 accused personnel guilty of various charges. Flt Lt Olawoore was tried for negligently performing his duty as the President of the Cooperative, found guilty and awarded 6 months loss of seniority. In the same vein, Fg Offr Adekoya was tried for negligently performing his duty as Secretary of the Cooperative. He was found guilty and awarded one year loss of seniority. MWO Michael Oyebanji, who was the Vice President of the Cooperative, was tried on a 46 count charge, including; Criminal Breach of Trust, Theft, Criminal Conspiracy, Criminal Misappropriation, Making of False Documents and Conduct to the Prejudice of Service Discipline, contrary to Sections 114 and 103 (d) of the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and Sections 312, 287, 96 and 309 of the Penal Code Cap P3 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. He was found guilty on all 46 counts and subsequently sentenced to serve 21 years imprisonment, cumulatively, as well as reduction in rank to Corporal and ordered to refund all monies misappropriated. In the same vein, WO Paul Atteh, who was tried for negligently performing his duty as the treasurer of the cooperative as well as for the making of false documents and criminal breach of trust, was found guilty of all 3 charges. He was awarded reduction in rank from WO to Sergeant, in the first instance, and then eventually reduced to the rank of Corporal. He is also required to pay a fine of N1,000,000.00.”

Continuing, Air Commodore Daramola added, “Meanwhile, the GCM has ordered the release of WO Atteh from detention. While pleading in mitigation, the defence counsel urged the court to show leniency, describing the accused persons as first-time offenders. The sentences were announced as being subject to confirmation by the Appropriate Superior Authority ASA. However, it is within the rights of the accused personnel to appeal the judgment of the GCM, if they are dissatisfied.”

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