The High Court of Abia State has sentenced the traditional ruler of Ipupe community in Ubalaka, Umuahia South local council, Eze Bob Ubiaru to two years in prison for embezzlement of funds.
Spokesperson for the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Mrs. Rasheedat Okoduwa said in a statement yesterday that the money was meant for the compensation of his community for the installation of public power infrastructure on their sacred land.
The traditional ruler was arraigned alongside the Secretary to the palace, Patrick Iyke Ubiaru, before Honourable Justice Agwu Umah Kalu for fraudulently converting to personal use, N40 million out of the N60 million paid to Ipupe community by the National Infrastructure Power Project (NIPP) as compensation to relocate the community shrines in order to give way for the power project that passed through the area.
The charge against the traditional ruler, who was the 1st defendant in Count One, was brought under Section 363(1) and punishable under Section 390(9) of the Criminal Code Cap 80 Laws of Abia State 2005.
The 1st defendant was also charged under Count Two for conferring corrupt advantage upon himself contrary to and punishable under Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 whilst the 2nd defendant, Patrick Ubiaru was charged under Count Three for criminal alteration of records of Community meetings contrary to Section 15(a) and punishable under Section 68 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
Delivering his judgment, the trial judge held that the prosecution had proved the case in Count One beyond reasonable doubt, in that there was enough evidence to show that the 1st defendant did not use the money to relocate the community shrines but actually converted the money to his personal use.
Justice Kalu, however, discharged and acquitted the 1st defendant on Count Two on the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove that the 1st defendant was a public officer as stipulated in Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
With respect to the 2nd defendant, the trial judge held that although the prosecution clearly proved alteration against the 2nd defendant, the prosecution, however, failed to prove that he was at the material time in the employment of the Eze-in-Council which was one of the ingredients of the offence.
In his judgement, the judge convicted Eze Ubiaru on Count One and sentenced him to 2 years imprisonment or a fine of N3million, while the 2nd defendant, Patrick Ubiaru, was discharged and acquitted.
Justice Kalu also held that the sum of N10million in the deposit account of First Bank Plc fixed by Eze Ubiaru from the proceeds of the crime be forfeited and given to the true representatives of Ipupe Community who are to be identified by the Chairman of Umuahia-South Local Government Area of Abia State.
In addition, the judge also held that the shares bought by the Eze from the proceeds of the crime be forfeited, sold and the money realised be given to the same representatives of Ipupe Community.