The Federal High Court in Lagos, on Thursday, sentenced a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Clement Illoh, to four years’ imprisonment over N65 million SURE-P project fraud.
The judge, Babs Kuewunmi, passed the judgement after Mr Illoh abruptly changed his previous “not guilty” plea to “guilty” in the middle of proceedings on Thursday.
According to a statement by the spokesperson for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Wilson Uwujaren, the prosecuting team cross-examined the defendant during Thursday’s proceedings.
In the course of proceedings, the statement said, the defence counsel, T.S. Awana, sought the court’s permission to confer with his client.
Thereafter, the defendant, through his counsel, applied to change his “not guilty “plea to “”guilt””. The judge, Mr Kuewunmi, granted the application and Mr Illoh, who was previously convicted of fraud, pleaded “guilty”.
The judge also listened to the allocutus, plea for mercy, presented by the defence lawyer.
However, in his judgement, Mr Kuewunmi said, “I have given due attention to the allocutus of the defendant.
“However, the court will not fail to perform its duty in accordance with the provisions of the law.”
The judge then sentenced the defendant to four years’ imprisonment on each of the three counts. But he ordered that the sentence “shall run concurrently from October 10, 2019.”
This brings the total number of years the convict will spend in prison to four.
The judge also ordered the forfeiture of the sum of N97, 300,613.44, $139,575.50 and £10,121.52 linked to Mr Illoh to the federal government of Nigeria, being proceeds of unlawful activities.
The EFCC had prosecuted Mr Illoh on three counts of non-declaration of assets said to worth N97.3 million.
The anti-graft agency also said Mr Illoh supervised several programmes under the defunct Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).
While the defendant was being cross-examined on Thursday, according to EFCC statement, it was revealed that Mr Illoh received funds to the tune of N65 million from SURE-P project contractors, which was domiciled in his personal First Bank account no:3033750243.
The SURE-P initiative was a social empowerment programme established by the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in January 2012 in the aftermath of the uproar that greeted the administration’s removal of fuel subsidy.
The EFCC said the SURE-P supervisor allegedly awarded fictitious contracts to himself, using his personal company and friends.
It added that Mr Illoh converted the money from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Mr Illoh allegedly committed the crimes in January 2015.
The commission said his offence is contrary to and punishable under section 27(3) (C) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004.”
The SURE-P programme was dissolved in 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
A judge of the Special Offences Court in Ikeja, Lagos, Oluwatoyin Taiwo, had earlier, on October 3, 2019, convicted and sentenced Mr Iloh to five years’ imprisonment over a N14.1 million fraud.
The judge also ordered that the convict made restitution by paying the N3.5 million he withdrew in cash and the N3.5 million recovered from him by the EFCC during the investigation to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.