A supervisory councilor in Mafa local government area of Borno state, who was accused of stealing bags of rice meant for Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, was on Thursday sentenced to two years imprisonment by a State High Court, in Maiduguri.
The official, Umar Ibrahim, and his accomplice Ali Zangebe, were charged alongside Shettima Maina, a former council chairman of Mafa Local government, who remained at large throughout the hearing.
It is the same Maina who was arrested by the military on allegations that he had sheltered a Boko Haram kingpin in his home without alerting security operatives.
The suit was instituted against the three accused persons by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Trial judge, Fadawu Umar, also ruled that in addition to the jail terms, the convicts are to pay a fine of N2 million each.
The EFCC said the accused persons had made N1.4 million from the sale of 180 bags of rice which they had stolen from the IDP camp, and another N585, 000 from the sale of yet another 65 bags of rice stolen from the same camp.
Prosecuting witnesses told the court that the bags of rice were donated to the IDPs by the Danish Refugee Council, DRC, and were clearly marked not for sale.
In his judgment, Justice Fadawu held that the accused persons were guilty of all the charges brought against them.
He pointed out that they had given contradicting accounts of events during their defence.
According to the Judge, the two defendants had in one narrative told the court that they sold off the bags of rice because they were about to expire; then later in another tale, they said that the former council chairman ordered them to sell off the rice because the IDPs had complained that they were tired of eating rice every day.
In yet another account, they further contradicted themselves by saying that the rice belonged to soldiers of the Nigerian military who wanted to sell them off in order to travel for Christmas.
Justice Fadawu also said that the defendants had lied to the court when they said that the money realised from the sale of the stolen bags of rice was used to buy maize grains for the IDPs.
They claimed that the grains were kept in a store where the local government kept its food for the IDPs but investigation revealed that the 200 bags of maize had been in the store long before the theft and sale of the bags of rice.
“For the first count, the accused persons have committed a crime punishable under Sections 96 and 97 of the Penal Code Cap 345 of Northern states of Nigeria and thereby sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of N1 million.
“For the Second charge, the defendants have committed a crime punishable under sections 308 and 309 of Penal Code Law Cap 345, Laws of Northern States of Nigeria, and are thereby sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of N1 million,” the judge ruled.