A Borno State High Court, sitting in Maiduguri, on Thursday sentenced two men to two years in prison for stealing rice donated by foreign donors to internally displaced persons.
The two convicts are Umar Ibrahim, a supervisory councilor in Mafa local government area, and Ali Zangebe, a local politician from the same local government area.
They were charged alongside Shettima Maina, a former chairman of Mafa Local government.
But Mr. Maina, who was the first defendant, was declared “at large” throughout the hearing of the case, as was in the custody of the military for allegedly hiding a wanted Boko Haram kingpin in his house.
The judge, Fadawu Umar, found the other two persons guilty of the three-count charges brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
In addition to their jail terms, they also fined N2 million each.
They were charged for converting N1.4 million being the proceeds from the sale of the 180 bags of rice stolen from the IDP camp.
They were also accused of converting N585, 000 from the sale of yet another 65 bags of rice stolen from the same IDP camp.
Prosecuting witnesses told the court that the bags of rice were those donated to the IDPs by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and were marked not for sale.
Delivering his judgment, Justice Fadawu said the accused persons were found guilty of all the counts brought against them.
He said the second and third defendants had all through their defense contradicted themselves.
The two defendants had told the court that they had to sell off the rice because they were about to expire.
They later informed the court 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 another breath, the convicted persons 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.
The judge said the defendants had also lied to the court that the money realised from the sale of the 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 when the court went to verify the claims, it was found that the 200 bags of maize had been in the store long before the theft and sale of the DRC donated rice.
The judge said the defendants were guilty of the crime.
“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,” said Justice Umar.
“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 said the convicts were to serve their sentences concurrently.
The case is the first conviction by the Maiduguri office of the EFCC.
The EFCC’s prosecuting lawyer, Khalid Sanusi, said the judgment was a welcomed development as it brings justice for the people.
“We in the EFCC are not persecuting but prosecuting persons involved in this kind of crime, so that our society can be a better place,” he said.