By Oluwakemi Ishola
General Court Martial sitting at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Base in Makurdi has sentenced an Air Force officer, Michael Oyebanji, to 21 years in prison.
Oyebanji was sentenced alongside three others for misappropriation of funds of the 151 Base Services Group Multipurpose Cooperative Society funds, a statement released on Saturday by the Air Force spokesman, Ibikunle Daramola, said.
Others sentenced with Oyebanji, who is a Master Warrant Officer (MWO), include Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) Sherifi Olawoore, Flying Officer (Fg Offr) Ademola Adekoya, and Warrant Officer (WO) Paul Atteh.
The personnel were sentenced based on their levels of involvement in the fraudulent operation.
Delivering his judgement, the President of the GCM, Air Commodore Nazib Aliyu, pronounced the four 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 a six-month loss of seniority.
Fg Offr Adekoya was also tried for negligently performing his duty as Secretary of the Cooperative. He was found guilty and awarded a one-year loss of seniority.
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 a reduction in rank to Corporal and ordered to refund all monies misappropriated.
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.
Atteh was punished with a 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.
Meanwhile, the GCM has ordered the release of WO Atteh from detention, the Air Force statement said.
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.
However, it is within the rights of the Accused Personnel to appeal the judgment of the GCM, if they are dissatisfied.