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Nigerian Air Force chief gets 21 years for multi-million naira fraud

Three other officers were also convicted based on their levels of involvement in the crime.

• September 27, 2020
SOURCE: Nigerian Air Force
SOURCE: Nigerian Air Force

Four Nigerian Air Force officers have been convicted and sentenced for their involvement in a multi-million theft of cooperative funds.

Michael Oyebanji, a master warrant officer, was the most senior officer amongst the four. He was sentenced alongside flying officers Sherifi Olawoore, Ademola Adekoya and Paul Atteh, a warrant officer.

The officers were sentenced based on how well they were involved in the criminal conspiracy that led to the theft of N41 million.

Ibikunle Daramola, chief spokesperson for the Nigerian Air Force, said the disgraced officers were court martialed at the Nigerian Air Force Base, Makurdi, on September 24.

Air Commodore Nazib Aliyu, an air commodore who led the panel, said Mr. Oyebanji was tried on 46 counts of breaches, including theft, criminal conspiracy, criminal misappropriation, false filings and criminal breach of trust. 

“He was found guilty on all 46 counts and subsequently sentenced to serve 21 years imprisonment, cumulatively, as well as reduction in rank to corporal and ordered to refund all monies misappropriated,” Mr. Daramola said.

SOURCE: Nigerian Air Force
SOURCE: Nigerian Air Force

Mr. Atteh was found guilty of false filings and criminal breach of trust. He was awarded reduction in rank from warrant officer to a sergeant, in the first instance, and then eventually reduced to the rank of corporal, Air Force said. He is also required to pay up to N1 million in fines.

He was, however, released from detention with immediate effect.

Mr. Olawoore was found guilty of negligence and punished with six months loss of seniority. 

Mr. Adekoya was found guilty and awarded a one year loss of seniority.

The officers’ conviction and punishment would be subject to affirmation of the Air Force Headquarters. But they have a right to appeal in the meantime.

The sentences came weeks after the Nigerian Army found Hakeem Otiki, major-general, guilty of stealing hundreds of millions of naira while he was on duty in Nigeria’s Northwest. 

He was immediately dismissed from service and asked to refund all the loot back to the military. He has maintained his innocence.

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