An Abuja court on Monday 28th January 2013, handed a two year jail term with an option of N750,000 fine to one of six federal officials tried for stealing N27.2 billion of police pension fund.

John Yusuf, a former assistant director in the Federal Civil Service, was tried on a 20-count charge alongside Atiku Abubakar Kigo (Permanent Secretary), Ahmed Inuwa Wada (Director), Veronica Onyegbula (Cashier) and Sani Habila Zira (ICT Officer). He pleaded guilty to fraudulently converting N2 billion of police pension funds to private use and was handed down only a two-year jail sentence. The trial continues for the other accused persons.

Punch reports that each of the three offences attracts a two-year jail  term which run cuncurrently. However, he would not be serving his jail time as Judge Abubakar Talba of the Federal Capital Territory High Court offered him an option of a fine of N250,000 for each of the three counts, amounting to N750,000. He would also forfeit 32 houses in the FCT  and Gombe as well as  N325m which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said were proceeds from the crime.

At the court, Yusuf’s Lawyer, Maiyaki Bala  pleaded for leniency after Yusuf pleaded guilty.

By pleading guilty, the convict has shown respect to this court and has saved  the precious time of the court. The court will also find  out that he is a first time offender without any previous record of conviction; furthermore, he is the head of a family of four, a wife and three children, two of who are university students while one is a primary school pupil. These people depend on him for their survival and wellbeing, including the payment of school fees,” Punch quoted him as saying.

The judge’s ruling has angered activists and numerous Nigerians who have closely followed the trial. The activists say it is a handshake ruling to let him go with a minimal jail term or the option of just N250,000 despite the magnitude of the crime.

According to Punch, the EFCC later released a statement on Monday condemning the judgement adding that it would respond appropriately.

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