The efforts by the National University Commission (NUC) sanitise tertiary institutions yielded positive result, following the arrest of Mr. John Agbo, the proprietor of illegal Middle Belt University and North Central University.
Agbo who also posed as the Director of Research and Innovation of the Commission, was convicted on a two-count charge of impersonation and forgery and sentenced to five and half years in prison without an option of fine by Honourable Ali Tari Changbo of the Upper Area court, Keffi, Nasarawa state.
The convict also claimed to be a senior academic staff of Nasarawa University, Lafia, to defraud unsuspecting admission-seeking members of the public.
The evidence tendered before the court by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Aaron Zamani, a legal officer in NUC, included fake admission letters and fliers, advertising the Nasarawa state university, Lafia; testimonies of witnesses, some of them victims; the accused claimed being the co-ordinator of the university Nyanya’s study centre, tellers of unity bank as well as Aso savings and loans, Oturkpo, which bore his name and that of his wife.
During the proceedings, a total of 12 exhibits were tendered and admitted by the trial court. The accused had earlier jumped bail granted him during similar trials on related charges in an Abuja High Court and Chief Magistrate’s Court, Oturkpo, following which bench warrants were issued against him. He had been at large until his recent arrest for the current trial.
In his judgement, the Presiding Magistrate said the evidence was glaring, especially those of the victims including Peter Blessing, among others, who met the accused at different locations like Nyanya Primary School, as Mr. Agbo had no known permanent place of abode.
He had also failed to tender receipts to the victims for payments made to him which range from N8,500 to N45,000 for admission forms and school fees. The evidence revealed that more than N100,000 were extorted from four victims who testified before the court.
Delivering the judgement, Mr. Ali Changbo said, from the evidence before it, the management of the Nasarawa University neither had any relationship with the culprit nor any satelite campus in Nyanya Primary School as alleged by the accused.
The magistrate ruled that the evidence also showed that the culprit deliberately forged the admissions letter and purpoted to be a senior staff of the university, which aided him to extort money from the public without offering them admission. He posited that the action of the culprit evidently occasioned emotional, psychological and economic hardship to the victims.
The court found the accused as having contravened sections 179, 324 and 364of the penal code and thereby pronouced Mr. Francis Agbo guilty of forgery and cheating by impersonation. He sentenced him to three years in prison for the former and two years for the latter, bringing the total sentence to five years without an option of fine.
He also ruled that the culprit pay back the money dubiously collected from the victims or else spend an additional six months in prison. The five-year sentence would run concurrently with effect from 23 February 2012, when the culprit was first arraigned.
Reacting to the judgement, the Deputy Director, Legal, NUC, Mr. Moses Awe, described the judgement as a victory for the NUC as it will serve as a deterrent to other proprietors of illegal outfits who are in the habit of defrauding people.
He called on members of the public to always cooperate with the commission in reporting any illegal outfit and advised prospective candidates to to visit NUC’s website for the list of approved universities.
Mr. Zamani, who expressed satisfaction with the ruling, said the convict was a notorious fraudster who feasted on the innocence of the public and deserved the sentence. The counsel to the Nasarawa State University, Lafia, Mr, danjuma Shigaba, said the university was also satisfied with the ruling as it underscored the efficacy of the judiciary.
It will be recalled that the convict Mr. Agbo, who hails from Ugbokolo community of Benue State, had in, 2009, forged the letter head and the identity card of NUC, for the running of the illegal Middle Belt and North Central University, Oturkpo, Benue State and was arrested and prosecuted by the commission at the Magistrate Court, Oturkpo, Benue State, between 2008 and 2009. He was also being prosecuted by the EFCC at the Abuja High Court.
An Upper Area Court in Keffi, Nasarawa State, on Wednesday sentenced John Francis to five and half years imprisonment for impersonation, forgery and cheating.
The Judge, Ali Changbo, sentenced Francis to three years for forgery, two years for cheating and impersonation and six months for cheating. Changbo, who ordered that the prison term was with effect from Feb. 23, 2012, said the convict had 30 days to appeal.