N2.9bn Fraud: Jonathan’s Godson, Two Others Jailed Six Years

A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has delivered a verdict in a significant case involving George Turnah, a former Special Adviser to Dan Abia, the erstwhile Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), along with two others, Ebis Orubebe and Uzorgor Chidebere. They have been sentenced to six years in prison for charges related to obtaining money under false pretenses, money laundering, conversion of funds, and forgery.

The presiding judge, Justice A. T. Mohammed, found the defendants guilty of these offenses, which are in violation of Section 1 (1) (a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006, and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.

The charges against the defendants originated from their arraignment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in May 2017. They were subsequently re-arraigned on January 25, 2021, on a total of 23 counts, involving allegations of obtaining money by false pretense, money laundering, and abuse of office, amounting to N2,894,500,000.

According to the EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, the convictions and sentencing occurred on Thursday, September 7, 2023, following the trial by the Port Harcourt Zonal Command of the EFCC.

One of the counts in the charge stated: “that you, George Turnah Alabh, Uzogor Silas Chidiebere, El-Godams Global Services Ltd., Turnoil and Gas Nigeria Ltd, Kolo Creek Petroleum Dev. Ltd, Celtic Pride Consult and Events Ltd, Yenagoa Mall Ltd, the Incorporated Trustees of Concerned Niger Delta Initiative, Adaka Boro Marine Services Ltd, Sugarland Integrated Farms Nig. Ltd, Geohan Telecommunication Nig. Ltd and others at large, on or about the 24th day of November 2014, at Port Harcourt, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did take possession of the sum of Seven Hundred and Eight Million Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N708,500,000.00) which you reasonably ought to know that the money was obtained by a false pretence from the Niger Delta Development Commission purportedly for the purpose of providing quick win jobs for 300 youths and women groups and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under 15 (3) of the same Act.”

Another count focused on George Turnah receiving $1,000,000 (One Million United States Dollars) in cash, which exceeded the statutory limit without going through a financial institution.

Despite their initial plea of “not guilty,” the defendants were found guilty based on evidence presented by the prosecuting counsel, I. Agwu. In addition to their prison sentences, the court ordered monetary penalties and restitution, including the forfeiture of funds to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in various amounts.

George Turnah’s prominent political connections were noted during the trial, as he was described as the political godson of former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.