By Bukola Olasanmi
A Federal High court sitting in Yola has sentenced a former Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Yola branch, Esthon Runde Binani and a Magistrate Shehu Mustapha, to five years in prison.
The court ordered that Binani should refund N5 million being the proceeds of judgment obtained in favour of his clients while Shehu will refund N61 million being part of the said proceeds placed under his care when he was the Litigation Secretary in the High court before his elevation to the lower bench.
The suit was prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) based on a complaint by the retired staff member of Sterling Construction Company who alleged that the two embezzled the proceeds of the judgment due to them.
During the trial, Mr Esthon has insisted that the N5million was his professional fees and the remaining amount was paid to the High Court under the care of Mr Shehu.
Mr Shehu denied spending the money but failed to mention who did.
In a chat, a source close to the court who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed the sentence and stated that the lawyer was convicted for not paying the N5 million into his solicitors account; rather he paid it into his personal account and eventually spent the money for his personal needs.
“Mr. Esthon had an understanding with his clients. They agreed for him to take 20 per cent of the debt when he recovered it for them. He recovered the sum of N72 million, but the registrar of the court refused to release the whole money to him, releasing only N5 million out of the money and refused to release the balance.
Binani offered the N 5 million to his clients and they rejected it asking for their complete judgment amount.
“Mr. Esthon paid the money into his personal account and eventually spent it. So, when the court eventually asked him to produce the money, he could not produce it because he had spent it. It is indeed regrettable,” the source stated.