Two pastors, Glory Abrefera and Rev. Vincent Okpogo, were yesterday sentenced to 10 years imprisonment each for operating an illegal bank in Warri, Delta State, thereby forcing innocent depositors to lose their money.
An Abuja High Court, presided over by Justice Buba, found the accused persons and their company, Mustard Seed Micro Investment Limited, guilty on a four-count charge of carrying out banking practice without licence.
The accused persons were said to have, between 2006 and 2007 in Warri, Delta State, engaged in illegal banking practice without the required banking licence, thereby committed an offence contrary to section 2(2) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, Cap B3, Vol 2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
The charge read: "That you, Pastor Glory Okeoghene Abrefera, Reverend Vincent Okpogo and Mrs. Nonye Abrefera (still at large) while being directors of Mustard Seed Micro Investment Limited, between 2006 and 2007 at Warri, Delta State within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, knowingly consented to the carrying on of banking business without a valid licence by the company and thereby committed an offence contrary to Sections (2) and 49(1)of the Banks and other Financial Institutions Act Cap B(3), Vol 2, laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004."
The men were arrested following a petition by some of the depositors to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, detailing their dubious activities.
EFCC subsequently investigated the activities of the fake bank and arraigned the suspects in 2011.
Counsel to EFCC, G. K. Latona, described the judgment as a milestone in Nigerian judiciary. He said it was the first time that persons were convicted for carrying out banking practice without licence, adding that the judgment would serve as a deterrent to others.