YOLA, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian High Court on Monday convicted and jailed a former state governor for corruption.
Bala James Ngilari of northeastern Adamawa state was found guilty of improperly awarding a 167 million-naira ($1 billion) contract to buy vehicles during his seven-month stint as governor that ended in 2015.
Judge Nathan Musa said a fine was not an option and sentenced Ngilari to five years' imprisonment. He said the sentence should serve as a warning to other governors to obey the law.
Ngilari is the first senior government figure to be successfully prosecuted since President Muhammadu Buhari took office in May 2015 and declared a war on the endemic corruption that has impoverished this oil-rich nation.
It was unclear how much Ngilari made on the deal. It occurred while his state was battling an Islamic uprising by Boko Haram extremists.
Ngilari is the first governor to be jailed in Nigeria since decades of military rule ended in 1999.
Former Delta State Gov. James Ibori was recently released from a British prison after serving half of a 13-year jail term for corruption.
Ngilari pleaded innocent and begged the court's leniency, citing his "invaluable contributions" to the fight against Boko Haram.
The charges against him were brought in September by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which reportedly is investigating at least 10 former governors of Nigeria's 36 states.
The commission's biggest case involves charges that former President Goodluck Jonathan's national security adviser, retired Lt. Col. Sambo Dasuki, diverted $2.1 billion that was meant to buy arms to fight Boko Haram at a time when soldiers who fled attacks by the insurgents said they were sent into battle with only 30 bullets.
Dasuki has pleaded his innocence and said he acted on Jonathan's instructions to use some of the money to pay party officials to ensure Jonathan won his party's nomination to stand for president in 2015 elections.
Jonathan lost, in part because of massive corruption attributed to his administration and its failure to control the Islamic insurgency that has killed more than 20,000 people.