Onari Duke, wife of the former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, has lost her bid to jail Ebele Mbanugo, a former Vice-Principal of the American International School, Lagos, over a $110,267 theft allegation.
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Lagos State Offences Court, Ikeja, while presiding over the case on Monday, acquitted and discharged Ebele on three counts of stealing and misappropriation of funds suit filed against her.
The former Cross River State First Lady had accused the ex-teacher of allegedly stealing the funds from her NGO, the Child Survival and Development Organisation of Nigeria.
After Onari made a statement at the police station, Mbanugo was nabbed and dragged to court.
But Ebele, during the hearing on Monday, denied the allegation.
She revealed that sometime in 2009 after establishing an NGO named ‘Run For Cure Africa Breast Cancer Foundation, she approached Onari Duke because of her closeness to the family and having taught her daughter at the American school, to use her influence and help her raise the funds to purchase mammogram machines for her foundation.
According to the Bayelsa born teacher, Onari accepted her request and the fund raising was held in the name of her NGO within the school premises from 2009 to 2011, with notable Nigerians, including wives of state governors and several members of Consul-generals in attendance.
Mbanugo, during her testimony, added that after the fund-raising, Onari received a cheque of N7.4 million from the proceeds and three mammogram machines were bought and donated to the Calabar Women and Children’s Hospital, Lagos Teaching Hospital, and a branch of the Redeemed Christian Church of God on the order of Onari Duke.
Ebele noted further trouble started between them when Onari made moves of claiming ownership of her intellectual property and this led to the criminal suit filed against her.
The judge noted that the grouse only arose between the defendant and the former first lady following the success of the initiative and the money realised from the fund raising.
“It is unfortunate that such a laudable initiative could be marred by conflict between Mrs Duke and the defendant over the ownership of the foundation.
“The defendant is hereby acquitted and discharged,” Justice Taiwo declared.