A senior lawyer, Femi Falana, has written the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, seeking powers to prosecute Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Zinox Group and Technology Distributions Limited (TD), Chris Eze Ozims, along with six others, for alleged fraud.
Mr Falana’s request comes barely a week after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned two suspects for their roles in the N170.3 million contract fraud against a computer retail firm, Citadel Oracle Concept Limited, Lagos.
In a letter dated November 1, signed on his behalf by Deji Morakinyo, Mr Falana listed the names of others he wants prosecuted.
On Saturday, Mr Falana confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES the letter actually came from his law chambers.
In the letter, he listed the names of the other suspects he wants prosecuted to include Folashade Oyebode, Charles Adigwe, Onny Igbokwe, Princess Kama, Obilo Onuoha and Deborah Ojeabu.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria requested the minister to grant him fiat to prosecute the accused persons for their alleged roles in the scam pursuant to section 104(2) of the administration of criminal justice Act.
EFCC Arraigns Two
On October 24,the EFCC arraigned just Messrs Igbokwe and Kama before Justice D. Senchi of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja on a four-count charge of committing the alleged crime.
The arraignment followed months of investigations by the anti-graft agency based on a petition by the managing director of Citadel Oracle Concept Limited, Benjamin Joseph, to the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, accusing the suspects of involvement in the scam.
Although the EFCC had, since July 2017, concluded its investigations and submittedits findings to its legal department for necessary action, prosecution of the suspects lingered following protracted disagreements on the persons to charge to court.
While Mr Joseph insisted all the persons identified in his petitions to the police, EFCC and vice president were culpable and should face trial, EFCC’s legal department recommended the arraignment of only Messrs Igbokwe and Kama.
EFCC court documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES showed the duo were charged for conspiring to hijack and illegally execute the contract awarded by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to Citadel Oracle Limited in 2012
Alleged Roles Of Suspects
Mr Joseph had also identified Mrs Oyebode, a director of TD, a Zinox Group subsidiary; Mr Adigwe, an accountant at TD, of complicity, along with Messrs Onuoha and Ijeabu, two staff of Access Bank Plc.
In his petitions, Mr Joseph had detailed how the fraud was committed, along with each suspect’s role, which the Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Lagos of the Nigeria police confirmed after its investigations.
According to the businessman, after the fraud was uncovered in August 2013, preliminary investigations revealed the suspects had impersonated Citadel Oracle by cloning its official headed paper and signatures to issue an acceptance letter for the contract.
To facilitate payment for the contract, Mr Joseph said the suspects approached officials of the Awolowo Road, Ikoyi branch of Access Bank (Messrs Onuoha and Ijeabu) who released to them the original copies of documents used by Citadel Oracle to open its corporate account.
To open the controversial account, Mr Joseph said a fake Board resolution purportedly issued by Citadel Oracle management was procured, with Messrs Ozims, Oyebode and Igbokwe conferred the power of attorney to act as “directors” of the company and authorised signatories to the account.
For Mr Adigwe, Mr Joseph said he was the one, as accountant at TD, who on January 25, 2013 advised Chioma Ekeh, the managing director of TD and wife to the Chairman of Zinox Group, Stanley Leo Ekeh, to effect several transfers from the fictitious account to members of the fraud syndicate, hours after the FIRS made payments.
Court documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES showed about N115.268 million was moved from the fictitious account to TD’s account at Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB).
Another N43.685 million was transferred from Ad’mas Digital Technology account operated by Mr Igbokwe at Access Bank to TD’s account at GTB.
Apart from about N38.057 million transfer to Ad’mas Digital Technology’s account No. 1010699686 at Zenith Bank, the documents also showed Mrs Ekeh also approved another N115.268 million to be wired from the fictitious account to TD’s at GTB, and another N38.057 million to Ad’mas’ account at Zenith Bank.
Falana seeks justice
But, obviously sensing EFCC’s exclusion of Mr Ozims and four other suspects from prosecution might portend a miscarriage of justice, Mr Falana said “as a law firm committed to the enthronement of rule of law, human rights and social justice in Africa, his chamber was committed to seek justice.
“Believing the moral fabric of the society and indeed the rule of law is gravely undermined if persons are recommended for prosecution and almost five years later nothing is done, we have decided to seek your intervention. No one should be seen in our society to be above the law.”
According to him, in 2012, Mr Joseph had reported to the Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Lagos about his suspicion that a contract awarded to his company was diverted by members of a fraud syndicate who opened an account in his company’s name using forged documents.
Although on completion of investigation the police sent a duplicate of the case file to the Lagos office of the Directorate for Public Prosecution (DPP), Mr Falana said after studying the file, a prima facie case of fraud and forgery was established and prosecution recommended for all the suspects.
Even where the accused persons expressed dissatisfaction with the legal advice and directly petitioned the DPP, a fresh review of the case file still confirmed there was sufficient ground to prosecute the suspects.
However, more than four years since prosecution of the suspects was ordered, the police flagrantly refused to comply.
Despite attempts by both the Attorney-General and the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, to intervene at various times to get the police and EFCC to investigate the case, Mr Joseph expressed sadness he was the victim currently standing trial for alleged false petitioning to misled the then Inspector general police.
In August 2013, after the fraud was uncovered, Mr Joseph said he petitioned the police two months later, to accuse the suspects of conspiring to swindle his company of N170.3 million.
Despite several reminders, including the one dated May 8, 2015 to the then Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, Mr Joseph said the police remained adamant, refusing to take action.
Petitioner turned accused
However, on June 16, 2016, three days before the exit from office of then IGP, Mr. Joseph said he was charged to court by the police, accused of providing false information in his petition against the accused.
Mr Joseph said the former IGP had alleged his July 3, 2014 petition accusing the suspects of using fictitious signatures on the board resolution of Citadel Oracle to open a fake account in Access Bank, was false.
He said on July 2, 2016 he was arraigned before the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Apo, Abuja on a one-count charge of “false petitioning” IGP Arase with intention of misleading him over a case of identity theft, impersonation and criminal conversion of contracts against the accused.
Interestingly, Mr Joseph said all those he accused in his petition of being behind the fraud were used by the police as witnesses against him.
In a petition to the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Joseph had alleged victimization by the police. He blamed his travails on ‘insider manipulations’ orchestrated by a senior ministry of Justice official, Stella Anukam, the director of International & Comparative Law.
Following his petition, the AGF directed the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to immediately take-over the case to avoid miscarriage of justice.
He also ordered a probe of Mrs Anukam’s role in the whole saga.