A prosecution witness, on Tuesday, told the Special Offences Court in Ikeka, Lagos, how a suspected fake army general, Bolarinwa Abiodun, allegedly defrauded him of about N266 million by posing as a son of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The witness, Bamidele Safiriyu, who is also the complainant in the case, was testifying as the first prosecution witness in the trial of Mr Abiodun, who faces 13 counts of fraud, forgery and other charges.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) filed the charges against defendant and arraigned him on April 12, this year. Mr Abidoun pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The trial judge, Oluwatoyin Taiwo, had ordered the remand of the defendant after his arraignment. On Monday, the court rejected his bail application on the grounds that he was a flight-risk.
EFCC opened its case on Tuesday, with the first prosecution witness, Mr Safiriyu, taking the court through how the defendant allegedly defrauded him using Mr Obasanjo’s name.
The commission’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, gave the account of the proceedings in a press statement on Tuesday.
‘How it started’
According to the EFCC’s statement, Mr Sarafiyu opened his testimony telling the court how he and the man who claimed to be the former president’s son crossed paths in April 2017.
Led in evidence by EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, the witness, who described himself as a businessman dealing in clearing and forwarding, said it started on a Friday, sometime in April 2017, when one of his loaded trucks heading to a customer’s cold room hit the defendant’s Honda Accord.
He said: “He detained the truck, because he was in a convoy of soldiers.
“On Saturday the following day, I got a call from my client that some soldiers had hijacked the container.
“I became troubled because it has never happened before, and that Saturday, I was to travel out, and so I was just praying because I didn’t know what to do.”
Mr Safiriyu said Mr Abiodun called the next day introducing himself and prefixing his name by military title, General.
He also said the defendant claimed to be a son of former President Obasanjo. Mr Obasanjo, a former military head of state in the lat 70s, also served as elected Nigerian president between 1999 and 2007.
“Later in the day, I received a call from this young man, and he introduced himself as General Abiodun Bolarinwa, a General in the Nigerian Army and a son to Baba Olusegun Obasanjo, former President,” the witness said.
He added: “He told me in that conversation that my truck was with him, that the truck bashed his car, and his boys brought it to where he stays at Abule-Egba.
“Later my team also met with him and they got the issue resolved after spending about N200,000.”
The witness said, after the incident, the defendant, continued communicating with him.
He said on one occasion, the defendant came to his office in a convoy of military personnel with a banner of former President Obasanjo adorning one of the vehicles.
He said: “He came with a convoy and they were shooting in the air and everywhere was scattered.
“Later he sent me a message that he is going to be made the military assistant to the president at Aso Rock.
“He sent me the letter and he said he would need some assistance, claiming that in the Army you are going to provide everything you need.
“Later he said he was vying for the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, that he has been nominated by the President and that he needs money to press and process the appointment.”
In his solitary moments, the witness said he wondered why the defendant could not get Mr Obasanjo to help him make a push to be made the Chief of Army Staff.
“So I asked him, you said you’re Baba’s son, why can’t he take care of this.
“He replied and said you know that Baba doesn’t want to do that, because of the polygamous home and so he doesn’t want to be seen as the one financing him.”
“In 2013, a message came into my phone saying ‘I, President Obasanjo’. Then a few minutes later, he called me and said ‘Baba has been trying to reach you’, but that I was not picking his call.
“I checked my phone, I saw only a text, no missed call, and I told him; he said that Obasanjo has been trying to reach me to thank me for all I have been doing for him.
“Then later a number called me and it showed the name ‘Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR’ As the caller, and I picked up the call, it was exactly Baba’s voice and he said to me to help my brother financially to become COAS that he will repay me.
“So I said, ok, sir; and that was how at various times he kept requesting for money.
“He said he needed money to travel to go and meet Emirs to make his intention known, that he has been nominated to become the next COAS.
“Any time he needs money, he will use the number, sometimes he asks for N5 million, 6million.
“I did not know that he was not even in the Army and never even passed through the Army, this I got to know much later.”
Obasanjo’s birthday, and revelation
He told the court that the defendant posing as Mr Obasanjo’s son even invited him to the ex-president’s birthday in 2020.
According to the witness, he was able to later get an audience with Mr Obasanjo who denied any relationship with the defendant.
He said he petitioned the EFCC, when he realised belatedly that he had been duped of almost N300 million.
Testifying on Tuesday, Mr Safiriyu detailed various money transfers he sent to the defendant, as well as several correspondences they both exchanged.
Subsequently, the prosecution tendered the mobile phone of the witness in evidence, and it was admitted as Exhibit B.
The prosecution thereafter tendered in evidence the petition along with attachments, including letters, confirmation letters and a series of photos sent to him by the defendant to deceive and defraud him.
The bundle of documents was admitted in evidence as Exhibit A.
The witness told the judge that he owned two companies – Kodef Clearing Resources Limited, incorporated in April 2008 and De-Rock Maritime Resource registered in July 2013 – for his clearing and forwarding business,
The judge adjourned the trial until April 29 for cross-examination of the witness.
EFCC charged Mr Abiodun with obtaining money by false pretence, forgery of documents and possession of documents containing false pretence, among other charges.
The commission said the alleged fraud, involving about N266,500,000, was reported by a firm, Kodef Clearing Resources.
It said the defendant made false representations to the complainant, Kodef Clearing Resources, that President Muhammadu Buhari had short-listed him and one other to be appointed as the Chief of Army Staff, COAS.
He had allegedly told the complainant that he needed a short grant to “press and process the appointment.”
Mr Abiodun, who was arrested at his house in the Alagbado area of Lagos State on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, also allegedly forged a letter of appointment as COAS purportedly signed by the president and showed the same to the victim to further prove his claim.
In the said letter, he claimed that he needed to pay a certain amount of money into the coffers of the Federal Government of Nigeria, as part of the requirements for the appointment as COAS.
Mr Abiodun is also alleged to have, in May 2020, forged a Nigeria Army Identity Card with serial number 387140, claiming the same to have been issued to him from the Nigerian Army.
He also allegedly forged a ‘Letter of Recommendation’ purportedly signed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo recommending one Adebayo Rasaq Adebola, with recruitment No 77RRI/OG/556/0032555 and Adeogun Emmanuel Adesola with recruitment No 77RRI/OG/352/0123751 for employment into the Nigeria Army.
The alleged offences are said to be contrary to section 1 (3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offences Act 2006; section 363 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015 and Section 6 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offences Act No 14 of 2006, respectively.
The defendant pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999