An Ibadan-based businessman, Joseph Benjamin, has petitioned the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, asking him to investigate two of the agency’s prosecutors and others in the legal department for alleged official misconduct, corruption, and non-diligent prosecution of suspects involved in the N170 million Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) contract fraud.
The officials, according to the petition, are Chile Okoroma, Jude Obozuwa, and Princewill Egbe Omagbitse.
The petitioner called for a thorough investigation into allegations that the officials deliberately withheld or distorted critical evidence in the fraud case from 2012, resulting in the anti-graft agency losing in court, while the Federal Capital Territory High Court acquitted and discharged all eight of the culprits indicted by both the police and the Commission’s investigations.
Okoroma was the Head of the Legal Department when the then Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, directed the EFCC to investigate the petition filed by the businessman in 2016.
Omagbitse was the Investigating Prosecuting Officer (IPO), while Obozuwa was detailed to charge and prosecute the suspects in court.
The petition noted that despite him being aware that the forensic analysis report which confirmed the controversial board resolution of Citadel Oracle Concept Limited, used in committing the fraud was forged by the suspects, Omagbitse concealed the information from the court.
The petition alleged that he was recruited later by Obozuwa to give what the petitioner’s lawyers described as “false evidence in court.”
His evidence allegedly created a controversy that invalidated a previous report.
At the end of the trial, the suspects were discharged and acquitted, while the businessman, who said he was not a party to the case, was fined N20 million by the court for allegedly refusing to appear to give evidence throughout the proceedings.
In the copy of the petition made available to SaharaReporters, Benjamin asked Bawa to investigate alleged “prosecutorial malpractice, misconduct and unlawful concealment of evidence in court and physical assault by the prosecutor in his case, Jude Obozuwa”.
He also requested the EFCC Chairman to call for a fresh charge to be filed in court by the anti-graft agency to reflect the complaint, investigation, and evidence contained in his petition against all suspects in the case of identity theft, illegal hijack, execution of contract and sharing of proceeds from fraud.
Also, he asked the EFCC boss to direct the Legal Department to effect a change of prosecutor in the case.
Describing as “strange” charge No. CR/244/2018 between the Federal Republic of Nigeria versus Princess Kama and Chief Onny Igbokwe prepared by Obozuwa, the businessman gave Bawa seven days to meet his requests, by ordering a thorough investigation into the allegations, while ensuring adequate sanctions are meted out to the offending officials and that the legal department should file a fresh charge that represents his complaint and investigation or risk legal action against the EFCC for “perversion of justice.” The notice has since expired.
Benjamin had in October 2013, in a petition to then Deputy Inspector General (DIG) in charge of Force Criminal Investigation Bureau (FCIB), Solomon Arase, accused some top officials of Zinox Group and its subsidiary, Technology Distributions Limited (TD), of fraudulent conspiracy.
Benjamin accused Onny Igbokwe and Princess Kama of conspiring with the Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Zinox Group and Technology Distributions Limited (TD), Chris Ozims, and other officials of TD to hijack and illegally execute the contract awarded to his company by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in 2012.
Igbokwe is the chief executive of a Port Harcourt-based IT company, Ad’mas Digital Technologies Limited and Pirovics Engineering Services Limited.
Kama, his staff member, allegedly facilitated the alleged fraud also involving a director of TD, Folashade Oyebode, and two staff members of Access Bank Plc, Obilo Onuoha, and Deborah Ijeabu.
Benjamin said Oyebode and Ozims used his company’s forged documents, including a fake board resolution that appointed them “directors of the company” to open a fake account at Access Bank, Lagos, which was allegedly used to receive the proceeds of the fraud.
To facilitate the opening of the fake account, Benjamin said the suspects approached Onuoha and Ijeabu to release to them the original copies of documents used by his company, a long-time customer with a corporate account with the bank.
Benjamin accused Ozims, Oyebode, and Igbokwe of procuring a fake board resolution dated December 18, 2012, which they claimed was issued by Citadel Oracle management to facilitate the opening of the controversial account.
The fake document conferred on them the power of attorney to act as “directors” of the company and authorised signatories to the account, which they operated till it was run into debit.