Alleged Theft Of N1.3bn Police Fund: Court Rule April 18 On Admissibility Of Bank Documents In Trial Of Ex-Cop, Firm, Three Others

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Abdulazeez Abdulwahab 

JUSTICE O.O. Abike-Fadipe of a Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, has adjourned ruling on the admissibility of bank documents in the One Billion, Three Hundred Million Naira (N1.300,000,000.00) fraud trial of Okpalugo Ifeoma, a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police; Olumide Odumosu; Helen Nwafor, and Sule Yusuf Tegina, till Thursday, 18 April 2024.

The defendants are standing trial alongside two companies, Olu Osmond Nigeria Limited (a firm linked to Odumosu) and Jemmy Yus Investment Nigeria Limited, on 14-count charges bordering on conspiracy to steal, and stealing to the tune of One Billion, Three Hundred and One Million, Three Hundred and Thirty-Four Thousand, One Hundred and Eight Naira (N1,301,334,108.00).

They are alleged to have diverted the said sum belonging to the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), to their personal use.

Count one reads: “That you, Ogbadu Joseph (now at large), Hassan Paiko Muhammed (now at large), Sule Yusuf Tegina, Olumide Odumosu, Helen Nwafor, Okpalugo Ifeoma, Olu Osmond Nigeria Limited and Jemmy Yus Investment Nigeria Limited, sometime in 2013 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, conspired amongst yourselves to commit felony, to wit: stealing of the sum of One Billion, Three Hundred and One Million, Three Hundred and Thirty-Four Thousand, One Hundred and Eight Naira (N1,301,334,108.00)  property of the Nigeria Police Force.”

Count four reads: “Ogbadu Joseph (now at large), Hassan Paiko Muhammed (now at large), and Olumide Odumosu, between the 6th day of January 2015, and 31st of December 2015 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this honourable court dishonestly converted to your use the sum of Two Hundred and Thirteen Million,  One Hundred and Seventy Thousand Naira (N213,170,000.00) property of the Nigeria Police Force.”

Count 13 reads: “Ogbadu Joseph (now at large), Hassan Paiko Muhammed (now at large), Helen Nwafor, and Okpalugo Ifeoma between the 26th day of April and 5th day of December 2013 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this honourable court dishonestly converted to your own use the sum of Sixty Million, Three Hundred and Seventy-Five Thousand (N60,375,000.00) property of the Nigeria Police Force.”

They were initially arraigned before Justice Sherifat Solebo of a Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos on 7 November 2018, but the trial could not be concluded before the retirement of the trial judge in 2022, prompting the reassignment of the case file to Justice Abike-Fadipe. 

They pleaded “not guilty” to the counts when they were re-arraigned before Justice Abike-Fadipe on 17 October 2023.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Monday, 19 February 2024 presented its first witness, Chukwuma Orji, an investigative officer with the EFCC.

Orji, who was led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, A.O. Muhammed, narrated how investigation exposed their various roles in the alleged fraud.

In investigating the allegation against them, we wrote a letter to the Ministry of Finance with respect to the account in First Bank that received the flow of money for Police personnel, and they provided us with the documents for the credit to the account,” he said.

He testified further that investigation showed that money meant for Police personnel in the South-West was transferred to an account of the Police in the then Skye Bank from which the money was transferred to the Lagos Command.

He said: “The defendants opened two accounts with Zenith Bank, and from the Skye Bank account, they moved money monthly to the Zenith Bank accounts. From the Zenith Bank accounts, sometimes they made cash withdrawals, and also transferred to themselves as well as the two companies in which the first and second defendants represent.”

The fourth defendant, he said, used the third defendant who is not a Police officer in Lagos, as a proxy to open an account with Zenith Bank, through which the fourth defendant received proceeds of the alleged fraud.

“Through this means, the fourth defendant acquired houses in Abuja,” he said.

According to him, letters of investigation activities were written to First Bank, then Skye Bank, and Zenith Bank.

“Responses were received including account opening packages and statements of account, which were all analysed, and we discovered that the defendants used a fake address to open an account, which they used to divert the money,” he said.

At the resumed sitting on 20 February 2024 the prosecution sought to tender the various documents in evidence against the defendants, but the defence, led by A.A. Malik (SAN) raised objections to the admissibility of the documents.

Thereafter, Justice Abike-Fadipe adjourned till 18 April 2024 to deliver ruling on the admissibility of the documents

 

Eighteen-Eleven Media

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