An Ibadan-based ICT firm proprietor, Joseph Benjamin, currently facing trial on the orders of the immediate past Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, for alleged “false petitioning”, has cried out to the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, urging him to investigate his predecessor in office for “criminal conspiracy” in his current travails.
Mr. Benjamin, who is the managing director/chief executive of Citadel Oracle Concept Limited, is currently standing trial before Justice Peter Kekemeke of Court 14, Federal Capital Territory High Court, Apo, Abuja, on a one-count charge of “false petitioning” to former IGP Arase with intention of misleading him over a case of identity theft, impersonation and criminal conversion of contracts.
In the petition filed on his behalf by his lawyers, Bob James & Co., Mr. Benjamin accused Mr. Arase of conspiring to fabricate false evidence the police is using to try him, while shielding the real offenders in a N170.3 million fraud against his company.
In 2013, Mr. Benjamin had petitioned Mr. Arase, then Deputy Inspector General in charge of Force Criminal Investigation Bureau, after his company uncovered that some top officials of Zinox Technologies Limited and its subsidiary, Technology Distributions Limited (TD) had conspired with their allies to commit the fraud.
In the petition, Mr. Benjamin said the suspects had impersonated his company firm, by cloning its official headed paper, with which they used in issuing an acceptance letter to the FIRS for the supply of 668 computers at N170.3 million
To facilitate payment of the contract sum, he said the suspects had also approached the Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, branch of Access Bank where some of its officials allegedly connived and availed them original copies of his company’s corporate account documents.
The documents, which included a forged Board of Directors resolution and his signature, were used to open a fictitious account No. 0059202675 at Access Bank, to enable the suspects funnel away the proceeds from the fraud.
Mr. Benjamin accused the Chairman of Zinox Group, Leonard Stanley Ekeh, and wife, Chioma, of being the principal architects and beneficiaries of the fraud, using their officials who allegedly hijacked and illegally executed the contracts awarded by the Federal Inland Revenue Service using his company’s name and forged signature.
But, Mr. Ekeh, who has consistently denied the allegation, told PREMIUM TIMES Mr. Benjamin was trying to blackmail and extort Zinox.
Regardless, Mr. Benjamin has stood his grounds, demanding the police to produce the original documents to prove his claim against Mr. Ekeh was false.
“Where are statements made by Chief Leo Stan Ekeh and his wife, the principal architects and beneficiaries of the fraud?
“Where are the original forensic reports, which stated clearly that my signature on the document used to open the fraudulent account was forged?” Mr. Benjamin asked.
He went ahead to identify the suspects as the Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Zinox Group and TD, Chris Ozims, and a director of TD, Folashade Oyebode; the chief executive of Ad’mas Digital Technologies Limited and Pirovics Engineering Services Limited, Onny Igbokwe, along with one Princess O. Kama, a former associate, and some officials of Access Bank PLC.
Although investigations by the SFU of the Nigerian Police Force have since 2014 been concluded and a prima-facie case established against the suspects, prosecution was stalled.
Following his appointment as the IGP in 2015, Mr. Benjamin, on May 8 wrote Mr. Arase, to highlight his company’s frustration in getting the police to transfer the original case file to the Director of Public Prosecution for prosecution of the suspects.
But, Mr. Arase wrote back on May 15, 2015 to advise Mr. Benjamin that he would prefer the civil aspect of the case to run its full course before prosecution of the criminal aspect, to prevent a miscarriage of justice.
Mr. Benjamin said Mr. Arase’s advice against prosecution of the suspects followed his failed attempt to persuade him to collect the N10 million “goodwill offer” on February 20, 2014 by Mr. Igbokwe “as our veritable olive branch for an enduring peace.”
Angered by Mr. Arase’s advice against the police prosecuting the suspects in court, Mr. Benjamin’s lawyers, Enyinnaya Uwaezuoke, on June 5, 2015 wrote to him, accusing the former IGP of attempting to shield the accused from prosecution.
Mr. Uwaezuoke gave a 21-day ultimatum for the former IGP to obey the rule of law and transfer the case file to the DPP for the prosecution of the suspects.
In its response, the police instead wrote the attorney general of the federation to say the accused had already been arraigned at a Lagos High Court.
Not satisfied, Mr. Benjamin petitioned the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who directed the Economic and Financial Crmes Commission to wade in, with a view to resolving the matter.
But, curiously, on June 16, 2016, three days before the end of IGP Arase’s tenure, the police charged Mr. Benjamin to court, accusing him of providing false information in his petition against the suspects.
The former IGP said Mr. Benjamin’s allegation in his July 3, 2014 petition about the Board Resolution allegedly by Citadel Oracle company used by the suspects in opening the fake account, No. 0059202675, in Access bank, through which the FIRS paid the proceeds from the contract, was false.
On July 2, 2016, Mr. Benjamin was arraigned before the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Apo, Abuja on a one-count charge of “false petitioning” to IGP Arase with intention of misleading him over a case of identity theft, impersonation and criminal conversion of contracts against the accused.
During the petitioner’s formal arraignment before Justice Peter Kekemeke of Court 14, Federal Capital Territory High Court, Apo, Abuja, the police prosecution counsel, Simon Lough, in his charge No. CR/216/16 listed all the suspects as witnesses.
At the commencement of Mr. Benjamin’s trial on October 5, 2016, one of the key suspects, Miss Kama, appeared in court as the principal witness.
Despite the commencement of trial, the police did not produce any fresh document to prove its case, apart from those attached to the petition filed by Mr. Benjamin as evidence of fraud against the suspects.
“The legal department of the police told our lawyers that Mr. Arase took the original case file away. The one being used to prosecute our client (Mr. Benjamin) contains documents forged and concocted to arraign him and not the original documents,” the petition said.
Following several media reports about police refusal to transfer the original case file to the DPP to facilitate the prosecution of the suspects, the Attorney General waded last week in to take over the case for judicial review.
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