Petitioner opens defence in N170m FIRS contract fraud

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FIRS
FIRS

More than four years after the Nigerian Police charged and arraigned him for “false petitioning” over the controversial N170 million contract fraud, a petitioner, opened his defence in the case for the first time.

The petitioner-turned accused, Benjamin Joseph, is the Managing Director of an Ibadan-based IT retail firm, Citadel Oracle Concept Limited. In October 2013, Mr Joseph petitioned then Deputy Inspector General (DIG) in charge of Force Criminal Investigation Bureau (FCIB), Solomon Arase, accusing some top officials of Zinox Technologies Limited and its subsidiary, Technology Distributions Limited (TD), of conspiring with their allies to commit fraud.

In the petition, Mr Joseph accused Messrs 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 to hijack and illegally execute the contract awarded to his company by the FIRS in 2012.

Mr Igbokwe is the chief executive of a Port Harcourt-based IT company, Ad’mas Digital Technologies Limited, as well as Pirovics Engineering Services Limited, while Ms. Kama, his ally, allegedly facilitated the fraud. Mr Joseph also accused a director of TD, Folashade Oyebode, and two staff of Access Bank Plc, Obilo Onuoha and Deborah Ijeabu, of involvement in the alleged crime.

He said the suspects committed the fraud by using a fake account they opened at Access Bank with his company’s forged documents, including a fake board resolution that appointed them “managers of the account.” To facilitate payment of the proceeds from the contract fraud by the FIRS, Mr Joseph said the suspects approached officials of the Awolowo Road, Ikoyi branch of Access Bank (Messrs Onuoha and Ijeabu) to release 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.  Although the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the police in Lagos said its investigations since 2014 confirmed the accused were culpable of the offence, their prosecution was stalled as the police refused to release the original case file.

On May 8, 2015, Mr Joseph again petitioned Mr. Arase shortly after he was named the new Inspector General of Police, to complain about his frustration to get the suspects prosecuted. On June 16, 2016, three days before the end of IGP Arase’s tenure, the police charged Mr Joseph to court, accuse him of “providing false information in his petition against the suspects.”

The former IGP said Mr Joseph’s allegations in his July 3, 2014 petition about a fictitious board resolution of his company used by the suspects in the fraud to open a fake account, No. 0059202675, in Access bank, through which the FIRS paid the proceeds from the contract fraud, were false.

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