Benjamin Joseph, a petitioner-turn-accused, appeared before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Nyanya, Abuja, defending his petition over his loss of a N170million contract to an alleged fraud.
Mr Joseph, who is the managing director of an Ibadan-based IT retail firm, Citadel Oracle Concept Limited, is being prosecuted by the police for making false claims against the suspects in his petition.
The defendant had in his petition accused Mr Onny Igbokwe and Princess Kama of conspiring with the Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Zinox Group and Technology Distributions Limited (TD), Chris Ozims, and others to hijack and illegally execute the contract awarded to his company.
The contract was awarded to Citadel Oracle by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in 2012, but Mr Joseph said he only knew that the contract had been executed about nine months later when he received a tax demand over the proceeds of the contract.
In October 2013, Mr Joseph petitioned then Deputy Inspector General (DIG) in charge of Force Criminal Investigation Bureau (FCIB), Solomon Arase, who later became the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), over the alleged hijack of the contract.
He named Mr Igbokwe , who is the chief executive of a Port Harcourt-based IT company, Ad’mas Digital Technologies Limited, as well as Pirovics Engineering Services Limited, and Ms Kama, as the facilitators of the alleged fraud.
He also named a director of TD, Folashade Oyebode, and two staff members of Access Bank Plc, Obilo Onuoha and Deborah Ijeabu, as playing roles in the alleged scam.
According to him, the suspects allegedly opened a fraudulent account at Access Bank in the name of his company using the company’s forged documents, including a forged board resolution.
On May 8, 2015, Mr Joseph again petitioned Mr Arase shortly after he was named the new IGP, to complain about his frustration to get the suspects prosecuted.
On June 16, 2016, three days before Mr Arase’s retirement as the IGP, the police charged Mr Joseph with “providing false information in his petition against the suspects.”
The prosecution led by Simon Lough had closed their case and Mr Joseph subsequently opened his defence with his testimony as the first defence witness in November last year.
Continuation of defence
Continuing his defence on Tuesday, Mr Joseph told the trial judge, Peter Kekemeke, how he initially reported the alleged fraud to a legal icon, Afe Babalola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Led by his lawyer, Bob James, the defendant said after he was able to secure the details of the alleged fraudulent account, he went back to Mr Babalola, the founder of Afe Babalola University in Ado-Ekiti, who advised him to report the case to the Special Fraud Unit (SFU).
He said Mr Babalola called then Commissioner of Police, SFU, Mr Tunde Ogunsakin, on his behalf, and asked him to proceed to report the case to the police unit.
He said through the SFU investigations, “we were able to know the people open account in the name of our company, Citadel Oracle Concept Limited.”
He added, “It was one Chris Eze Ozims and Mrs Folashade Oyebode that were the signatories that operated that account in the name of my company.
“These people are not members of my company. Investigation revealed that they are staff members of Technology Distributions Limited, a subsidiary of Zinox Technologies Limited.
“They were invited by the police together with Princess Kama, Chief Onny Igbokwe, Deborah Ijeabu, and Mr Charles Adigwe, who is the accountant of Technology Distributions Limited. They all made their statements.”
‘Fake office address assigned to Citadel’
He said SFU investigations revealed that a fake address was assigned to his company on the account opening documents submitted to Access Bank.
“The police invited all of us, the parties, including me to a meeting. It was at that meeting that police showed me the account opening documents.
“In the account opening documents, the address of my company was Suite A11, Banex Plaza in Wuse, Abuja. Up till today, our company has no address in Abuja.
“That address was the address of Ad’Mas Technology Limited, the company belonging to Chief Onny Igbokwe.”
Other ‘fake information’ on bank documents
He added that the phone numbers attributed to Citadel Oracle in the bank were that of Mr Igbokwe.
Mr Jospeh said he got to know this because the phone numbers appeared on the letterhead of Ad’Mas Technology Limited through which Mr Igbokwe wrote a September 9, 2013 letter to him denying knowledge or execution of the controversial contract.
He also said email addresses attributed to him, his wife, who is the second director of the company, and the company were not theirs.
Other documents faulted
Mr Joseph also said SFU investigations also revealed that his mother’s maiden name was written as Onyebuchi in the “customer compliance form” when the correct name is “Ogbodo”.
He said the space for his signature on the customer compliance form was left unsigned.
According to him, investigation also revealed that the second customer compliance form was filled in and signed by Chris Eze Ozims.
“The third customer compliance form was signed by one Mrs Folashade Oyebode,” he added.
He said on the mandate card, “they wrote my name and omitted all my particulars including my date of birth. They left the authorisation signature space vacant,” the defendant said.
He said “they left the passport photograph space vacant on the document,” but added, “Mrs Folashade Oyebode appended her signature and filled in her name on that form.”
“On the third mandate form, it was Mr Chris Eze Ozims that was the signatory and he filled in the form,” Mr Joseph said.
‘Fake utility bill, board resolution’
He said the utility bill presented for the opening of the account was an “Abuja Development Levy receipt that has the address of the company Suite A11 Banex Plaza, Wuse, Abuja.”
According to him, the fifth document which SFU investigations also discovered to have been used presented to the bank was “the board resolution dated December 18, 2012 with a mimic signature that mimicked my original signature.”
He added, “That document is a forged document. Also the letterhead was not from me. That document fell short of a board resolution.
“The board resolution form gave my name Joseph Benjamin and my wife’s name.
“No signature of both of us. That board resolution has names of Chris Eze Ozims and Folashade Oyebode with her name appended on the document.
“The space for authorisation, which was a place for the denominator of the signatories, ought to be signed. They only wrote Joseph Benjamin in the space and no signature.
“Also, the space for the secretary of the company was left blank and no signature was written on it.”
He also said investigations revealed that the referee forms were “filled in by Chief Onny Igbokwe and Princess Kama”
He noted that the Know Your Customer (KYC) form required the bank to visit the company for whom the account was to be opened.
“They wrote the name of my company and my name, but wrote the phone number of Chief Onny Igbokwe was written as the officer they visited,” Mr Joseph said.
He said following the dispute between him and the other parties over the authenticity of the board resolution, the SFU resolved to conduct a forensic examination of the document.
He added that he pleaded with the SFU to extend the examination to all the other documents used for the opening of the controversial accounts.
It was at this point the judge adjourned the case till Wednesday to enable him to attend to other cases listed for the day.
Meanwhile, the named persons and companies have denied Mr Joseph’s allegations.
They claimed that the Access Bank account was opened with Mr Joseph’s knowledge under an alleged partnership they entered into with him for the funding of the execution of the contract.
Mr Joseph has also denied entering into any partnership with them insisting that the contract was hijacked from him through forgery and falsification of documents.
He cited in his petitions instances of when the suspects were offering him monetary compensation after the alleged fraud was uncovered.
Ms Kama, Igbokwe acquitted
In Mr Joseph’s quest for justice, he had petitioned many government institutions and law enforcement agencies.
While the police decided to turn him to the accused, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) filed charges against Ms Kama and Mr Igokwe.
But a judge of the FCT High Court in Jabi, Danlami Senchi, on February 24 acquitted them of the charges bordering on the forgery of the disputed board resolution.