The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission today July 31, 2017 arraigned the duo of Ebenezer Joshua and Franca Johnson before Justice Abbas Ahman of the Kebbi State High Court on a three count charge of forgery.
The accused persons, who once worked together at a new generation ban,k allegedly conspired and forged the certificate of registration of the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML).
The scam came to light when the SCUML received two registration forms for clearance from a new generation bank bearing the names, Noble Women for Better Tomorrow Initiative and another, Support Initiative for Better Maternal Health. Upon receipt of the certificate, some abnormalities were discovered during verification, including the fact that the sector codes on the certificates were those allocated to construction companies and not NGOs.
After the conclusion of the discrete investigation, the officials of the NGO were invited and they volunteered statements. Also the accused persons were invited and after their statements were recorded, their offices were searched. An original Certificate of registration of SCUML and six forged ones were recovered in the process.
The operatives also raided the business centre where the accused persons were said to be using to conduct their illegal activities.
Upon conclusion of the investigation it was discovered that the first accused person, Ebenezer Joshua, was an employee of a new generation Bank and that he was approached by the Chairperson of the Noble Women for Better Tomorrow Initiative who wanted to open an account in the name of the NGO but she was told by the first accused person that she needed a certificate of registration from SCUML. Subsequently, the first accused person collected money from her to facilitate the issuance of SCUML certificate, which is actually done free of charge. He obtained a copy of the original certificate from the second accused person, reproduced a copy for the chairperson.
One of the count against the accused persons read that "You Ebenezer Joshua and Franca Johnson sometime in July, 2015 at Stanbic IBTC in Birnin Kebbi, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired among yourselves to commit offense, to wit forgery, punishable under Section 97(2) of the Penal Code Law.
Both accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charge.
In view of the plea of the accused persons, prosecution counsel Rimamsomte Ezikeil asked the court for two clear days for commencement of the hearing of the matter.
Magnus Ihejirika for the first accused person informed the court that he was just briefed to handle the matter and could not file a formal bail application because of time. He therefore made oral bail application on behalf of his client.
However, Hussaini Zakariyya for the second accused person applied formally that his client be admitted to bail.
Prosecution counsel objected to the oral application made by the counsel to the first accused person. He argued that such application should be presented formally. In respect of the second accused person, Ezikeil informed the court that he was just served with the bail application and needs time to respond.
Justice Ahman adjourned the matter to 4th and 5th October for the commencement of trial and referred the issue of bail to the vacation judge.