Investigation into an alleged fraudulent hijacking of a contract worth N170m by some prominent individuals and their allies appears to have taken a different dimension.
Despite the intervention of the office of Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, and Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), justice is still far from being achieved.
According to findings by SaharaReporters, a network of influential Nigerians allegedly defrauded one Mr Joseph Benjamin, Managing Director of Citadel Oracle Concept Limited based in Ibadan, Oyo State, and these people have been using their connections in government to suppress the matter.
Benjamin, who is the complainant in the fraud case, is now crying out for justice more than eight years after reporting the matter to the police.
Rather than properly investigate his complaint, the police and some officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission allegedly conspired with persons, who hijacked the N170m contract to frame and charge him for giving false information in order to cover up the fraudulent act.
SaharaReporters gathered that top officials of Zinox Group including the company’s Secretary/Legal Adviser, Chris Ozims, were said to have conspired and hijacked the contract awarded to Benjamin's company in 2012.
One Folashade Oyebode and two staff of Access Bank Plc, Obilo Onuoha and Deborah Ijeabu, were also accused of playing major roles in the alleged fraud.
Citadel Oracle Concept Ltd had sometime in April 2012 applied for prequalification to tender for the supply of ICT products as advertised by the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
The company forwarded the required documents through one Princess O. Kama, a church member of Benjamin.
A meeting was said to have been initiated by Kama where she introduced one Chief Igbokwe as Managing Director of Ad’Mas Digital Technologies Limited to Benjamin that he and his partner, Chief Leo Stan Ekeh of Zinox Telecommunications LTD, were in full control of the tendering process through their associates at FIRS and can determine, who gets a contract.
Igbokwe then gave two conditions for the contracts to be awarded to them.
The conditions included that the nominal complainant should accept N15m being the estimated accruable profit on one of the three slots tendered for.
That a deal has already been closed by MD of Zinox Telecommunications Limited with FIRS at the top, which requires the profits from the other two slots to be used purportedly to bribe officials of FIRS.
Therefore Citadel was not expected to execute or be involved in the execution of the contracts.
The second condition given to Benjamin was that Citadel should pay the sum of N85m up front into the account of Ad’Mas Digital Technologies Limited.
But Benjamin turned down all the offers as proposed by Igbokwe.
In August 2013, when Citadel submitted tax returns for the year in the Ibadan Zonal Office of FIRS where he requested for the issuance of a tax clearance certificate, he was informed of a possible under declaration of income and Value Added Tax.
He was told that his TIN account had been credited with a withholding tax of N8.1m in respect to a contract allegedly executed by his company for the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
Upon the discovery that the contract had been awarded and executed in the name of Citadel Oracle Concept Ltd, Benjamin confronted Kama and Igbokwe about it but they feigned ignorance.
However, it was later discovered that Kama fraudulently submitted through forged letters on December 20, 2012 to FIRS details of Access Bank Account number 0059202675 used to perpetuate the fraud.
The matter was said to have been reported to Special Fraud Unit of Nigeria Police Force headed then by Commissioner of Police, Tunde Ogunsakin.
After police investigation, it was revealed that two signatories to the account were directors of Zinox – Ozims and Oyebode.
It was also revealed that Mrs Chioma Ekeh, a director in Technologies Distributions Ltd and Zinox Computers, supervised the disbursement of the fund from the said account to TD and Admas Digtal Technologies Ltd.
Three month after the investigation, former Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, and Director of Public Prosecution, Mohammed Diri, indicted seven persons and recommended their prosecution as a prima facie case had been established against them.
Those recommended for prosecution were Ozims, Oyebode, Mr Adigwe Charles, Chief Igbokwe (Adams Technologies); Kama (Adams Technologies); Mr Ohilo Onuha (Access Bank Plc) and Mrs Ojeabu Deborah (Access Bank Plc).
It was alleged that since the time Mr Solomon Arase reigned as Inspector-General of Police, the law enforcement agency had refused to yield to the request by the DPP to prosecute the suspects.
Instead, the complainant, Benjamin, was put on trial by the police for allegedly giving ‘false information’ in the petition submitted to the authorities.
The forensic examination carried out by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission showed that the documents, signatures and letterhead used in opening the account in the name of Citaldel Oracle Concept Ltd were forged.
Meanwhile, Kama contradicted herself while testifying as witness before Justice Senchi.
In a statement she made to the police on June 13, 2016, she claimed to have "agreed with Mr Joseph Benjamin to make the purchase from TD and that TD gave condition that a new account must be opened to make the staff of their company signatories and that she told Benjamin and he sent all necessary documents for the account opening including board resolution of Citadel Oracle Concept Ltd."
Kama told the court that she drove together with Benjamin alongside Chief Igbokwe to the Access Bank where the account was opened.
As at today, only two out of seven people, who participated and carried out the fraud and forgery are facing trial while others are walking freely on the streets.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, had in a letter dated July 25, 2019 addressed to the EFCC Chairman notified him of the suspicious conduct of the prosecution counsels, Mr Jude Obozuwa and Mr Egbe Princewill Omagbitse.
Following an attempt by the prosecutor to close prosecution without him giving evidence, Benjamin, appealed to Justice Senchi of the FCT High Court, Abuja, for an opportunity to state his side of the case.
Benjamin said EFCC prosecutor, Jude Obozuwa, had refused to present documents he submitted to the anti-graft agency to the court but had closed the case in an attempt to shut him out from telling his own side of story.
He said, "My Lord, I will love this court to give me an opportunity to say my side and defend myself in this case.
“My Lord, I am being shut out of this case by the prosecutor. I have not been given the chance to say anything to defend myself of all allegations against me.
“The prosecutor even slapped me in his office when I went to see him. He said I wrote a petition against his poor handling of this case.”
Since that period, the complainant had written to the EFCC several times over the delay in completing the investigation but no concrete response had been given by the anti-graft agency till date.