A Nigerian lawyer, Dr Christian Chizindu Wigwe allegedly involved in N421 million scam is one of the 130 legal practitioners shortlisted for the award of the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) rank for 2021.
Wigwe is one of the 35 lawyers shortlisted in the academic category for the award of the 'prestigious' rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) for 2021.
According to the Acting Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Secretary of the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC), Hajo Bello, the shortlisted candidates emerged from both the advocate filtration stages and academic pre-qualification exercise, “preparatory to the award of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria for the year 2021”.
Meanwhile, a 2006 report alleged that Wigwe's law firm, Wigwe & Wigwe was involved in N421 million scam.
The scam also allegedly involved an erstwhile permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Dr. Julius Makanjuola, who was dismissed by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004.
A part of the report reads, “The police also discovered that all six applications for payment for compensation covering five communities in Anambra State were handled by one law firm – Wigwe and Wigwe, based in Lagos.
“The investigators wondered why only one lawyer was engaged by the entire six communities.”
A source told SaharaReporters, “Wigwe & Wigwe is owned by one Chris Wigwe then practicing in Lagos. His company was involved in a scandal. Today he’s now Prof Christian Chizindu Wigwe of Faculty of Law Rivers State University of Science & Technology. He’s applying to be conferred with the rank of SAN as an academic. That’s Nigeria for you. He believes that everyone has a short memory! May God help us.”
From the report, it was gathered that Dr. Julius Makanjuola and four other directors in the ministry were arrested at the time and taken to the force
headquarters, Abuja in respect of payments made to certain individuals as
compensation on land allegedly acquired by the ministry.
Other directors involved in the scandal, according to police interim report, included Patrick Ajumobi, (Director Joint Services), who admitted processing two of the payments amounting to N65 million, deputy director joint services, R. Udaku, who dealt directly with the permanent secretary during the course of processing the payments and the deputy director, finance and supply, Eroma.
The fraud at the ministry was uncovered when the erstwhile Minister of Defence, Theophilus Danjuma took it upon himself to scrutinise policy files on the day-to-day activities of the ministry, and in the process, he stumbled on some files (six of them) relating to payments of a total of N421 million as compensation in respect of various lands purportedly acquired by the army.
Danjuma also observed that payments were made without any reference to him, and that the beneficiaries did not append their signatures on the vouchers before payment was effected, with all payment vouchers stamped.
Following the discovery, the minister requested the then Inspector General of Police, Musiliu Smith to set up an investigating team to look into the matter, to recover the amount involved, and bring the culprits to justice. He also handed over photocopies of six policy files to the investigating team to facilitate their work.
It was in the course of police investigation that the permanent secretary and four directors whose roles were questionable in the payment were arrested for interrogation.
The police also observed that while the Okoro community in Isokpo, Ekwere local government area of Rivers State applied for N40.7 million compensation, surprisingly, the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing evaluation team recommended for them, the sum of N107.1 million.
He added that out of this figure, N25 million had already been paid out. The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing officials who indulged themselves in this questionable act for personal reasons, because government interest was not protected at all, were to be invited to justify their action.
The police also discovered that all six applications for payment for compensation covering five communities in Anambra State were handled by one law firm – Wigwe and Wigwe, based in Lagos.
The investigators wondered why only one lawyer was engaged by the entire six communities.
Also, two companies based in Lagos and Port Harcourt respectively assisted in effecting the payments. The investigating police team had visited Anambra and Rivers states to ascertain whether these communities actually received the money and whether they also demanded claims.
The police team was also to, among others identify the lands and persons who received payment on behalf of the community, to ascertain if actually, the community received payment and if they did, the amount paid; to locate local government chairmen and traditional rulers of the various communities to confirm their alleged roles and to recover documents in respect of the payments.