Court Convicts Former Bank PHB Boss, Atuche Over N25.7bn Theft

 

A Lagos High Court sitting in the Ikeja area has convicted Francis Atuche, a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB on charges of stealing the sum of N25.7bn belonging to the bank.

In a judgment that lasted over 10 hours, Justice Lateefat Okunnu convicted Atuche alongside a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu.

The court convicted the duo on 21 of the 27-count amended charge of conspiracy to commit a felony and stealing brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Okunnu held that the EFCC successfully proved its case against the convicts beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judge rejected the claims of the defendants that they were merely professionally negligent.

She specifically held that Atuche and Anyanwu abused their powers, ignored established rules and regulations thereby putting the bank and depositors’ funds in danger.

The court also came to the conclusion that the convicts corruptly took advantage of their positions to confer on themselves undue financial benefits without regard to the health of the bank.

Justice Okunnu however, cleared Atuche’s wife on the charge of conspiracy and stealing.

According to the judge, the EFCC failed to link her to the crime and insisted that suspicion no matter how strong can not take the place of fact.

The judge held that it was not proven that she was aware of the source of the funds she received into her account from her husband and she had no powers to take any decision to influence the transaction.

Charges

The EFCC had alleged that between November 2007 and April 2008, the accused persons stole about N25.7bn belonging to the bank.

The anti-graft agency had also claimed that of the total N25.7bn, they stole about N14.7bn by fraudulently describing it as a loan to some companies and subsequently converted the said sum to personal use.

The Commission had listed the companies as Future View Securities, Extra Oil Limited, Resolution Trust and Investment Limited, and Tradjek Nigeria Ltd.

The EFCC also alleged that another N11bn stolen by the defendants was used to purchase about 984,375,000 units of Bank PHB shares for themselves.

According to the commission, the sum used for purchasing the shares was described as a loan to some companies including, Guesstrade Services, Sentron Trading, Montrax Investico, Claremount Management Ltd., Trenton Trade, and others.

In proof of its case against the accused persons, the EFCC called 12 witnesses who gave oral evidence. It also subpoenaed 6 others to present some documents which were admitted as exhibits by the court.

COVID-19: Lagos Chief Judge Restricts Court Attendance

Alleged Kidnap: Judge’s Absence Stalls Evans Trial
A file photo of the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja

 

The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Hon. Justice Kazeem Alogba, has restricted the number of persons to be in attendance in courts.

This was done as a precautionary measure to check the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a circular dated January 15, the Chief Judge said only those engaged in essential services are to report for work as only them will be allowed into the court premises.

The Circular also stated that in High Courts, only the presiding Judge and four other staff, which include, the Secretary, Legal Registrar, Court Clerk and Recorder shall attend court.

At the Magistrate Courts, the attendance is restricted to only the Chief Magistrate on grade level 15 and above, together with their legal registrars and court clerks.

The Chief Registrar and Deputy Chief Registrar, however, are expected to be in attendance throughout the week, with the chief registrar having two support staff and the deputy having the secretary and additional staff on a rotational basis.

The circular further notes that “Courts are to sit only thrice in a week, between Monday to Thursday at the discretion of the Hon. Judges and the Chief Magistrates.”

Man Bags 15-Year Jail Term For Raping Tenant’s 14-Year-Old Niece

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud

A Lagos High Court sitting in the Igbosere area of the Island has sentenced a man identified as the James Onuoha for raping his tenant’s 14-year-old niece.

Onuoha, 42, who is a former Exxon Mobil Engineer, was convicted on Monday.

Justice Adedayo Akintoye sentenced him without an option of fine.

READ ALSO: Police Arrest 11 Suspects For Raping 12-Year-Old Girl

On Jan 4, 2016, the state government had accused Onuoha of committing the offences at 11:30 a.m., at 25, Samuel Amoore Street, Idowu Estate, Ike-Ira Nla, Ajah, Lagos.

The prosecution led by Jide Martins said the defendant willfully had an unlawful sexual act with the teenager without her consent.

He said the offences contravened Sections 134 (2), 135 (1), and is punishable under Sections 137 and 258 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.

Onuoha, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The prosecution subsequently opened its case and called witnesses including the victim.

After the prosecution closed its case, Onuoha opened his defence and was led in evidence by the defence counsel, Dr Victor Olowonla.

After conclusion of witness testimony in January 2020, parties adopted their final written addresses and the court adjourned the case to March 25, for judgment. But the judgment could not be delivered owing to the COVID-19 pandemic which led to a lockdown in March.

At the resumed hearing of the matter on Monday, the court found the defendant guilty but before his sentence could be read, his counsel, Victor Olowonla, made his allocutus.

He said, ” My lord, the convict is a first time offender, he is a family man with wife and children and also the bread winner of his family.

“He has lost his job since this case came up, going by the circumstances of this case, I urge my lord to tender justice with mercy, ” Olowonla said.

Onuoha was first arraigned in January 2016 at the Magistrates’ Court on a four-count charge of defilement.

After his arraignment he was remanded at the Kirikiri correctional centre pending legal advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Following his indictment by the DPP, the case was transferred to the high court for trial.

The Lagos State Government said the offences contravened Sections 134 (2), 135 (1), and is punishable under Sections 137 and 258 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.

Buses Procurement: Court Orders Lagos Assembly, Ambode To Maintain Status Quo

Inset: A file photo of former Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode.

 

A Lagos High Court Sitting in the Ikeja area has ordered parties to maintain the status quo in connection with the ongoing probe of procurement of 820 buses by the administration of the former Governor of the State, Akinwunmi Ambode.

The order was made a sequel to a request by the Counsel to the Lagos House of Assembly, Mrs Adenike Oshinowo who requested more time to file a response to the suit filed by the former governor.

READ ALSO: Buhari Asks Senate To Confirm John Tsoho As CJ Federal High Court

Through his lawyer, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), the former governor had instituted a suit against the Assembly to contest the constitutionality of the probe of 820 buses which he says were procured based on budgetary approval as part of the Bus Reform Project of the State Government.

He added that the procurement was designed to revolutionise public transportation in line with global best practices.

Ambode had earlier asked the court to stop the state House of Assembly from probing him over the 820 mass transit buses purchased by his administration.

The Lagos lawmakers had accused Ambode of purchasing the 820 buses in breach of budgetary provisions. They issued a summons for the ex-governor to appear on Wednesday (today) before an ad hoc committee set up to probe the purchase of the buses.

The Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, threatened that the House would issue a warrant for Ambode’s arrest should he continue to shun invitation by the lawmakers.

But on Tuesday, Ambode, through his lawyer went before Justice Y.A. Akinsanya with an ex parte application, seeking an interim order of injunction against the lawmakers.

Court Jails Senior Lawyer, Nwobike Over Justice Perversion

A Lagos High Court Sitting in the Ikeja area has convicted a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joseph Nwobike on charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Justice Raliat Adebiyi, who delivered the verdict today also sentenced the Snr Advocate to a jail term of one month.

The court held that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission proved beyond reasonable doubts that the SAN was in constant communication with some court officials to influence the assignment of his cases to preferred judges.

READ ALSO: Court Convicts Senior Advocate, Nwobike, Of Justice Perversion

Court Orders Interim Forfeiture Of Patience Jonathan’s Properties In Abuja

The EFCC had alleged that Nwobike offered N750,000 and N300,000 gratifications to Justices Mohammed Yunusa and Hyeladzira Nganjiwa. Both are Federal High Court judges.

The EFCC claimed that Nwobike offered them the money to pervert the course of justice. The SAN denied these charges.

The court also did not find him guilty on any offence of offering gratification to a judicial officer.

The EFCC had also detailed in court an exchange of text messages between a deputy registrar of the Federal High Court and Mr Nwobike. The commission alleges that the SAN used the msgs to influence the assignment of his cases before certain judges of the court.

In its amended charges, the Commission specifically listed Mrs Helen Ogunleye, a former registrar to Justice Musa Kurya and another Mr Jide, an assistant Chief Registar as persons whom the Snr Advocate regularly communicated with.

At his trial, Mr Nwobike admitted sending the messages but denied that the intention was to influence the outcome of his cases.

Court Convicts Senior Advocate, Nwobike, Of Justice Perversion

A Lagos High Court has convicted Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joseph Nwobike, of 12 counts  on allegation of inducement to pervert the cause of justice.

Justice Raliat Adebiyi acquitted him on five counts of giving gratification and one count of making false statement.

Justice Adebiyi has stood down the case for sentencing.

Nwobike was first arraigned on five count charges on March 9, 2016 by the EFCC, which was later amended the charges on two different occasions, each time leading to the re-arraignment of the SAN.

The last amendment to the charges saw Nwobike re-arraigned on February 8, after which the lawyers canvassed their final arguments.

In the charges, EFCC had claimed that Nwobike offered N750,000 and N300,000 gratifications to Justices Mohammed Yunusa and Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, respectively both judges are federal high court judges.

Counsel for the EFCC, Mr Oyedepo, says the money was allegedly meant to prevent the cause of Justice which is section 97 (3) of the criminal law of Lagos state.

Canvassing final arguments Nwobike’s lead counsel, Wale Akoni (SAN), had urged the court to discharge and acquit his client, contending that the EFCC failed to substantiate its allegations against him.

Akoni said contrary to the claim by the EFCC, the N750,000 that Nwobike gave to Justice Yunusa was not a bribe but “for the specific purpose of helping the (sick) mother of the gentleman.”

Court Issues Arrest Warrant For Innoson Chairman

Alleged Fraud: Innoson Boss Absent In Court For Arraignment
File photo: Innocent Chukwuma

 

A Lagos High Court Sitting in the Ikeja area has issued a warrant for the arrest of the Chairman of Innoson Motors Limited, Innocent Chukwuma for failing to appear before the court to face his trial.

Justice Mojisola Dada ordered that Mr Chukwuma should be arrested and brought to court on the next adjourned date of March 14.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in December last year filed four charges against the C.E.O of Innosons Motors and others at the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja.

In the letter by the Head of Legal and Prosecution for the EFCC, A.B.C. Ozioko, dated November 30, the commission noted that the four charges were bordering on conspiracy to obtain property by false pretence, obtaining property by false pretence, stealing and forgery.

Chukwuma, however, failed to show up at the Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja on Wednesday, January 17 for his arraignment on fraud allegations.

Further Details Shortly…

Don’t Order Execution Of Inmates, Falana Urges Ambode

Don't Order Execution Of Inmates, Falana Urges AmbodeHuman rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has appealed to the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, not to order the execution of persons sentenced to death in the state.

In a letter to the Governor, a copy of which was sent to Channels Television, Mr Falana referred to a statement credited to the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniyi Kazeem, to the effect that Governor Ambode would soon decide the fate of condemned prisoners on death row in the state.

The senior lawyer insisted that death by hanging or firing squad violates the rights to freedom from torture.

He cited a judgement of the State High Court, saying: “The Lagos State High Court held that while a person who commits murder may be sentenced to death, it is illegal and unconstitutional to execute such death sentence by hanging or firing squad, as it will lead to the violation of his fundamental right to freedom from torture guaranteed by the constitution”.

He asked Governor Ambode not to sign a death warrant authorising the killing of any condemned prisoner, but instead commute the death sentences to life imprisonment.

“On the basis of the valid and subsisting judgment of the Lagos High Court on the illegality of the execution of the death penalty in Lagos State, we urge Your Excellency not to sign a death warrant authorising the killing of any condemned prisoner either by hanging, firing squad or any other means whatsoever.

“In the circumstance, Your Excellency may wish to commute the death sentences of all condemned prisoners in Lagos State to life imprisonment forthwith,” Mr Falana said.

Application On Jurisdiction Stalls Trial Of Ajumogobia, Obla

Application On Jurisdiction Stalls Trial Of Ajumogobia, Obla An application challenging the jurisdiction of Justice Hakeem Oshodi to hear the case of alleged bribery against a suspended judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and a Senior Advocate Of Nigeria, Godwin Obla, stalled proceedings on Monday, at the Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja.

When the case was called, a new counsel, Mr Robert Clarke (SAN), announced appearance for Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia. He led another Senior Advocate, Wale Akoni, who had been in the matter from the beginning.

The judge noted that though the application was not ripe for hearing as the prosecution counsel was yet to reply, he would have to adjourn to hear it.

He also rejected a move by Mr Clarke to temporarily withdraw the application so that an earlier application seeking permission for Mrs Ajumogobia to travel abroad for medical treatment could be heard.

Justice Oshodi subsequently fixed hearing of the application for April 28.

Court Sentences Cynthia Osokogu’s Murderers To Death

Cynthia OsokoguThe Lagos State High Court sitting in Igbosere, Lagos Island has convicted and sentenced two men to death by hanging for the murder of late Cynthia Osokogu.

Trial judge, Justice Olabisi Akinlade, held that the prosecution proved the case against them beyond reasonable doubt.

Justice Akinlade sentenced Okwumo Nwabufo and Olisaeloka Ezike to death after finding them guilty of murdering Cynthia Osokogu by chaining her hands and legs, as well as choking and gagging her.

The act was said to have led to asphyxia, the absence of oxygen supply to the body of the victim which the court identified as the cause of her death.

The late Cynthia Osokogu, a postgraduate student of Nassarawa State University, was murdered on July 22, 2012 at a hotel in Festac Town by the men who lured her to Lagos after she met them through a social media platform.

Justice Akinlade had fixed March 23 to deliver judgment in the trial of four men charged with her murder, after counsel to the Lagos State Government and those who represented the defendants adopted their final written addresses.

In arriving at the judgment on Thursday, the judge held that the prosecution had successfully proven against the two defendants the offences of conspiracy to kill, murder, conspiracy to steal and stealing.

She found the convicts guilty on the strength of the circumstantial evidence and exhibits presented against them by the prosecution, and also based on their confessional statements made to the Police.

The court, however, discharged and acquitted the third and fourth defendants on the ground that the prosecution had not proved its case against them.

Court Orders NAFDAC To Warn Against Drinking Fanta, Sprite With Vitamin C

Man Arraigned For Alleged Assault And Public FightA Lagos High Court sitting in the Igbosere area of Lagos Island, has ordered the National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to order the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) PLC, to put a written warning on Fanta and Sprite bottles stating that both soft drinks are poisonous, when consumed along with Vitamin C.

The court also held that NAFDAC failed Nigerians by declaring, as fit for human consumption, products discovered by tests in the United Kingdom as turning poisonous when mixed with Ascorbic Acid (popularly known as Vitamin C).

In the judgment given by Justice Adedayo Oyebanji, the court awarded a cost of 2million Naira against NAFDAC.

The court judgment was given in a suit filed by a Lagos-based businessman, Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo, and his company, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited, against NBC PLC and NAFDAC.

Mr. Adebo, had in the suit, urged the court to declare that NBC was negligent to its consumers by bottling Fanta and Sprite with excessive levels of benzoic acid and sunset additives.

The businessman also urged the court to order NAFDAC to carry out routine laboratory tests on all the soft drinks and related products NBC bottles to ensure their safety for consumption.

In documents before the court, it was alleged that in March 2007, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Company bought large quantities of Coca-Cola, Fanta Orange, Sprite, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Pineapple and soda water from NBC for export and subsequent retail in the United Kingdom.

But when the consignment arrived the United Kingdom, health authorities in that country, precisely the Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council’s Trading Standard’s Department of Environment and Economy Directorate, raised fundamental health issues on the contents and composition of Fanta and Sprite.

Findings by the United Kingdom Health Authorities were also corroborated by other agencies in European Union countries, which found the products to contain excessive levels of sunset yellow and benzoic acid, which are known to be carcinogenic.

On account of the irregularities and carcinogenic substances present in the drinks, Mr. Adebo and his company said they could not sell the Fanta and Sprite, this caused huge losses for the company, as the products were seized and destroyed by the United Kingdom Health Authorities.

The claimants equally alleged that NAFDAC did not carry out requisite tests to determine the safety of the drinks for human consumption.

In its response filed before the court by Mr. Tunde Busari, NBC admitted supplying the products, but contended that they are meant for local distribution and consumption, as it does not produce for export.

The company also denied that it was negligent, as it has stringent quality control procedures to ensure that its products are safe for end-user consumption.

NBC also rejected the allegation that the damages claimed by the businessman and his firm were caused by negligence or any fault on its part.

It argued that the levels of the chemical components in its soft drinks are safe for consumption in Nigeria and that the claimants are not entitled to the recovery of damages arising from their illegal exportation of products meant for local distribution.

NAFDAC on its part did not file any defense.

In her judgment, Justice Oyebanji said he was in absolute agreement with the claimants that soft drinks manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of whether they were to be consumed locally or exported.

He also held that NAFDAC has been grossly irresponsible in its regulatory duties to the consumers of Fanta and Sprite manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company.

The court then ordered, “That NAFDAC shall forthwith mandate Nigeria Bottling Company to, within 90 days, include on all the bottles of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks manufactured by the company, a written warning that the content of the said bottles of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same becomes poisonous if taken with Vitamin C.

Oil Subsidy Scam: Accused Persons Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison

Ada Ugo-Ngali A Lagos High Court has sentenced Mrs Ada Ugo-Ngali and Walter Wagbatsoma to 10 years in prison for defrauding the Federal Government of 754 million Naira in oil subsidy transactions.

Justice Lateefa Okunnu, gave the sentence on Thursday, January 26.

Okunnu, also added that the 754 million Naira which was defrauded by the company, must be returned to the Federal Government in restitution.

Ada Ugo-Ngali
Mrs Ada Ugo-Ngali Being helped out of the premises by officials of prisons service

The co-defendant Walter Wagbatsoma, who was absent in court is currently being held in the United Kingdom on charges relating to a £12 million National Health Service (NHS) Trust fraud.

Mrs Ada Ngo-Nagali had collapsed after the judge had initially convicted her of the crime – the ensuing confusion then forced the court to adjourn the proceedings to January 16.

Family members later claimed that Mrs Ugo-Nnadi, who is the Managing Director of Ontario Oil and Gas Limited, was subsequently rushed to a hospital in the company of some prisons officials.

The sentence is the first of its kind since massive oil subsidy fraud allegedly perpetrated by oil marketers was uncovered in the petroleum industry in 2012.