The Lagos Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday, 17 June, 2021, secured the conviction and sentencing of Joseph Worhabiko Adele (a.k.a Joseph Azunda), Richie Edward Ojeba and John Ovie Ogo for N65million fraud before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos.
The convicts began their journey to prison after they were found to have connived to defraud Dr. Joseph Mekiliuwa, Managing Director, Wealth Builders Technical Services, through a phantom contract they claimed Total Exploration & Production Nigeria Limited was offering for the installation of Solar Panels at Egi Community in Port Harcourt, Rivers State
They were first arraigned in September 2020 on a 15-count charge bordering on conspiracy, stealing and obtaining by false pretence, to which they pleaded “not guilty”.
However, on June 17, 2021, they changed their plea to “guilty” when they were re-arraigned before the trial judge on an amended three-count charge.
One of the counts reads: “Joseph Worhabiko Adele (a.k.a Joseph Azunda), Richie Edward Ojeba, John Ovie Ogo, Beauty Wugate Adele (still at large), and Hajia Jemila Yunusa (still at large) sometime in March 2019 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, conspired to steal the sum of N65,070,000 (Sixty-Five Million and Seventy Thousand Naira) property of Dr. Joseph Mekiliuwa, Managing Director, Wealth Builders Technical Services.”
The second defendant, Ojeba, was further accused in count three of possessing fraudulent documents used to perpetrate the fraud.
The offences are contrary to Sections 278, 285, 318, and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.
Following their guilty plea, prosecuting counsel, S.O. Daji, informed the Court that the amended information brought before the Court was pursuant to a plea bargain agreement between the prosecution and the defence.
In reviewing the facts against the defendants, Daji told the Court that the EFCC received a petition from the complainant in January 2020 accusing the defendants along with others of defrauding him.
“Investigation was subsequently carried out and it was discovered that the complainant was defrauded of N65,070,000, with the three defendants being beneficiaries of the fraud,” he said.
Daji also told the court that, while the first defendant benefited N13, 806,000, both the second and third defendants benefited N22, 350,000 and N22, 150,000, respectively.
He further informed the Court that “ As part of the plea bargain, the first defendant has so far refunded N6million to the complainant; the second defendant has so far refunded N20million, while the third defendant has refunded N12,500,000.”
He, thereafter, tendered in evidence the statements made by the convicts to the EFCC as well as the fraudulent documents obtained from the third defendant.
The documents were admitted by the Court as exhibits against them.
Daji further prayed the Court to forfeit to the Federal Government a laptop computer recovered from them.
“I adopt the plea bargain by both parties and urge the Court to convict them, accordingly,” he said.
In view of the adoption of the plea bargain by both parties, Justice Dada convicted them as charged.
The defendants were all convicted on counts one and sentenced to six months.
They were sentenced to one year in prison on counts two.
The third defendant was further convicted of count three and sentenced to six months.
The sentences are to run concurrently.
They were, however, given an option of N500, 000 in lieu of the jail terms.
The Judge also ordered the forfeiture of the laptop to the Federal Government.