Justice Sherifat Solebo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, has revoked the bail of Ifeoma Okpalugo, a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACP, and three others, who are being prosecuted for an alleged act of felony and stealing to the tune of N1, 301, 334, 108 (One Billion, Three Hundred and One Million, Three Hundred and Thirty-four Thousand, One Hundred and Eight Naira). Okpalugo is facing trial alongside Olumide Odumosu, Suleiman Yusuf Tegina and Helen Nwafor.
The suspects were charged alongside Yus Investment Nigeria Limited and Olivia Osmond Nigeria Limited for allegedly diverting the sum of N1, 301, 334, 108 belonging to the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, to their personal use. They pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.
Counsel to the defendants, O. A. Osinfowora, had applied for bail on behalf of his clients when they were arraigned on November 7, 2018.
The Judge had adjourned to Wednesday, November 20, 21 and 22, 2018 for ruling on the bail application filed by the defendants through their counsel. However, the proceedings could not go on as scheduled.
The Judge therefore, fixed Thursday, November 22, 2018 for ruling on the bail applications and commencement of trial.
But when the matter was called, a lawyer, Ige Asemudara, announced his appearance for all the defendants. He also prayed for an adjournment to enable him to go through all the documents. Consequently, in her ruling, the Judge revoked the bail earlier granted the defendants.
The Judge held that “I hereby revoke the applications for bail filed by Mr. O. A. Osinfowora. This is due to the fact that the new counsel, Asemudara, has said that Osinfowora was not of their choice.”
The Judge, who ordered Asemudara to file another bail application on behalf of the defendants, further held that “I notice a delay tactics. The first day when the arraignment held, the third defendant said she did not understand English Language, but Igbo language. Today, your counsel said the court did not entertain anything yesterday. I will not tolerate any delay tactics in my court.”
Prosecution counsel, Nnaemeka Omewa, told the court that he was ready for trial, adding that two witnesses were in court.
Led in evidence by Omewa, the first prosecution witness, PW1, Orji Chukwuma, an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, said his team discovered several accounts opened by the defendants to divert funds during investigation into the matter. Orji also told the court that in the course of investigation, the team reviewed the flow of money meant for police personnel.
He said, “the account was domiciled in First Bank Plc. But it came from to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to the Lagos Command Skye Bank (now Polaris Bank) account. It was meant to be paid to the Police in South West through a platform called E-transact.
He further said that “investigation revealed that the suspects conspired amongst themselves to open two accounts in Zenith Bank in the name of the Lagos Command from this Lagos account. They were moving money monthly, which they converted to their personal use. Sometimes, they transferred cash withdrawals to their company accounts in GT Bank and Gibsons Ventures Limited. The money would then be transferred to the first defendant’s account or he is given cash. The third defendant was not a staff. But the fourth defendant brought her in to open an account with Zenith Bank through which she received her own money and acquired a house in Abuja.”
PW1 also stated that letters were received from the Federal Ministry of Finance in the course of investigation. In his further testimony, Orji said: “We also wrote letters to the Police Headquarters as well the Police Pay Officers in Lagos State. The first defendant replied our letter, saying there was no record of voucher for payment. When we interviewed them, they disclosed that the money was meant for ‘some people at the top’, but they did not mention the names of the so-called ‘people at the top'”.
Some letters and documents were tendered and admitted as exhibits by the court.
Consequently, Justice Solebo adjourned the matter to December 4, 2018 for hearing of the bail application and January 15, 2019 for continuation of trial.