From Tony John, Port Harcourt
A Port Harcourt Chief Magistrates’ Court has declared that it lacks jurisdiction to entertain the criminal matter brought before in regard to an alleged forex scam, and refused bail applications sought for the detained son of a director at the National Agricultural Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) in Abuja.
The suspect, Salihu Nasiru Ibrahim, 22, was allegedly lured from Abuja to Port Harcourt, with a promise of a relationship to be able to pull him down from Abuja to Port Harcourt.
Police and other persons involved in the matter were said to be under pressure to get the detained suspect out of custody and stay off the case after the forex racket involving N15 million for procurement of US dollars in a foreign exchange deal went sour
The suspect could neither produce the dollars nor the money transferred to him through his account in three tranches after Salihu claimed his father’s contact in CBN would facilitate the exchange and for his father to be held if anything happens while the transaction lasted and money paid to him
It would be recalled that Salihu Ibrahim is standing trial before Chief Magistrate AO Amadi-Nna at the Rivers State Magistrate Court 10 in Port Harcourt on a two-count charge.
According to the charge sheet sighted by our reporter, Salihu is accused of obtaining N15 million from Grace Ogolo to help her convert it to US dollars within the Central Bank of Nigeria government-approved rate but was said not to have carried out the assignment and did not return the money since July 2022.
The charge sheet earlier obtained by our correspondent and signed by a superintendent of Police (SP) Sewari Alpheaus said the offence contravened section 1(b,c) and is punishable under section 1(2,3) of the Advance Fee Fraud laws of the Federation, 2006.
On count two, the court said that Salihu Ibrahim also forged a police identity card to be regarded as a police officer, which the prosecution told the court last week that more forgeries were discovered in the cause of their investigation will they sought for bail last week.
In his ruling on the case, Chief Magistrate AO Amadi-Nna held that on count 1 felony falls under the federal laws of Nigeria on Advance Fee Fraud and, therefore, lacks jurisdiction to grant bail.
The court also held that on count two, the matter would be referred to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for advice to March 9.
The chief magistrate admitted that the law to which the suspect was charged to court was a Federal law, and he lacks jurisdiction to grant bail.
He added that the amount involved in the scam was too much that he could not grant bail, and referred the case file to DPP for legal advice.
The matter was adjourned to March 9, 2023, to hear the outcome of DPP’s advice either to grant bail or file or begin another round of legal battles based on DPP information to the High court.
The defence team led by Leticia Mukoro, cited Section 18 of the Magistrate Court Law of 2004, which empowers the court to grant bail to the accused, arguing that the Supreme Court’s position was clear that as long as the case did not have capital punishment, bail could be granted by the Chief Magistrate.
Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, counsel for the complainant, Benjamin Awuse, expressed joy over the ruling.
Awuse maintained that his client was desirous of settlement which means the N15 million collected by Salihu must be paid in full and the matter could be renegotiated outside the courtroom if they so desire.
He said: “Well, if the father of the accused is desirous to settle the matter, I can advise my client to withdraw the matter and the terms of the settlement will be in full” that is, they will return the full amount stolen from my client for fraudulently.”
The lawyers to the accused persons were not present in court during the ruling, neither was Salihu produced in court.