The Lagos Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, presented its first prosecution witness, Adeniyi Oyewole, Managing Director, Ano Farms Limited, against one Alhaji Usman Abubakar, who is facing trial for an alleged N950m fraud before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos.
Abubakar, alongside Young Alhaji Foundation, is being prosecuted on a five-count charge bordering on obtaining money by false pretence and stealing to the tune of N950 million fraud.
One of the counts reads: “Alhaji Usman Abubakar, Young Alhaji Foundation and Dr. Abu Omer Fawzi (at large), sometime in September 2022, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to obtain the sum of N950, 000,000 from Ano Farms Limited under the false pretence that you had the Dollar equivalent of the said sum, which pretence you knew to be false.”
Another count reads: “Alhaji Usman Abubakar and Young Alhaji Foundation, on the 20th of September 2022, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, attempted to dishonestly convert the sum of N180,000,000.00 (One Hundred and Eighty Million Naira), property of Ano Farms Limited to the use of Abdullahi Mohammed.”
He pleaded “not guilty” to the charges when he was first arraigned on February 22, 2023.
Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, Oyewole narrated how his paths crossed that of the defendant leading him to part with the money.
Oyewole said the company was into processing of agricultural products and needed foreign exchange to facilitate importation at some point in time.
He said: “In the process of that, we were introduced to Dr. Abu Fawaz, who lives in Ghana.
“We travelled down to see him. We met and had various discussions and negotiations.
“After which, I returned with an aggregate funds for the transaction.
“It summed up to N950 million for us to access the equivalent in US Dollars.”
He testified further that having raised the money, he reached out to Fawaz, who provided a First Bank account in Nigeria to receive the N950 million.
According to him, the said account belonged to Young Alhaji Foundation.
He said: “Upon the transfer, I reached out to Dr. Fawaz to confirm receipt on 19th September 2022, but he got back to me in the evening that the funds had not been received.
“I reached out to my banker, who confirmed the funds in the account; and so, I reached out to Dr. Fawaz again, who still insisted that the funds were not there.”
The witness, who suspected that something seemed amiss, told the court that he immediately reached out to his account manager at FCMB to help recall the funds from First Bank.
Following through with the request, as advised by his account manager, he wrote an email to the bank to make the request.
“They replied that the funds received were for sale of a property purchased by the sender,” he said.
According to him, he immediately responded that it was not so as claimed by the holder of the recipient’s account, as he never purchased any property.
He said that upon pressing further for the recall, the recipient’s bank told him that he would need to get a court order within 72 hours, else they will allow him access to the fund.
He told the court that he immediately contacted his lawyer, who reached out to the EFCC and also went to court.
He said: “I also tried to reach out to the owner of the account (Young Alhaji Foundation) that the said fund in his account was transferred to access FOREX and that we were yet to receive the said sum.
“He then mentioned to me that he is not aware of my transaction, but that I should reach out to my accountant. He said as far as he was concerned, payment made to him was for debt owed to him, and that the total debt owed him was $12 million. He said the N950 million was part payment, and that a large corporation he deals with was going to give him $7 million cash.”
He testified further that Fawaz later confirmed to him that the money was received but that the fund was blocked in the receiver’s account, and that his “bosses were angry” at the development and so will not be going on with the transaction.
“I reached out to Alhaji Usman Abubakar and pleaded with him, that I would allow the lien to be taken off once I received the Dollar equivalent as expected,” he said.
He informed the court that he was later informed by his lawyer that Alhaji Abubakar, in fact, had taken First Bank to court in Abuja for declining him access to the fund, and was asking the court to order the bank to release the money to him.
“I called him and he confirmed,” he said.
The witness told the court that his lawyers afterwards petitioned the EFCC.
He identified the said petition, which was a bundle of documents, including the printout of the email correspondence, the printout of several WhatsApp conversations with both Fawaz and Abubakar, and a flash drive containing the phone conversations with both Fawaz and Abubakar.
They were all admitted in evidence as Exhibits P to P2.
Thereafter, the counsel for the first defendant, Olatubosun Olanipekun, SAN, prayed the court for an adjournment, saying that he needed documents from his client, who was only able to meet his bail conditions on the 25th of April 2023.
“With due respect, we have not had time to meet him, and I need documents from him to conduct the matter,” he said.
Counsel for Young Alhaji Foundation, G.C. Ugwulweze, also pleaded for an adjournment, arguing that he was coming in fresh into the matter.
“We were only briefed before the public holiday,” he said.
The case has been adjourned till June 13, 16, 19 and 23, 2023 for continuation of trial