The trial of one Bolarinwa Abiodun, a self-professed Army General on a 13-count charge bordering on obtaining money by false pretence, forgery of documents, and possession of documents containing false pretence involving an alleged N266,500,000 fraud continued on Friday, May 6, 2022 before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of a Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos with the Court admitting more evidence against him through the fourth witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The defendant whose bail was on April 25, 2022 refused by the court as he was ruled as constituting a flight-risk, is being prosecuted by the Lagos Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on offences contrary to Section 1 (3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offences Act 2006; Section 363 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015 and Section 6 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offences Act No 14 of 2006, respectively.
He was first arraigned on April 11, 2022 and he pleaded “not guilty” to all the charges.
One of the counts reads: “Bolarinwa Oluwasegun Abiodun, between 15th June, 2020 and 31st December 2020 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, with intent to defraud and whilst holding yourself out as a General in the Nigerian Army, obtained the sum of N111,400,000 from Kodef Clearing Resources Limited, under the pretence that the sum represented part of the amount expended to “press and process” your incoming appointment by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, as the CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF of the Nigerian Army, which pretence you knew to be false.”
Another count reads: “Bolarinwa Oluwasegun Abiodun, sometime in May 2020 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, knowingly forged LETTER OF APPOINTMENT AS CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF dated 20th May 2020 and purported the said document to have emanated from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which document you know to be false.”
Testifying as the forth prosecution witness, Buhari Bello Kobi, an operative of the EFCC involved in the investigation, narrated how the EFCC received petition against the defendant who in the guise of being an Army General defrauded his victim of N266,500,000.
Led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, he told the Court that the EFCC received the petition sometime in November 2021 and the investigating team immediately swung into action by carrying out surveillance activities, which led to the arrest of the defendant on January 12, 2022.
He said: “Attached to the petition was a letter [purportedly] signed by President Muhammadu Buhari addressed to the defendant for the appointment addressed to the defendant and also Certificate of Confirmation as the new incoming Chief of Army Staff and invitation for inauguration as COAS all sent to the petitioner via WhatsApp.
“We further gathered intelligence through surveillance and on 12th of January 2022, the suspect was arrested at his residence at Alagbado, Lagos.
“In the course of the search several items were recovered from his house, including six pump action guns, three cartridge bullets, a swagger stick, a military ID card with the passport photo of the defendant and his name as General Bolarinwa and several forged documents were recovered from him with several photographs of him in military uniform.”
According to him, four vehicles were also recovered from his house including one hilux, one range rover, one land cruiser, and one other vehicle with OBJ1 as its number plate.
Thereafter, he said the investigating team wrote to relevant authorities including the State House, Defence Headquarters to ascertain the genuineness of the documents. He said letters of investigation activities were also written to First Bank of Nigeria Plc, where the account of the defendant was domiciled, as well as Zenith Bank and UBA where the accounts of the victim were domiciled.
He thereafter confirmed Exhibit A, which was already before the Court as the petition, and identified the responses received from First Bank, UBA and Zenith Bank which were already before the Court as exhibits.
Thereafter, he identified the letter of investigation activities written to the Chief of Defence, the Chief of Army Staff, the State House, as well as their responses.
The prosecution thereafter sought to tender them in evidence against the defendant and there was no objections raised by the defence counsel, Kayode Lawal.
Thereafter, Justice Taiwo admitted the EFCC letter to the COAS as Exhibit F; response from Nigeria Army Headquarters as Exhibit G; EFCC letter to Chief of Staff to the President as Exhibit H; response from the State House as Exhibit J; EFCC letter to the Chief of Defence as Exhibit K; response from Defence Headquarters Ministry of Defence as Exhibit L.
The search warrant used to execute the search on his house was also admitted in evidence as Exhibit N.
Five photographs recovered from his house in which he was wearing army uniform posing as a General were also tendered in evidence and admitted as Exhibit N to N 4; photographs of him posing with other military officers were admitted in evidence as Exhibit N5 to N7; photographs of him in mufti were admitted in evidence as Exhibit N8 to N15; photo of the late Sani Abacha and late MKO Abiola recovered from his house was admitted as Exhibit N16; an ID card of the Nigerian Army with the defendant’s photo as Brigadier General Abiodun Bolarinwa with July 15, 2022 as expiry date was also admitted as Exhibit O.
Testifying on the ID card, the witness told the Court that the response from the Nigeria Army Headquarters indicated that the defendant was not a military officer as he posed to be.
He read from the response from the Army thus: “Available record in the Nigerian Army revealed that there is no serving or retired officer bearing the name Brigadier General Abiodun Bolarinwa and the number on the ID card, N/30779 does not exist in the Nigerian Army database.
“Additionally, the name Oluwasegun Bolarinwa Hassan, does not exist in the Nigerian Army database.
“In view of the foregoing, the two persons in question are not personnel of the Nigerian Army.”
According to the witness, the defendant was confronted with the ID card, and he confessed that he forged the ID card.
The prosecution also tendered in evidence the statements made to investigators in the presence of his lawyer during the course of investigation and they were admitted in evidence as Exhibit P1 to P22. Several other items were also admitted in evidence against him by the Court including a file jacket and several documents in which the defendant held himself out as a military officers.
The witness further testified that the responses from the CDS, COAS and Chief of Staff, indicated that the said letter of appointment as COAS “did not emanate from the Presidency, same with the Certificate of Confirmation and purported inauguration invitation card”.
The witness also testified that investigation showed several transfers from the victim to the bank account of the defendant; he also confirmed that the defendant effected a change of name on the account from Hassan Kareem Ayinde to Olusegun Abiodun Bolarinwa.
The case has been adjourned till June 2 and 3, 2022 for continuation of trial.