The fight for bail for a 22-year-old youth whose parents live in Abuja has ended. Verdict: Salihu Ibrahim, son of Nasiru Ibrahim, director, of the National Agriculture Biotechnology Development Agency, Abuja, would remain behind bars till March 2023 to await the verdict of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
This is because a Chief Magistrate sitting in Port Harcourt said it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the criminal matter brought before it.
It is a case of a foreign exchange racket that ended up in crisis.
The dark-complexioned man was nabbed by the police in Port Harcourt in a racket involving N15million for procurement of US Dollars in a foreign exchange deal.
The pressure was said to mount on the police and all those involved to get the accused person out of detention and off the case.
The accused faced trial at the Port Harcourt Chief Magistrate Court 10 presided over by A.O. Amadi-Nna where battle for bail raged unsuccessfully.
According to a charge sheet made available to newsmen, Ibrahim is accused of obtaining the N15m from one Grace Ogolo to help her change it at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to Dollars at government rate, but did not change it and did not return the money since July 2022.
The charge sheet prepared 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.
Count Two alleged that Ibrahim forged Police Identity Card to be regarded as a police officer. The prosecution said other forgeries would be unveiled as the case would progress.
When the case was called up on Monday, January 16, 2023, for bail, the defence team led by Leticia Mukoro, quoted Section 18 of Magistrate Court Law of 2004 which she said empowered the court to grant bail to the accused.
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Mukoro said the Supreme Court position was that as long as the case did not have capital punishment, bail could be granted by the Chief Magistrate.
She mentioned that there was an existing relationship between the defendant and complainant who she said knew that Ibrahim was not a staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or Bureau De Change (BDC) to expect him to change money into foreign exchange. She also said settlement of the case was underway, and that the accused was a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who should be allowed to go out and serve his fatherland.
The prosecutor however immediately opposed the bail plea.
Supporting the opposition for bail, Benjamin Awuse, the oversight counsel for the complainant, said the statement by the accused had admitted committing the listed offences.
He said further particulars of the charge indicated that serious felony was committed by forging police identity and forging a university degree with which Ibrahim wants to serve in the NYSC.
The counsel told the court that the accused may not come back to the court because of other things to be revealed when trial commences.
Above all, he said, the court did not have jurisdiction to grant bail.
On hope for settlement, he said the parties were not discussing such a thing.
In an interview outside the court, Awuse told court reporters that calls placed by the victim to the father of the accused, Nasiru Ibrahim; Director: National Agriculture Biotechnology Development Agency, Abuja, were ignored and that calls to his mother also were not accepted.
The counsel said there was no basis to think of granting bail in the prevailing circumstances. “The particulars of the offence do not support bail, e.g., he is suspected to have impersonated the police by allegedly forging an identity card of the police. Under a felony, you do not say you have settled with the victim of your actions.
“There is suspected forgery of a university degree (as part of particulars of the accusations against him). He is likely operating with others and is likely to abscond to faraway countries. The NYSC papers arising from the allegedly forged university degree are therefore not acceptable because you cannot put something on nothing.”
The Chief Magistrate fixed January 23, 2023, for ruling on bail application. On the day, the Chief Magistrate agreed with the police prosecution that he did not have jurisdiction.
Ruling on the case, Amadi-Nna held that count one falls under federal laws bothering on advance fee fraud and that his court therefore lacks Jurisdiction to grant bail.
The Court also held that on count two, the matter would be referred to Director of Public Prosecutor for advice on March 9, 2023.
The chief magistrate also admitted that the amount involved in the case is so humongous that he could not grant bail.
Speaking to journalists outside the court room counsel to the complainant, Benjamin Awuse, expressed delight over the ruling.
Awuse maintained that his client was ready for settlement as long as she would get her N15million back.