N4.6bn land scandal: Ibeto group boss drilled in PH court as settlement with Dozy Oil & Gas breaks down

Out-of-court negotiations have broken down and the chairman of Ibeto Group, Cletus Ibeto, has is now in the dock before a Port Harcourt High Court Judge answering questions over N4.6billion he was said to have collected for land from owners of Dozy Oil & Gas Limited.

Background of case

Dozzy Oil & Gas Limited had filed a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) through its lawyers alleging, among others, case of criminal breach of trust involving N4.8billion on a land purchase deal against Cletus Ibeto and his group of companies.

Dozzy had alleged that Ibeto, a close friend of its executive chairman, based on rust, had offered to sell his company’s property situate at NITECO Shipyard Area, Reclamation II Layout, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to Dozzy and had collected an advance deposit ofN4.8Bn from the company.

The petition stated that the company later carried out due diligence only to discover at the land registry in PH only to discover that the portion of land which Ibeto sought to sell to it does not belong to him or his companies, but to Nigeria Technical Company Limited (NITECO).

The petition detailed the location of the land Ibeto was offering as different in identify from the deed and sublease upon verification.

The company further alleged that the copy of Ibeto’s title deeds which it gave to Dozy was different from the counterpart copy in the Port Harcourt Lands Registry.

The company equally alleged that the Rivers State Government ground rent receipts given to it by Ibeto as further evidence of its title to the land, purportedly issued by the Rivers State Inland Revenue Service, was forged, a claim corroborated by the EFCC in its counter-affidavit deposed to by Mohammed Bala, one of the investigating officers in EFCC’s opposition to the fundamental rights enforcement suit.

Read also: Land buyers kick, allege breach of agreement by Lagos government

EFCC had in the counter-affidavit stated that its investigation which extended to the Rivers State Inland Revenue Service raised a strong case of forgery against Ibeto as the River State Inland Revenue Service denied authorship of the revenue collectors receipt given to Dozzy by Ibeto.

The EFCC had stated that it had tried to corner Ibeto to questioning to no avail for a long period, but when they got him to their office in January 2022, he at a point promised to go and bring further particulars, but did not allegedly come back.

Instead, the EFCC stated, Ibeto went to the High Court to enforce his fundamental human rights.

Ibeto ignited Suit No PHC/268/FHR/2022 against Dozzy Oil and Gas Limited as one of the suits trying to fend off allegations of the sale of property not belong to him and other allegations of fraud, breach of trust and forgery against him reported by Dozzy Oil and Gas Limited to EFCC.

In the suit, he had dragged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and Dozzy Oil and Gas Ltd before a court seeking an order to stop the EFCC from arresting and or investigating him whatsoever, in enforcement of his fundamental human right.

It was at this point that efforts were sought to carry out out-of-court settlement which also broke down, warranting the continuation of the case in court.

On the other hand, the police initiated a criminal allegation against Ibeto and his companies that bordered on obtaining N4.6Bn through false pretense from Dozzy Oil in the sale of a large expanse of land situate at Reclamation Phase 2 in Port Harcourt.

It was alleged that Dozzy Oil only found out that Ibeto’s title on the property was contrived, hence, the demand for the refund of about N4.6Bn being accumulated payment and cost of the transaction, which he (Ibeto) declined to refund. Dozzy then petitioned EFCC for recovery of his funds.

Trial resumes

Thus, on Monday, January 30, 2023, a Rivers State High Court Judge, Adolphus Enebeli, put Ibeto, the multi-billionaire businessman, in the dock. This was to enable further cross-examination by the defence counsel, E.C Ukala (SAN), in one of the fallout suits between his companies and Dozzy Oil and Gas Limited.

Ibeto disputed his previous documented evidence and witness deposition that was already before the court.

Under cross examination, the defence counsel, Ukala, asked to know the size of the property in dispute, the location, the original owners from where he derived his title.

Ibeto replied that he needed to see the document to know the particular land the defence counsel was referring to before he could answer the question.

At that moment, a ding dong battle ensued between him and the defence counsel seeking to clarify the document until the judge intervened by reassuring Ibeto that he would suffer no disadvantage to own up.

Ibeto was also unable to tell the court the size of the property in dispute, but he insisted that the land in dispute the one he said he purchased from Bundu-Ama community.

He said he actually bought some land from the Nigerian Ship Builders Limited but it is different from the one at Bundu-Ama.

It was the presiding judge’s intervention that enabled him to accept that the document was in line with his instructions because he had earlier adopted them.

Dozzy Oil’s executive chairman, Daniel Chukwudozie, had alleged that he was approached by Ibeto (the applicant) to purchase a parcel of land situated at Reclamation Layout Phase 11 Port Harcourt, but only to discover that the property did not belong to Chief Ibeto or his companies.

The matter was later adjourned to February 7 and 8, 2023, for continuation of cross examination of Ibeto.

With out-of-court settlement off the radar, the legal fireworks may continue between two friends and Ibeto may continue to stand in the dock to fight for his freedom.

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