Court Orders Release Of Suspects Detained Over Alleged N54m Fraud.
A federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital has ordered the state police command to release the former Chairman of Ikwo local government area in the state, Chief Moses Onyema Nwekoyo and Nwabueze Alegu who have been in detention for weeks over alleged conspiracy/forgery and advance fee fraud.
The state police command, had on October 28, 2023 paraded Nwabueze Alegu and Moses Onyema Nwekoyo for allegedly defrauding one Emmanuel Ede Nnaji from Enugu State the sum of N54million.
The State Police Public Relations Officer, SP Onome Onovwakpoyeya told journalists that Nwabueze, his wife Chinyere and Nwekoyo committed conspiracy/forgery and advance fee fraud by selling people’s land.
“This is a case of conspiracy/forgery of title document and advance fee fraud, reported through a written petition against the suspect, one Alegu Chinyere, Alegu Nwabueze and Moses Onyema.
“Forged title document were recovered from them, they defrauded Mr. Emmanuel Nnaji Ede of Enugu state the sum of fifty four million naira(N54,000.000) and twenty one million three hundred and ninety thousand naira9N21,390,000) was recovered from Alegu Nwabueze’s bank account”, she stated.
But Alegu and Nwekoyo denied any involvement in land fraud saying that they genuinely transacted land business with relevant documents and described allegations against them as untrue.
Since that 28 October, the duo has been in police custody prompting their Lawyer, Bar. Godffery Chika Ogbuinya to approach a federal high court sitting in Abakaliki the state capital for enforcement of their fundamental human rights in a suit no FHC/AI/CS/197/2023.
The State Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Augustina Ogbodo, SP Fabian Iloabanafor, Inspector Cghukwudi Okpara the IPO on the matter, Emmanuel Ede Nnaji, Obinna Agu and Chief Celestine Okah are the defendants in the suit.
The court presided by Justice H. A Nganjiwa in an ex parte order, ordered the police command to unconditionally release Chief Moses Onyema Nwekoyo and Nwabueze Alegu forthwith from detention facility pending the determination of the substantive suit.
“That an order is made that the Respondents grant the Apllicant bail on such terms and conditions as they deem fit or charge him to the appropriate court with competent jurisdiction for whatever offence he has committed if any.
“That alternatively, it is hereby ordered that the Respondents produce the Applicant before this court on the next adjourned date to come and show cause why the Applicant should not be released on bail.
“That the matter is adjourned to 22nd of November, 2023 for hearing”, the ex parte order a copy of which was obtained by New Telegraph dated 16th November, 2023 stated.
Addressing journalists in Abakaliki, counsel to Chief Moses Onyema Nwekoyo and Nwabueze Alegu, accused the police command of disobeying the court order by not release the suspects or charging them to court.
He said “this is over a matter pending at the federal high court, Abakaliki wherein the Commissioner of Police in thye state and O/C in charge of Monitoring and Surveillance arrested Onyema Nwekoyo and Nwabuze Alegu and kept them in detention facility for close to 50 days now as against their fundamental human right whereby the law says that in section 35 and section 36 that within 48 hours that a suspect arrested by the police should be charged to court.
“We have a state high court, we have a magistrate court and we have a federal high court and they have refused to charge these named persons for an alleged offence of forgery, ordinary forgery which has not been proved by any court.
“We have gone there for over and over, they collected N850,000 from Mrs. Chinyere Alegu the wife to Nwabueze, collected N1million from Onyema Nwekoyo as administrative bail and further re-arrested him and have kept in their deteition facility for a period getting to 50 days now.
“On the 17th of this month, I went to court to enforce their rights and the court graciously granted an application and ordered for their unconditional release and up till date, the police has blatantly and neglected to release these people as against the court order.
“The court also said if the police refused to release them, they should produce them before the court on Wednesday and that is 22nd of this month.
“The reason why Nigerian youths went to protest against Endsars is still going on in Ebonyi State. A situation whereby innocent citizens of Ebonyi State are arrested, kept in detention for days without allowing their relations to see them, is a against the law.
“ They are trampling on human right, they trampling on people’s right, violating people’s right , fragrantly abusing them and we are calling on the authorities to obey the law of the land, they are not above the law of the land.
“The CP and O/C monitoring and Surveillance are not above the law, they have to obey the law and order of the court and unconditionally release Moses Onyema Nwekoyo and Nwabueze Alegu”.
He threatened that if after Wednesday this week, the police command fail to release or produce the suspects, he will initiate a contempt proceeding against the police.
“Failure to do this, we are going to initiate a contempt proceeding against the police. After Wednesday if they fail to release them or produce them before the court, we will file a contempt proceeding and send the CP and the O/C monitoring and surveillance for disobeying the order of the court.
“If they are not hiding anything, why have they refused to charge these people to court? That’s the fundamental question begging for an answer now. Why are they shying away from charging them to court? You arrested a person and said that the person has committed and offence, charge that person to court and you have refused to do so. Or release them.
“We are calling on the IGP to order the CP to release these people and also conform to the law of the land. The law says within 48 hours, you need to charge these people to court but now, they are keeping them for almost 50 days as against 48 hours stipulated by the law.
“So, we are appealing to the IGP to prevail on the CP here to abide by the tenets of of our law, that’s our humble appeal. We wrote to the IGP monitoring team and they came here for transfer and the IGP approved the transfer.
“The team came here to take over the file, the CP said that she has an interest in this case and she cannot release the file. She also went ahead and told the IGP monitoring team that she has concluded an investigation, that she was going to charge this matter to court two weeks ago and two weeks has gone and still counting yet she has refused to charge the matter to court and refused to hand over the case file”, stated
On what the suspects are being detained for in the police, Ogbuinya said “what actually led to this unlawful arrest and detention was that Hon. Onyema Moses Nwekoyo was approached by his friend, one Emmanuel Ede the CEO of Elohim Aluminium company and requested that he should get him a land in Abakaliki here for him to extend the branch of his company here in Eboinyi State.
“That request was granted and Hon.Nwekoyo contacted an agent who finally got a land that fits the location Emmanuel Ede wanted. They gave him the power of Attorney of the land and Hon. Onyema Nwekoyo Moses started making an inquiry and finally got the person who owns that land which is Mrs. Chinyere Alegu.
“The contract was sealed. Onyema Nwekoyo introduced the CEO of Elohim Aluminium to the owner of the land which is Mrs. Chinyere Alegu and the husband, Nwabueze and the transaction was successful.
“Then, Emmanuel Ede the CEO of Elohim Aluminum went into the land and started doing fencing. The elder brother to Chienyere Alegu by name, Obinna Agu stormed the land and started destroying the perimeter fencing they are doing.
“From there, they wrote a petition to DPO Central Police Station(CPS), Abakaliki. When the DPO looked at the case, he said oh, this is a land matter and police don’t delve into land matter, beside the parties that are involved are family members, they should go home and settle.
“Consequent upon that, they now went home for settlement. But after a week interval, they went back to continue the work. The same Obinna came to disrupt the work. Then, Emmanuel Ede the CEO of Elohim Aluminum now called the CP who is incidentally is from the same village with him.
“It was the CP who transferred the case to O/C monitoring team who is also from the same village with the buyer. So, that’s how this matter came up and they now came up and started alleging that there was fraud, there was forgery.
“In the course of my coming into this matter, I made the O/C monitoring and surveillance to understand that he is thriving into two illegalities. One is that the Act that established police does not give them the power or the right to investigate title to land, it is not the power of the police to investigate who owns the land.
“Secondly, the idea that the police went to the account of Nwabueze and transferred the sum of millions of naira, they forcefully transferred this money from the account of Nwabueze to an unknown Alhaji at Ogbe Hausa here wherein they went there and collected the money.
“That is the height of illegality . There was no court order to that effect and they have no such right , they have no such right to do that without court order. Police is not a debt recovery agent.
“Assuming that they are saying that they want to retrieve the money from the man who bought the land, we are saying that police is not a recovery agent. There are plethora of supreme court authority that say police is not a debt recovery agent.
“We have filed enforcement of fundamental human right proceeding and one of the prayers we ask the court is that the court should order them to refund that money they forcefully and illegally collected from Nwabueze’s account. That’s one of the reliefs we have asked the court”.