By Alex Enumah
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday, ordered the remand of a businessman, Paul Ozigbu, at the Kuje Correctional Center over alleged forgery, criminal conspiracy and illegal conversion of properties.
The order for his remand was shortly after his arraignment on a 12-count charge filed against him by the Nigeria Police Force.
Ozigbu, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CR/239/2020, is specifically accused of forging Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) documents and conversion of family properties into personal use, amongst others.
He was accused with others at large at different times of obtaining various sums of money totally N10.40 billion with fraudulent documents.
He however pleaded not guilty to all the charges read out to him.
Having pleaded not guilty, the prosecution counsel, J. Nwadike, prayed the court to fix a date for commencement of trial and to also remand the defendant in prison custody.
In his response, counsel to the defendant, Hope Ejiofor, informed the court of a bail application for the defendant dated November 23, 2020.
However, in a short ruling, the trial judge, Justice Abang, said he has no jurisdiction to entertain the bail application filed before the arraignment of the defendant.
The judge said the court has jurisdiction only to entertain bail application that is filed after the arraignment of a defendant.
He said: “The bail application dated November 13 is incompetent and thereby struck out.”
Abang said the defendant’s counsel ought to have argued the bail application orally than filing it before arraignment.
He therefore ordered that the defendant be remanded at the Correctional Center until February 3, 2021,when the trial will commence or pending when a new bail application is filed.
The defendant was accused in the 12-count charge of conniving with others at large to forge a CAC document by forging the signature of late Hillary Ozigbu and used same to effect the change of directors of the company, known as Ozigbu Engineering Company Limited.
He was also alleged to have illegally converted the property and assets of late Ozigbu within Nigeria and overseas to himself.
In one of the counts, he was said to have converted 67 hectares of land in Imo State and another 109 hectares of land at Eleme, Rivers State to himself, thereby denying others their legitimate shares of their father’s property.
Ozigbu was also accused of using a forged Power of Attorney to obtain the sum of N40 million and to have in 2014 used the forged document to obtain a property worth N5 billion said to belong to Ozigbu Engineering Limited.
In another count, he was accused of obtaining a heavy duty equipment worth N5 billion belonging to the late father’s company.
Hearing is fixed for February 3, 2021.