Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt
A Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt presided over by Justice Boma Diepiri, has ruled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has the statutory powers to investigate the allegations of fraud made against Chief Clement Ibeto and his companies by the Executive Chairman of Dozzy Group of Companies, Sir Daniel Chukwudozie.
In a ruling on the fundamental rights enforcement action filed at the court by Chief Clement Ibeto, who alleged that he was detained by the operatives of the EFCC when he honoured their invitation at Abuja, the court held that the EFCC is vested with the statutory powers to investigate the allegations of fraud relating to title documents in respect of a failed land transaction between Ibeto and Chukwudozie; and that the court would not hastily interfere with the statutory powers of law enforcement agencies in the exercise of their statutory right to investigate alleged offences and detain where necessary for proposes of such investigations.
The court further held that fraud is a ground for vitiating a judgment of court in demonstration of the seriousness attached by the law to fraud and that the fact that Ibeto denies the allegations of fraud made against him in the petition, makes it more compelling for the EFCC to investigate the allegation with a view of establishing the truth.
Recall that Ibeto had brought an originating summons application at the Rivers State High Court seeking a perpetual injunction against the EFCC and Chukwudozie from further arresting, instigating his arrest, intimidating and harassing him upon the facts and matters involving the sale of land transaction for a parcel of land situate at Reclamation Layout Phase II, Port Harcourt, Rivers State to Chukwudozie and his company.
Chukwudozie and his company had earlier petitioned the EFCC over a case of obtaining by false pretense, fraudulent conversion of property, criminal breach of trust, forgery and deception in respect of a failed land transaction between himself and Ibeto wherein he had made a deposit of approximately N4,801,000, in naira and dollars denominations, before he discovered fundamental discrepancies in the title documents given to him by Ibeto, which varied with the counterpart copies of the same title documents at the Lands Registry office in Port Harcourt.
He, therefore, requested the EFCC to intervene in the matter by causing an investigation of the criminal complaints against Ibeto and his companies.
Ibeto filed a fundamental rights enforcement action against EFCC to stop investigation.
In a related development, another high court of Rivers State presided by Justice C. Nwogu had in another suit struck out the application of Ibeto seeking to refund the judgment debt of N3.2 billion awarded against him in favour of Chukwudozie by installments. That application was opposed by Chukwudozie’s counsel who drew the attention of the court to Ibeto’s deposition on oath to being amongst the first six richest Nigerians in United State dollars.