By Ifeanyi Okolie
FOR impersonating Nigeriaâ€™s former military head of state, General Ibrahim Badamosi Bababginda (Rtd) and the immediate past Inspector-General of Police Mike Okiro, aÂ 38-year- old suspected fraudstar who identified himself as Chief Sam Nwankwo is presently telling operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) all his tricks in defrauding an Abidjan based businessman simply identified as Mr. Collins of a whopping $243.000 (about N36.09m)
Chief Nwankwo, an alleged member of an international fraud syndicate, had paraded himself as the Ogbuefi of Okpossi in Ohaozarra, Ebonyi State, before he met the Abidjan based 57-year-old businessman; having met other members of the syndicate identified as MessrsÂ Michael Adekunle, Kadjo Aneje in far away Cote Dâ€™ Ivore.Â Mr. Collins was reported to had lived in the country for the past 20 years.
Like somebody hypnotized, the fraudstars had gone to the victim with a proposal to help him secure a soft loan to the tune of $2.5m at five per cent interest rate to enable him expand his busisness. The victim who deals in petroleum products was said to have expressed excitement over the â€˜good gestureâ€™ and accepted to collect the loan from one of the syndicate named Adekunle who was introduced to him as a United States of America-based physician.
The deal was incidentally perfected by Mr. Kadjo, a long time friend of the victim.Â Â He was promptly informed that the loan was already secured and to convince his prey, he was shown documents to that effect.Â But the victim was told that the moneyÂ Â could only be accessed afterÂ the sum of $23,000 was paid as commitment fee. This the victim was reported to have complied and paid the sum.
After that initial payment, Mr. Collins who expected the loan after the payment was shocked when he was told that the money was in a Swiss vault and that since the money had been idle, a total sum of $100,000 would be required to service the account.Â Â Desperate to secure the loan, the victim paid again.Â Â Not satisfied, the fraudstars demanded for additional $60,000 and promised that the expenses would be deducted from the loan.
After a while, Mr.Adekunle again told the victim that the fund actually belonged to one Chief Sam Nnamani and that for Chief Nnamani to release the money, the victim had to pay another $60,000 as agreement fee; assuring that within two days the loan would be paid to him. Again, the victim complied and paid.
Victim alerts EFCC
But instead of paying the loan, the story changed again.Â Â Adekunle told the victim once more, that the money actually belonged to one late Justice Okeke (nee Nnamani), the sister to Chief Nnamani and that the Judge was poisoned because she used Nnamani as her next -of- kin. At this juncture the primes suspect, Chief Nwankwo emerged from the shadows, to play his part in this brazen script of trickery.
He introduced himself as a younger brother to Chief Nnamani and late Justice Okeke and promised to use his influence and connection in the vicious circle to help him secure the loan. After the Abidjan drama, the victim who reportedly hails from Delta State was invited to Nigeria ostensibly to facilitate the release of the loan.
But by this time, the victim had started smelling a rat and wasted not time to alert the EFCC.Â As the suspects attempted to siphon more money from the victim, operatives of the anti-graft agency were on ground and subsequently rounded him up.
Spokesman for the Commission Mr.Â Femi Babafemi while reacting to the fraud,Â said, the suspectÂ when confronted with these facts, claimed that he only collected $3,900 from the victim in two installments and that the money was meant for his transportation to Abidjan.
â€œHe confessed that he promised to introduce the victim to one Alhaji Attah who would have given the victim the loan he wanted but regretted that the victim could not meet the condition for granting the loan. He explained that he was to be paid $7,500 as commission for introducing the victim to the said Alhaji Attah.â€
When the house of the prime suspect was searched, the EFCC operatives recovered, â€œ framed computer generated photographs he claimed to have snapped with prominent Nigerians like General Ibrahim Babangida and the former Inspector-General of Police Mr. Mike Okiro and others.â€
According to Femi Babafemi, the suspect who is a resident of Enahoro Street, Lekki Phase 1 in Lagos, also confessed that he showed the photographs to the victim in order to convince him that he was well connected and influential.
â€œWhen askedÂ how he came about the photographs, he claimed that the one he snapped with Okiro was taken in 2006, when Okiro was honoured at a reception in Night Shift Coliseum, Ikeja, Lagos; while the one with Babangida was purportedly taken in 2006 when he went with his group, Nigeria Youths Organization to persuade IBB to contest the presidential election in 2007.
But looking at the photographs critically, it was discovered that he super-imposed his picture on those of the prominent Nigerians to appear as if he knew them intimately in order to convince his preys to part with their money, having already dropped the names of these prominent Nigerians.â€
Continuing, Mr. Babafemi said, â€œOther items recovered from the suspect include multiple identity cards with different names and titles. In all the identity cards, he was decked in wig and gown, suggesting that he was a practising lawyer.Â He even identifies himself as Barrister Nwankwo, in his ECOWAS passport. He wrote legal practitioner against the column for profession. In yet another of his identity cards, he called himself Honourable Sam .N. Nwankwo and the organization he represents as Sustainable Nigeria Youth Coalition. The other card bears Anti-Apartheid and Crime Bureau of which he is the Zonal coordinator.
On why he was dropping the name of prominent Nigerians, he said that he wanted to be great. He claimed to be a Law student of the National Open University (NOUN) Akoka, which was why he was wearing wig and addressing himself as a barrister.
But when he was asked his faculty at the University he said he was in the faculty of criminal law. He also confessed that he was a used car dealer and foodstuff seller at Oshodi, before veering intoÂ fraud.â€