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Enugu Assembly probes non-prosecution of Fraudulent Syndicate

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…Syndicate allegedly defrauded Ekwueme, AVM Alfa, others

THE Enugu State House of Assembly has commenced inquiry into the failure of successive administrations in the State to prosecute persons indicted by a State Judicial Commission of Inquiry into alleged fraudulent activities in the State’s Ministry of Land and Housing between 1993 and 1999.

The probe by the House of Assembly is sequel to a petition by an Enugu-based civil society organization (CSO), the Centre for the Advancement of Literacy and Leadership (CALL), calling on it to direct the Attorney-General of the State, Mr. Miletus Eze, to prosecute those indicted by the Enugu State Government White Paper on the Enugu State Judicial Commission of Enquiry into Land Allocations and Other Related Matters from 1st January 1994 to May 1999 chaired by the former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezulike.

The CSO recalled that the White Paper indicted an Enugu-based lawyer, Barrister Tagbo Ike and three others of allegedly faking tax receipts and land documents to defraud the government and unsuspecting members of the public.

According to a copy of the White Paper presented, “The Commission found that there existed a close-knit fraudulent syndicate, which operated in the Ministry of Land and Housing between 1993 and 1999. That the syndicate specialized in faking (forging) tax receipts and certificates, notices of revocations, letters of allocation, etc. The syndicate specialized in dispossessing people of their land allocations through the above mechanism….

“It observed that the gang had, among other activities, used one tax receipt in their respective names to secure allocation of plots of land between 1994 and 1999.

“The Commission, therefore, recommended that the Hon. Attorney-General/Commissioner for Justice should prosecute the above-named members of the syndicate for fraud and that he also prosecutes for offences disclosed by other applications, particularly the presentment of fraudulent Tax Clearance Certificates”.

Barrister Tagbo Ike’s file number, according to the White Paper, is identified by the White Paper as LEN: 19470, while the number of the single tax receipt he allegedly used in securing plots of land between 1994 and 1999 for several people is given as 004396.

Prime victims of their alleged illegal acts include Late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, AVM Ibrahim Alfa (Rtd), Late Hon. Justice Augustine Nnamani, and Col Patrick Anwuna (Rtd).

Executive Director of CALL, Ikechukwu Oji, told the Committee that his group was concerned that indicted persons had been shielded from justice for nearly 20 years.

However, the Attorney-General, Mr. Miletus Eze, informed the Committee that his Office was still searching for the White Paper as it was issued long before he assumed office.

He explained his office could only possibly prosecute the indicted persons after studying the document.

The Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Public Petitions, Ethics and Privileges, Hon. Philip Nnamani, and other members of the Ad Hoc Committee treating the CSO’s petition, expressed surprised at the Attorney-General’s excuse.

“I would have been more comfortable if you told us that you had gone through the White Paper and that there was no prima facie case against the indicted persons than to tell us that the White Paper was thrown into the dustbin after taxpayers’ money was spent on a Commission of Inquiry”, Chairman of the House Committee on Works, Land, and Housing, Hon. Chima Obieze told the Attorney-General.

The Committee has asked the Attorney-General to immediately fetch both the full report and the White Paper and report back in a few days time.

Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Philip Nnamani, has however, assured that justice would be done.

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