Benjamin Joseph, Managing Director of an Ibadan-based firm, Citadel Oracle Concepts has again petitioned Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); the Nigerian Police and the Attorney General of the Federation over his on-going prosecution by the Police for false petitioning and deceit.
Joseph is also accused of allegedly blackmailing officials of Zinox Technologies Ltd.
His petition arose from a N170 million contract for the supply of HP laptops awarded by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
Findings reveal that Joseph’s prosecution by the Nigerian Police before an Abuja High Court, arose after investigations following his petition in 2013 regarding a business transaction with his authorized representative, Princess Kama and ICT products distributors, Technology Distributions Ltd (TD).
Joseph who had previously petitioned Osinbajo, alleging that his company was used to defraud the Federal Government of over N200m over the non-supply of the said laptops, had recently sent another written petition to the Vice President against the security agencies and the Attorney General’s office.
Investigations reveal that upon receipt of the first petition, the Vice President had immediately minuted it to the appropriate authority – the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for due investigation.
Subsequently, the Procurement Fraud Unit of the EFCC had visited the offices of the FIRS in the course of its investigation and found every unit of the HP laptops supplied with serial numbers nationwide and each unit traced to its respective user.
Further investigations showed the existence of a copy of a Letter of Authority which Joseph issued to the FIRS, with copies of his international passport, accepting the award of the contract for the supply of the HP laptops and appointing his associate, Princess Kama as his authorized representative to handle the transaction.
In addition to the office of the Vice President, Joseph had also petitioned the EFCC, Lagos who investigated and saw no merit in his complaint.
He had then lodged another complaint with the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigerian Police, Ikoyi, alleging that his signature on the board resolution to open an account at Access Bank was forged. The SFU launched an investigation at FIRS offices and confirmed that the laptops were supplied with serial numbers intact.
Also, a forensic analysis showed that the Board resolution documents were not forged but were actually signed by him.
Joseph had also petitioned the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) laying same claims against Princess Kama and TD without informing the DIG that he had earlier reported to the EFCC and SFU, Lagos.
The Police again launched a nationwide investigation which confirmed all items supplied with serial numbers.
When the Police Headquarters discovered that Joseph has wasted their time and limited resources on a false claim, the former Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, arraigned him for deceit and false petitioning at an Abuja court under Charge Number CR/216/16 at the FCT High Court.
Echika Ezuka, Corporate Communications Advisor to Zinox, disclosed that he is constrained to speak about Benjamin’s case as it is still pending before an Abuja High Court, noting that Zinox had also slammed a N2BN defamation suit on Premium Times which the defendant had been using for his campaign of blackmail.
According to Ezuka, Premium Times is yet to file its defense on the defamation case over two months since it was instituted.
“The on-going case for which Joseph is currently being prosecuted is between Citadel Oracle Concepts and another company which our Chairman has shares in. That company is Technology Distributions (TD), the biggest ICT products distributor in Sub-Saharan African representing major IT brands like HP, Lenovo, Dell, Microsoft and many others. TD is a totally different company from Zinox with different directors, shareholders, management team and a different line of business and Zinox was not in any way involved in the transaction.
“Citadel Oracle Concept Limited was one of the many IT resellers awarded a contract to supply HP laptops at FIRS in 2012 but had no funds to execute it and like few others, had approached TD who are authorized HP distributors in Nigeria with the help of his consultant Princess Kama whose Uncle, Chief OnnyIgbokwe has been a long term reseller of TD to assist in supplying the laptops at a pre-agreed invoice value.
“This representative, Princess Kama had previously executed several other bids on his behalf.
“TD does not open bank accounts for contractors seeking to buy from it. TD did not accompany the defendants to open any account. Instead, TD had insisted on protecting its business from indebtedness, and as such, nominated its staff – Mr. Chris EzeOzims and Mrs. Shade Oyebode – to be signatories to an account which the defendant and his representatives had opened for the purpose of disbursement of funds as regards the contract. The forms were brought to TD’s office by the defendant’s representatives and TD had nominated two of its staff as signatories.
“This was solely as security for the laptops supplied on credit and in view of previous bad experiences which had exposed the business to bad loans. Upon payment of the sum for the contract, TD had gone ahead to deduct the invoiced sum of the supplied laptops and had its staff resigned as signatories to the account.
“Contrary to the series of lies and half-truths by the defendant that his company was used to defraud the Federal Government of over N200m, it is worth stating here that a series of investigations by the EFCC, SFU and the Nigerian Police shows that the HP laptops were duly supplied to the FIRS by TD whom his representative had approached to assist with the supply of the items on credit. Also, the FIRS is in possession of documents such as copies of his international passport, photographs and Letter of Authority, accepting the award of the contract for the supply of the HP laptops and appointing Princess Kama as his authorized representative to handle the transaction.
“It is important to note that in the entire transaction leading up to this case, in all the above investigations and reports, Zinox Technologies Ltd. was not in any way involved. The transaction only involved Technology Distributions Ltd. and its staff. Also, Leo Stan Ekeh was not involved in the said transaction and the investigations. It is because of their blackmail intent that Premium Times – the only medium the defendant is using for his nefarious plan – have continued to use photographs of Ekeh and Zinox as the caption for their stories, even when the company has no bearing with the matter.”
Barr. Chijioke Orji, an Abuja-based lawyer expressed disappointment over the long-drawn nature of the case. According to him, the government should step in and ensure that the wheels of justice moves faster in bringing an end to the seemingly unending suit.
“I have followed this story with keen interest since it started about four years ago. I must say I have been very disappointed with the delays in the prosecution of the case. It is unfortunate that there are a lot of things that are wrong with the judicial system.
“Why is the Federal Government wasting tax payers’ money over a case that a number of security agencies has investigated with the same conclusion? After investigations, the EFCC (Lagos and Abuja), the Special Fraud Unit and the office of the Inspector General of Police all have evidence that the HP laptops, which the defendant claimed was used to defraud the Federal Government, were indeed supplied yet we are still hearing that the defendant is now petitioning the Vice President against the same security agencies he initially petitioned.
”From the facts of the matter, it is clear that the defendant (Benjamin Joseph) and Premium Times are clearly looking for a political solution to avoid his prosecution. This makes the claims of blackmail by Zinox even more valid. If, as alleged by the defendant, Zinox Technologies and TD or its officials defrauded the Federal Government by failing to supply the HP laptops awarded by the FIRS, then the various investigations should have proved this.
“Instead, we are seeing a situation where the offices of the FIRS nationwide have been searched several times and the laptops, serial numbers and individual users confirmed. So what does the defendant want? Does he want to receive the N170m for laptops already supplied? What about the payment to the company who supplied the laptop on credit as a gesture of goodwill to his representatives?
“During the last hearing, his previous associate Princess Kama had testified on oath before the court that Joseph was only intent on blackmailing the Zinox Chairman, Leo Stan Ekeh noting that she had documentary proof including a letter of authority signed by him authorizing her to execute the contract on his behalf.
“It is obvious that the defendant, who is currently standing trial for false petitioning and deceit, is deliberately leading the Vice President and the EFCC on a wild goose chase with his endless petitions. It is sad that our justice system can allow such grievous cases to drag interminably,” he concluded.