A prosecution witness has told the Federal High Court in Abuja how a former registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Dibu Ojerinde, allegedly acquired choice assets through cronies while in office.
Peter Oyewole, who said he served as Mr Ojerinde’s personal lawyer at the time, appeared in court on Wednesday as the first prosecution witness in the N5.2 billion fraud case filed against the former JAMB chief.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) had arraigned Mr Ojerinde in July 2021 on 18 counts involving diversion of N5.2 billion in public funds.
According to the anti-corruption agency, Mr Ojeride committed the offences when he was the registrar of the National Examination Council (NECO) till his time as JAMB’s chief executive.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that multi-billion-naira worth of assets allegedly linked to the proceeds of the alleged fraud were confiscated from him by the ICPC in April 2020.
Assets seized from him included schools, filling stations, and houses located in different parts of Ilorin in Kwara State, Ibadan and Ogbomoso in Oyo State, Ile Ife in Osun State, and Abuja.
On Tuesday, Mr Ojerinde, requested his trial to be postponed for 24 hours to discuss a possibility of entering into a plea agreement with the ICPC.
But the trial had to proceed after the prosecuting counsel, Ebenezer Shogunle, announced the collapse of the plea-bargain talks on Wednesday.
Mr Shogunle did not disclose the details of the propositions by the parties. Lawyers to both parties were also unwilling to disclose the details of the talks after the proceedings.
First prosecution witness’ testimony
Mr Oyewole, who was called to the witness box after the talks breakdown was announced on Wednesday. He told the court how he assisted Mr Ojerinde to incorporate companies and purchase assets while serving as the ex-JAMB chief’s lawyer.
The witness said Mr Ojerinde floated eight companies, purchased three buildings and bank shares through his cronies during his time in office.
“In 2008 the defendant resumed a new assignment in Abuja as the Registrar of JAMB after the expiration of his term as the Registrar of NECO.
“He came with two of his former staff at NECO to resume in Abuja and they needed houses. I bought two duplexes and a bungalow at EFAB Properties Ltd.
“The properties were still under construction. And so, I was instructed by the defendant (Mr Ojerinde) to purchase in the name of my firm with a follow-up on the properties until their completion according to specification.
“On the instruction of the defendant, I gave the original title documents to the defendant’s son, Hon. Olumide Ojerinde (now a serving member of the House of Representatives) on August 3, 2012,” Mr Oyewole told the court.
The eight firms allegedly incorporated by the defendant are Oke-Afin Boys and Girls Hostel Limited, Sapati International School, Doyin Ogbohi Petroleum Limited, Cheng Marbles Limited, Standout Institute Limited, Trillion Learning Center Limited, Grace Petroleum Limited and Ifelodun Communications Limited.
Certificates of Incorporation for the companies and title documents of the three buildings allegedly purchased for Mr Ojerinde in Abuja were tendered and admitted as exhibits by the judge, Obiora Egwuatu.
The prosecution witness who was led in evidence by ICPC’s lawyer, Mr Sogunle, claimed to have been called to the Nigerian bar in 1999. He told Mr Egwuatu that the companies were floated in the names supplied to him by Mr Ojerinde.
He testified that Ojerinde was registered as Director in two of the companies while names of his cronies were used as Directors in the rest adding that he never met any of the cronies at the time he was using their names at the Corporate Affairs Commission.
The ‘cronies’ used to register the companies are: Ojerinde Dayo, Ojerinde Olumide, Awodayo Habib, Adeyanju Gbenga, Ojerinde Olutoyin, Ojerinde Akanbi, Ojerinde Adedayo, Olayiwola Ayanwale and Ibrahim Danmusa, Ojerinde Dibu, Sanusi Alade Najeem among others.
He said that the receipts obtained in the course of transactions for the defendant were received and acknowledged in writing on his behalf by his son, Olumide Ojerinde.
The witness who claimed to be an indigene of the same town, Igboho, with Mr Ojerinde, denied registering companies for the defendant to blackmail him, adding that everything he did was on the instructions of the defendant.
To buttress his claims, the witness tendered 12 letters exchanged between him and the defendant as well as 17 photocopies of bank drafts issued for his payment for the registration of the companies and the purchase of the three buildings.
The 17 photocopies of the bank drafts were allegedly delivered to him by Jimoh Olabisi, a former Director of Finance at JAMB and were admitted as exhibits.
Mr Oyewole further told the court that Mr Ojerinde acquired millions of shares at Osanta Micro-Finance Limited in addition to being a director of the bank at the time he was JAMB registrar.
But Mr Ojerinde’s counsel, Ibrahim Ishyaku, could not cross-examine the witness on the grounds that several documents tendered and admitted as exhibits were not part of the proof of evidence supplied him.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria then applied for an adjournment to enable him to obtain the documents and carefully study them.
Due to the no-objection from the prosecuting lawyer, the judge fixed April 4 and 5 for continuation of trial.