The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Thursday January 17, 2013 arraigned Eugene Okpala, a retired Colonel, before the Federal High Court, Enugu on a seven count charge of forgery, and obtaining money under false pretences.
Okpala and others (still at large) in August 2008 allegedly conspired and sold a parcel of land at Independence Layout, Enugu belonging to Chief Philip Asiodu to Dominion City Church for N34million (thirty four million naira).
The Church which petitioned the Commission claimed it bought the land after inquiries at the Ministry of Lands indicated that the proprietary rights to the land originally leased to Asiodu by the government in 1977 had been transferred to Col. Okpala (rtd). Based on this information, the Church negotiated and bought the property from Col. Okpala for N34m plus a five percent agency fee. The transaction was allegedly funded on behalf of the church by Bank PHB Plc (now Keystone Bank Limited).
The money was to be paid in three installments but Col. Okpala claimed he was owing a certain 'Chief' who had the original document to the land the sum of N14m and that the 'chief' will only release the document if he is paid, An agreement was reached to pay the money and Col. Okpala invited the "Chief" to Bank PHB where N14m was paid to him. Col. Okpala asked for an additional N1m which was given to him.
Thereafter, Col. Okpala disappeared.
In 2010 the church tried to develop the property but was stopped by Asiodu's attorney who informed them that the property was never sold to anyone. Investigations later revealed that the documents which Col. Okpala claimed were given to him by Chief Asiodu were forged.
One of the charges against the accused reads: "that you, Eugene Okpala and Christ Onu, Emeka, Dr Maduabuchi and others (all still at large), sometime in August 2008 at Enugu conspired to commit offence by obtaining money under false pretense and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 8(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act 2006 and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act"".
Okpala pleaded not guilty to all seven count charge.
The prosecuting counsel, M. H. Ibekwute then asked the court to remand the accused in prison and fix a date for the commencement of trial. An oral bail application by the defense counsel, J. E. Orji was rejected by the trial judge, Justice M. Shuaibu who ordered that the accused be remanded in EFCC custody and adjourned proceedings to January 22, 2013 for commencement of trial.
Media & Publicity Unit
18th January, 2013