No fewer than 30 Bureau de Change operators stormed the Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday in anticipation of the trial of a Nigerian film maker, Olajide Kazeem, alias Seun Egbegbe, who was charged with serial frauds involving N39, 098,100, $90,000 and £12,550.
Egbegbe, was arraigned alongside one Oyekan Ayomide by the police on February 10, 2017 before Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo.
The duo are accused of swindling more than 30 BDC operators of various sums both in local and foreign currencies between 2015 and 2017 in Lagos.
Egbegbe and Ayomide had, however, pleaded not guilty and Justice Oguntoyinbo had on February 24 granted each of them a bail of N5m, while the matter was adjourned till Friday for trial to commence.
When the case was called on Friday, the prosecuting counsel for the police, Mr. Innocent Anyigor, told the judge that the charge sheet had been amended and the counts had been increased from 36 to 40.
He, therefore, prayed the court to allow the charges to be read to the defendants for the purpose of taking their plea.
The judge granted the prayer and Egbegbe and Ayomide were re-arraigned and pleaded not guilty as they had earlier done.
Following the re-arraignment, the defence counsel, Mrs. A.O. Gbadamosi, urged the judge to vary the conditions attached to the bail granted Ayomide because he was only involved in three out of the 40 counts.
In response, the judge said the prayer would be considered later.
The prosecutor then told the judge that he had 30 witnesses in court and he was ready for commencement of trial.
The defence counsel also said she was ready for trial.
But the judge noted that the prosecution witnesses in court were the victims which the defendants allegedly defrauded and not the investigating officers who investigated the case.
She said she preferred for the IPOs to testify first before the BDC operators, on the grounds that the IPOs could be transferred out of Lagos anytime.
“I prefer that anybody in the police that will give evidence in this matter should testify first. They might be transferred and I don’t want to be running after anybody. That’s why I’m not going to start with them (BDC operators) now. I want to take the police first,” the judge said.
She, therefore, adjourned till March 24, 2017 for commencement of trial.
In the charge, marked FHC/L/40c/2017, Egbegbe and Ayomide were accused of defrauding the BDC operators mostly by falsely representing to the victims that they had foreign currencies to sell to the BDC operators.
The police alleged, for instance, that on February 2, 2017, Egbegbe and Ayomide fraudulently obtained the sums of N2.45m and £,3,000 from one Alhaji Isa Adamu in Lagos under the guise that they wanted to sell the naira and buy the pounds.
The other victims of the alleged frauds by Egbede were Mohammed Sanni, who was allegedly defrauded of N2.46m on 2017 New Year day; Jubrila Ado, allegedly defrauded of N1.257m on September 9, 2016; Hassan Amodu, allegedly defrauded of N600,000 in January 2016; Sanni Hassan, defrauded off N1.43 and £2,750 in August 2015; Saidi Abdullahi, defrauded of N700,000 on April 18, 2016; Atairu Abdullahi, defrauded of N1m on June 23, 2016; and Abdullahi Babadisa, defrauded of N650,000 in January 2016.
Others were Abdurawan Hassan, who allegedly lost N1.46m to Egbegbe on January 1, 2017; Suraju Garuba, who lost N850,000 in July 2016; Abdullahi Mumini, who lost N2.15m in September 2016; Garuba Hassan, who lost N700,000 on January 10, 2016 and Sanni Mohammed, who lost N1.89m on January 29, 2017.
Also allegedly swindled by Egbegbe were Barowo Abdullahi, who lost N2.6m; Yahu Alidu, who lost N1.75m; Tairu Musa, who lost N2m; Mohammed Bello, who lost $300; Mohammed Usman, N450,500; Suleiman Shehu, who lost N1.276m; Ahmadu Abda, who lost N2m; Nairu Musa, who lost N1.007m; Sanni Mohammed, who lost N1.6m and $3,000.
Others were Umaru Haruna, who lost N1.7m; Abubakar Musa, who lost $4,000; Abdulrasaq Sanni, who lost N1.7m; Abdullahi Babatunde, who lost N2.77m; among others.
The police prosecutor, who signed the charge sheet, Mr. Effiong Asuquo, said Egbede and Ayomide acted contrary to Section 8 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act 2006 and were liable to be punished under Section 1(3) of the same.