Corruption and Underdevelopment

Pastor re-arraigned by EFCC for alleged N54.7m fraud

By Paul Michael

A self-acclaimed prophet, Cletus Ilongwo, has been re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Sherifat Solebo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos on an amended seven-count charge bordering on obtaining money under false pretence to the tune of N54.7 million.

The defendant was first arraigned on November 5, 2018 on an 11-count charge to which he pleaded “not guilty”.

His supposed victim, one Obinna Ezenwaka, a former employee of Fidelity Bank Plc, had alleged that he was introduced to the defendant sometime in 2015 when he was seeking solution to his “spiritual problem”.

However, Ilongwo allegedly lured Ezenwaka to part with N59,760,000 under the guise that he would use it to purchase a property located at Diamond Estate, Festac Town, with the assurance that they would resell it to a Chinese company at the cost of N150million.

The defendant, however, reneged on his promise prompting him to petition the EFCC.

The Court had, at the last sitting on June 8, 2022, adjourned till today, June 16, 2022, for judgement.

However, at the resumed sitting, the prosecuting counsel, Nwandu Ukoha, informed the court of an amended charge filed by the prosecution on June 14, 2022, which he said had also been served on the defence.

Ukoha, therefore, applied that the defendant be arraigned on the amended charges in order for him to take his plea.

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The defence counsel, Titilayo Akinlawon, SAN, who acknowledged service, however, informed the court that the same application was made at the last sitting on June 8, 2022, which was also withdrawn by the prosecution.

She said, “There is no way judgement can be achieved today, as the amended information filed by the prosecuting counsel is causing abuse of court proceedings.

“The amended information is going to delay judgement. I pray my lord to disallow this amended information.”

Responding, Ukoha argued that the issue of the court taking the plea was fundamental and that the court was duty-bound to accept the amended charge.

“There is no principle that says a withdrawn charge cannot be filed again and we urge the court not to see it as an abuse of court process,” he said.

Thereafter, the amended charges were read to the defendant.

One of the counts reads: “Cletus Ilongwo, on or about the 29th day of January, 2016, at Lagos, within the Ikeja Judicial Division, dishonestly converted to your own use the sum of N10 millon, being money received through your Zenith Bank account from Obinna Ezenwaka meant for the purchase of the property situated at No 165c, Block 12, Diamond Estate, Amuwo-Odofin, Lagos.”

He again pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

Justice Solebo, therefore, adjourned the case till September 20, 2022 for judgement.

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