…Detained in Okigwe prison
…Matter adjourned, Sept 6
A Magistrate Court sitting in Dikenafai, Ideato South Local Government Area of Imo State, has adjourned to September 6, a matter brought before it by the Commissioner of Police, Imo State, against three suspects, His Royal Highness Eze Paulinus Okechukwu Duru, the Traditional Ruler of Umulewe Autonomous Community as Ideato South, as first defendant and two other defendants standing trial for six-count charges bothering on alleged fraud, embezzlement of community funds, forgery, among others.
The three defendants, His Royal Highness, Eze Duru of Umulewe Autonomous Community, Ideato South LGA, Edwin Okejiaku and Evarestus Ekpo, were arraigned in court on Tuesday. They pleaded not guilty to the six-count charges.
Counsel to the defendants, Chief P. O. Akwari’s bail application for the first defendant on self recognition, was opposed by the prosecution led by Nancy Chima on grounds that it took some efforts before the defendants could be arraigned in court. She recalled that the defendants were absent in court on August 2, 2022, being the first date they were to be arraigned; a development she said, prompted the court to adjourn to August 16.
She further told the court that though she was not opposing the bail application by the defendants’ counsel, she however, objected to granting the first defendant (HRH Eze Duru) bail on self cognizance.
The court consequently granted the three defendants bail in the sum of N300,000, on the conditions that they must have provide two guarantors who must be resident within the jurisdiction of the court, with three years tax clearance. While the three defendants must also provide their national identity number, NIN, to the court, among other bail conditions.
The court adjourned to September 6, for hearing on the matter.
The complainant in the Matt, Mr Ebere Okwara hinted Nigeria Newspoint in Owerri that the issue started around 2015/2016 when according to him, the Umuezealaiheako Progressive Union in Umulewe Autonomous Community, Ideato South LGA, opened a bank account with Skye Bank plc. He said he was the vice chairman of the union then.
According to him, the duo of Edwin Okejiaku and Christopher Okwara allegedly insisted that His Royal Highness Eze Paulinus Okechukwu Duru be made a signatory to the said village union account which he revealed, was obliged them by making the traditional ruler a signatory to the account.
Ebere Okwara further hinted that the sum of N2 million and N8 million respectively, being proceeds of sale of parcels of community land, were paid into the said Skye Bank account by Umuezealaiheako Progressive Union.
He went further to allege that “without no formal approval from the union, and unknown to them,” the traditional ruler, Eze Duru and Okejiaku allegedly started withdrawing money from the said account until some people in the village started suspecting them.
“When the villagers demanded to know whether the money they lodged in the bank account was safe, Eze and Okejiaku allegedly assured that only N200,000 was withdrawn by them; that the money was still intact. When we demanded for the statement of account after three consecutive meetings and the Eze and Okejiaku could not produce the statement of account, the village union mandated me as the vice chairman to do everything necessary to get the statement of account.
“I petitioned Dikenafai police station and they went to court to get an order for the bank to release the statement of account. It was then that everybody saw that N7 million had been secretly withdrawn from the said account.” Mr Ebere Okwara alleged.
Continuing, he further disclosed that in 2018 again, when he (Ebere Okwara) became the chairman of the village union, the villagers agreed at a general meeting that he and his executive should sell four plots of land for development project. He alleged that the same Eze Duru and Evarestus Ekwo hijacked it and allegedly sold the land, the said four plots for N8 million and did not account for the money. He hinted that they allegedly forged his name and signature as the then chairman of the village union and issued the buyer power of attorney.
According to him, “We have tried every avenue to resolve this matter amicably and get back the funds from the traditional ruler, Eze Duru, Edwin Okejiaku and Evarestus Ekpo, to no avail. We wrote a petition to Abuja again where, after investigation and forensic analysis from the office of the Inspector General Police, IGP, it was discovered that Eze Duru allegedly forged my signature in order to issue the power of attorney. And we were in court today to recover the total sum of N12,249,600 from Eze Paulinus Duru, Edwin Okejiaku and Evarestus Ekpo .”
Meanwhile Nigeria Newspoint gathered that following the perceived inability of Eze Duru and the two other defendants to fulfill the bail conditions as stipulated by the court, they were said to have been taken to Okigwe Correctional facility as at press time, pending the fulfilment of the bail conditions.