The Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court on Wednesday May 24, 2023 released former House of Representatives member for Ihiala, Anambra State, Chuma Nzeribe, from Kuje Prison, Abuja.
Nzeribe contested the Governorship ticket of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
The release by the Chief Judge was as part of the process of his decongesting prisoners from the Nigerian Correctional Service Centre, Kuje.
Nzeribe was first arraigned by the EFCC on October 16, 2020 on a four count charge bordering on possession of fraudulent document, forgery, using as genuine and cheating by personation, punishable under section 6, 8(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under section 1 (3) of the same Act.
Count one of the charge reads; “That you, Hon. Chuma Nzeribe sometime in March, 2013 at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did have in your possession a document containing false pretence to wit: Re: Application for Statutory Right of Occupancy within the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja with reference Number MFCT/LA/FCT 1302 dated 18/06/03, bearing the name of Ramatu Alhassan and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 6, 8(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1 (3) of the same Act”.
Another count reads; “That you Hon. Chuma Nzeribe sometime in 2005 at Abuja, within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did fraudulently make a false document to wit: Re: Application for Statutory Right of Occupancy within the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja with reference number MFCT/LA/FCT 1302 dated 18/06/03, bearing the name of Ramatu Alhassan and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 363 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (Abuja) and punishable under Section 364 of the same Act”.
He pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to him, setting the stage for his full trial.
In the course of the trial, the prosecuting counsel, Maryam Aminu Ahmad, presented five witnesses against the defendant.
After the close of the case by the prosecution, the matter was adjourned for judgement. However, the defendant absconded and all efforts to get him proved abortive.
Justice Halilu thereafter revoked the bail of the defendant and issued a bench warrant for his arrest.
As several adjournments and the failure to bring the defendant to court, the trial judge today delivered judgment in which he convicted the defendant in absentia and restituted the nominal complainant, Ishaya Baba, his Land situated at Plot 1306 Cadastral Zone A05, Maitama Abuja.
Justice Halilu however deferred the sentencing of the defendant until the EFCC or the Inspector General of Police apprehend and bring him to court, in compliance with Section 321 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, Section 11of the Advance Fee Fraud Act and Other Related Offences Act 2006, and Section 78 of the Penal Code Act.
After thorough surveillance, the Convict was subsequently arrested by the EFCC sometime this year and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment without an option of fine among others. The Convict was sent to the Nigerian Correctional Service barely three months back.
The convict earlier on filed an application for his bail pending appeal and the EFCC also responded that the FCT High Court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain any application by the Applicant since there’s a pending Appeal before the Court of Appeal and all parties have filed their briefs of argument and issues were joined.
While parties were waiting for a date to argue the application for the bail pending Appeal before the Court, the Chief Judge went to the prison and released the Convict.
Justice Yusuf made an order after the conviction for the Convict to appear before the Court for sentencing. After thorough surveillance, the Convict was subsequently arrested by the EFCC sometime this year and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment without an option of fine among others. The Convict was sent to the Nigerian Correctional Service barely 3 Months back.
Justice Yusuf had convicted Nzeribe for impersonation, possession of Federal Government documents and using same to fraudulently acquire land.
While delivering the judgment, the Judge said he would reserve the sentence till the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) operatives and police arrest the convict and bring him before the court.
The Judge ordered that the land in Maitama acquired with the forged documents taken over by the owner, Ishaya Madi, with immediate effect.
Nzeribe had shunned the court for the third time without any cogent reason.
EFCC had told the court that Nzeribe wrote the commission a Memorandum of Understanding MoU surrendering the land he fraudulently acquired to the real owner, Ishaya Madi.