The Nigerian Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department Annex, Alagbon, Lagos, on Monday arraigned three Celestial Church of Christ leaders before the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja over alleged N85m fraud.
The defendants – John Omotosho aka Jorotom, Boye Olaniyan and Folashade Ogundipe – were arraigned on four counts bordering on conspiracy, obtaining under false pretences and fraud before Justice Ayokunle Faji.
The defendants, who were arraigned alongside a company, Folafunmi Integrated Limited, were alleged to have defrauded the church’s headquarters at Imeko, Ogun State, of the sum of N85,914,500, under the pretext of using the money for the church’s development.
The defendants however pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The offences were said to be contrary to sections 8(a),1(1)(a) and 1(1)(a)&(b)of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2010 and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.
According to the police prosecutor, C.J. Ijeoma, the defendants issued several Zenith Bank Plc cheques, which were used in withdrawing money from the church’s development project account domiciled with the bank.
The charges read in part, “That you, John Omotosho, Folashade Ogundipe, Boye Olaniyan and Folafunmi Integrated Limited, between 2006 and 2018, within the Lagos Judicial Division of the court, with an intent to defraud the Celestial Church of Christ, fraudulently obtained the sum of N79,154,500 drawn at different dates in favour of Folashade Ogundipe with cheques from Zenith Bank Plc account number 1010529055, bearing the account name Imeko Cathedral Development Project Committee, under false pretences that you are using the money to develop Celestial Church of Christ, lmeko Cathedral, Ogun State, a representation that you knew to be false, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 1(3) both of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2010.”
Following their pleas, the prosecutor asked for a trial date and urged the court to remand the defendants pending the hearing and determination of their bail applications.
The presiding judge, Justice Faji, asked the prosecution if the defendants were on administrative bail and if they had jumped the bail before being charged to court.
Ijeoma, however, told the court that the defendants refused to honour the bail terms and also wrote several petitions against the police.
Granting the defendants bail, Faji ordered three church members to file an undertaking, affidavit of means and produce a bond of N350,000 for each of the defendants before they would be allowed to go home.
He said, “These members of the church, Adeosun Israel Oladipo, Assistant Shepherd, CCC, Jerusalem Cathedral, Shasha; Afolabi Tolorunloju and Surakatu John, workers at CCC, Jerusalem Cathedral, Shasha, shall file an undertaking to produce the defendants at the next adjourned date.
“In view of the issue, church and personalities in the matter, they shall be handed over to the three church members, who will also produce a bond of N350,000 each and a means of identification.”
The case was adjourned till March 3 for the hearing of the bail applications.