Ex-Punch Editor, Azubuike Ishekwene arraigned by EFCC for Forgery

Former editor with The Punch Newspaper and Publisher of The Interview, Mr. Azubuike Ishekwene was today arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before a Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos.

The former Punch editor who rose to become Executive Director of the newspaper was arraigned for forgery alongside a company director, Olalekan Abdul and Adeyinka Adewale who was absent during proceedings.

They were arraigned on a 15-count criminal charge. The former Punch editor, Ishekwene, Abdul, Adewale and Bolanle Morakinyo (now at large) were jointly charged with conspiracy to forge and forgery.

Abdul and Azubuike Ishekwene were both charged with forgery, use of false document and making documents without authority while Abdul and Morakinyo were slammed with charges of forgery, making documents without authority, while Abdul is charged with forgery, use of false document, obtaining money by false pretences and falsification of books and account documents.

The defendants however pleaded not guilty to the charges. According to EFCC prosecutor, Mr Mohammed Idris, Abdul, Ishekwene, Adewale and Bolanle Morakinyo (now at large) conspired to commit forgery on April 6, 2018.

“The defendants sometime in 2018 knowingly forged a document titled ‘Account Opening Document’ dated April 9, 2018 which they purported that it was issued by Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solution Ltd.

“Abdul and Ishekwene on April 6, 2018, knowingly forged a document titled ‘Board Resolution of Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solution Ltd’ dated April 6, 2018 which they purported was issued by the company. On April 6, 2018 Abdul and Ishekwene fraudulently presented the forged Board Resolution to Stanbic IBTC Bank as genuine. Abdul and Morakinyo had also on April 6, 2018 forged the Board Resolution of Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solution Ltd.

According to the EFCC prosecutor, on Dec. 14, 2010, Abdul had forged the Board Resolution of Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solution Ltd and had presented it to Wema Bank Plc as genuine.

“Armed with the false document, Abdul had on Dec. 14, 2010 obtained a credit facility of N350million from Wema Bank Plc by falsely representing to them that the Board Resolution was genuine,” Idris said. The anti-graft agency said that Abdul had also forged the Board Resolution of Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solution Ltd on Sept. 27 2010 in Lagos and had used the document to open an account with Keystone Bank (formerly Bank PHB).

“Abdul had sometime in 2015 being a Director of Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solution Ltd falsified the Annual Report and Financial Statement of the company and presented it to the Corporate Affairs Commission as genuine.

“On Nov. 19, 2011 in Lagos, Abdul forged a document titled ‘Extract of Board Resolution of Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solution Ltd’ which he purported was issued by the company,” the EFCC prosecutor said. The offences contravene sections 335(2), 363, 364, 365, 370 and 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015.

Following the arraignment of the defendants, Idris requesting for a trial date, asked the court to remand the defendants in the correctional facility.

Responding, the defence counsel to Abdul and Adewale, Mr Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN) requested that Abdul be granted bail by the court. Olumide-Fusika noted that the third defendant, Adewale was not on the run as asserted by the EFCC but was rather, out of the country.

“The first defendant (Abdul) has been on administrative bail of the EFCC since 2018 and anytime he was invited to their office he never failed to honour their invitation. The interest at this stage is to ensure that the defendant comes for trial. We plea that he drops his international passport and if we can have a trial date for Friday, we will bring him to court. I undertake to also bring Adewale to court,” he said.

In his submission, Mr Muiz Banire (SAN) the defence counsel to Ishekwene( former Punch editor), asked the court to grant the former Executive Director of Punch Newspaper bail because the correctional facilities are congested.

“The maximum capacity of the prison is 800, as at today it is 3000,” Banire said.

Justice Mojisola Dada granted bail to the defendants but that they are to deposit copies of their international passports with the registrar. The case involving the former Punch editor and others has been adjourned to Friday January 31.

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