ABUJA/Nigeria: The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Friday, arraigned a woman, Rabbi Okpara, before a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Maitama for allegedly issuing fake international passports to people.
Ms Okpara was arraigned on a four-count charge of using her travel agency, Green Valley Concept Limited, to lure unsuspecting members of the public to acquire travel documents, which unknown to them, were fake. She pleaded not guilty to the charges when read to her.
One of the charges was that Rabbi Okpara and Jude Ugbaja ( at large), Green Valley Concept Ltd and Palmary Travels and Tours Ltd, sometime in August 2019, unknowing to their victim; forged a Maltase passport with the name Nasiru Haladu Danu with number 9647443 dated 27 April/AVR 2018 with an intent that it be used as genuine; thereby committed an offence contrary to 320(a) of the Penal Code, Law of the Federation 1990 and punishable under section 322 of the same law.
As expected Ms Rabbi’s lawyer made an oral plea for bail, promising that his client would be available on the next sitting date. In a short ruling, the judge, Othman Musa, said, “I have carefully considered the oral application made by the defendant to grant the woman to bail which was strongly opposed by the prosecution, the reason being that the application should have come in writing.
“Be as it may, usually an issue of bail is at the discretion of the court, which shall be exercised judicially and judiciously. From the record of the court, coupled with the submission of the learned counsel to the defendant, that she has been in detention for a period of not less than three months, for that reason, he urged the court to admit the defendant to bail on liberal terms.
“Having said this, I think to look at the charge which the defendant had pleaded not guilty to, the charges are bailable.
“In the spirit of a fair trial, I believe the defendant deserves to be allowed bail and the bail is hereby granted,” he ruled.
According to the judge, the bail terms include N1 million with one surety in like sum.
“The surety must be an immediate relation who lives in FCT with a clear place as the address of residence.”
Mr. Uthman said the surety shall produce a clear passport photograph to be attached to the bail bond and also a National Identity Card or an international passport, which shall be photocopied and placed for ease of reference.
The judge held that “the surety shall make sure that the defendant attends the trial at when due and finally if the defendant fails to attend trial without cogent reason, the court shall revoke the bail and also make the surety forfeit the bail bond.”
Mr. Uthman said that the chief judge of the court shall reassign the case as he is a vacation judge.
The anti-graft agency had in its proof of evidence stated that its preliminary investigation revealed that Ms Okpara is the owner of Green Valley Concept Limited, a purported travelling agency.
It said Ms Okpara used her travel agency to lure unsuspecting members of the public to participate in a scam travel/residency arrangement in Malta.
The EFCC said that Ms Okpara in her statement with the agency admitted to liaising with a third party, Mr Ugbaja, in obtaining these fake travel documents for her clients.
According to the anti-graft agency, Ms Okpara claimed that she has a valid agreement with Mr Ugbaja’s company – Palmory Travel and Tours Limited – to obtain travel documents for her clients.
It was reported that Alhaji Nasiru Danu was issued a notice of cancellation of leave to enter the United Kingdom for being in possession of a fake Maltase passport procured for him by Ms Okpara. Other victims of this syndicate include Mr Babatunde Adeboye and Mr Akarolo Ovundah.
Mr Wabiye Idoniboyeobu said “I am aware of the case that started yesterday. This simply vindicates my principal of all false allegations. Most people read the lies that were circulated about him, weeks ago. This arrest and investigation clearly shows that Alhaji Nasiru was simply a victim. I believe the EFCC is on the trail of the others at large and by the time they are caught, the public would be free from such evil” said Mr. Wabiye Idoniboyeobu, Spokesman to Alhaji Nasiru Danu.