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Forgery Charge Against Balogun Of Epe Kingdom, Olajide Okuforiji, Upheld - APPEAL COURT


By Francis IWUCHUKWU 


The forgery charge Instituted against the Balogun of Epe Kingdom, Chief Olajide Okuforiji has been upheld by the Lagos division of the Court of Appeal sitting in Igbosere, Nigeria. 


The decision came after the appellate court threw out an appeal initiated by Chief Olajide Okuforiji, challenging his trial before a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State, Nigeria, over alleged forgery and uttering of documents, for lacking in merit.


It would be recalled that Chief Olajide Okuforiji, was arraigned before Justice Abdulazziz Anka led-court by the Police Special Fruad Unit (PSFU) on August 10, 2016, on charges bordering on forgery and uttering of the Minute of Emergency meeting of Eko Epe Forum held on October 20, 2012, with intent to defraud. 


The alleged offences are contrary to and punishable under Section 1 (2)(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap. M 17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.


While trial lasted, the PSFU had through its counsel, Effiong Asuquo, called four witnesses who testified against him and tendered some documents which were admitted by the court as exhibits.


The prosecution closed its case and called on the Balogun of Epe Kingdom to open his defence.


However, the defendant, opted for a No-Case-Submission, which was dismissed on September 14, 2018.


Dissatisfied with Justice Anka’s decision, the Epe Chief approached the  Appeal Court in a suit designated CA/L/1447c/2018, filed by his lawyer, Oludele Adegboyega Adeogun, challenging the Federal High Court’s jurisdiction to try him and to hold that the prosecution has not made any case against him. 


Chief Olajide Okuforiji then prayed the Court of Appeal decide in his favour. 


On its part, the PSFU through its counsel,  Chukwu Agwu, a Superintendent of Police, asked the Court of Appeal to dismiss the appellant’s appeal and to hold that by the provisions of Miscellaneous offences Act. Cap. M17, Laws of the federation of Nigeria, 2004, Federal High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the charge against that appellant.


PSFU also argued that in the light of overwhelming evidence before the lower court, the trial judge was right in holding that the prosecution has established a case against the Epe Chief.


But dismissing the appeal filed by Chief Olajide Ikuforiji,  Justice Ugochukwu Anthony Ogakwu, in his lead judgment after citing series of legal authorities held that: “It therefore follows that the Appellant’s submission as to the character and nature of the document alleged to have been forged and uttered being in respect of chieftaincy tussle of Epe Kingdom is on quicksand. The quicksand cannot support the weight of the Appellant’s submission. 


"The contention is irrelevant in ascertaining the jurisdiction of the lower court. 


“The decision of the lower court upholding its jurisdiction is the correct decision. 


"I have also insightfully examined the Charge against the appellant and there can be no doubt whatsoever that the offences the appellant was charged with are within the jurisdiction conferred on the lower court by Section 1 (1) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act.


“Indubitably, this issue number one is resolved against the Appellant. 


"The Federal High Court had jurisdiction to try the Appellant on the Charge upon which the appellant was arraigned before the lower court. 


“Given the settled legal position as it relates to a decision dismissing a no case submission, it suffices to state that l have considered the evidence adduced as contained in the Records and I am satisfied from the evidence that the alleged forged document was attached to an affidavit deposed to by the appellant in a civil matter at the High Court of Lagos State, coupled with the testimony of the forensic experts (PW3 & PW1) that the signature on the alleged forged document is not that of the PW1 and PW2 which it is supposed to be; that it sufficiently links the appellant to the offences charged, making it necessary for him to give an explanation. 


“Put simply, the evidence adduced by the Prosecution cannot just be waved off at wished away without hearing from the appellant, Paucis verbis, a prima facia case was made out by the Prosecution, sufficient enough to justify the continuation of the trial in order for the Appellant be called upon to answer. 


"Ineluctably, this issue number two is resolved in favour of the respondent. 


“The two issues distilled for determination have been resolved against the appellant. This signifies that the appeal is bereft of any merit. Accordingly the appeal fails and it is hereby dismissed. 


“The Ruling of the lower court, Coram: Anka, J., delivered on 14th September 2018, is hereby affirmed. 


"The Appellant is to enter upon his defence in the two count Charge preferred against him."


Other panel members, Justice Jamilu Yamamma Tukur and Justice Ebiowei Tobi, agreed with Justice Ogakwu’s judgment.


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