Appeal Court upholds forgery charges against Epe chief, Ikuforiji

The Lagos division of Appeal Court, has dismissed an appeal filed by Chief Olajide Okuforiji, challenging his trial before a Federal High Court, Lagos, for alleged forgery and uttering of documents, for lacking in merit.

Ikuforiji, Balogun of Epe kingdom 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 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.

During his trial, the prosecution led by Mr. Effiong Asuquo, now Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) 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, Chief Ikuforji, opted for No-Case-Submission, which was dismissed on September 14, 2018.

Dissatisfied with the Justice Anka’s decision, the Epe Chief approached Appeal Court in suit numbered 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 prima facia case against him. And urged the court to decide the appeal in his favour.

The PSFU, through its counsel,  Chukwu Agwu, a Superintendent of Police, equally urged the Appeal Court, 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 lights of overwhelming evidence before the lower court, the trial judge was right in holding that the prosecution has established a prima facia case against the Epe Chief. 

In dismissing the Epe Chief’s appeal, 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. 

On the issue on if the prosecution has established a prima facia case against the appellant, Justice Ogakwu held that: “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 or 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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