…Cleric raises alarm, seeks court’s intervention
… as arrested suspect faces trial
By Kayode Adeoti
Fraudsters across the country are using the name of prominent Ilorin-born Islamic cleric, Sheikh Sulaiman Faruq Onikijipa to dupe members of the public millions of naira.
To put an end to the illicit act, the cleric last Friday approached the Federal High Court, sitting in the state capital to seek redress over the usage of his name for fraud by an arrested suspect, Omoniyi Ajibade Saheed.
Saheed, who was arraigned before Justice N. I Afolabi was said to have used the personality, name and face of Onikijipa through social media to defraud people both in Nigeria and abroad, millions of naira.
Among those who have fallen victim of the scam is one Rafiat Olanrewaju who was reportedly defrauded the sum of N2million.
Therefore, the cleric through the Chambers of Shehu A. Bashir & Associates wrote a petition tagged, “Petition on alert of fraudulent activities by yet to be identified fraudsters using the name of Sheikh to defraud unsuspecting public” to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to seek justice over the matter.
The counsel through the petition revealed that his client has never solicited and does not solicit any form of financial assistance from any of his followers, directly or through proxies for any activities or for the construction of any mosque or Islamic school.
“That our client does not operate and has never operated any Facebook account, Twitter or Instagram either in his name or in the name of any of his owned Islamic institutions like his school or crusade…
“These fraudster (s) have devised criminal means of operating different Facebook accounts in our client’s name, using same to pretend that they are our client and using the face to interface with our client’s followers and friends, both home and abroad obtaining various sums of money running into millions of naira from the unsuspecting friends and fans…
“That this set of fraudsters have also gone further to obtain certain GSM lines and registered same in the name of our client in order to deceive unsuspecting public who might want to use software application called “TRUECALLER” to detect owner’s identity…
However, the EFCC counsel, Simon Ibekwute led Onikijipa in evidence while Moshood Agboola was watching brief for the complainant.
Upon the question of the persecutor seeking if the cleric knows why he was in the court, Onikijipa who is the eighth witness in the case informed the court that he wanted to testify against the person using his name to collect money from his followers and friends both in Nigeria and in abroad.
He added that he has only WhatsApp account but the defendant opened Facebook and other social media accounts in his name in order to carry out his fraudulence act.
Ebekwute however sought to tender some documents which contained the picture of the cleric and some other personalities which Saheed allegedly used to deceive his victims into believing that he is the popular cleric.
During the cross examination, the defendant’s counsel, Barr. Sulyman Abaya urged the court not to admit the picture the EFCC’s counsel tendered in evidence, saying it doesn’t comply with section 84 of Evidence Act.
Emphasising on why it should be rejected, Abaya submitted that the document had earlier been rejected by the court, saying the EFCC counsel was trying to bring it in again through the back door.
Abaya also asked Onikijipa to sign his signature twice on a paper and it was admitted by the court as evidence.
The Judge in his short ruling adjourned the case to January 10, 2019.