A prosecution witness, Lateef Bello, has testified against an alledged syndicate involved in £1million (One Million British Pounds) fraud case.
The first prosecution witness claimed to have been defrauded by some suspects while being led in evidence on Monday, narrated to Justice Rahman Oshodi of the Special Offences Court, Ikeja.
He alledged that the defendants; Morufu Adewale (aka Gbegulerin Adelana), Omitogun Ajayi, Ajisegiri Abiodun, Abayomi Alaka (aka Dauda Usman Alashe), Taiwo Ahmed, Raufu Raheem, and Sanlabiu Teslim specialises in use of Juju (traditional rituals and medicine) to defraud their victims.
The defendants; Morufu, Alaka, Ajayi, and Ajisegiri were initially standing trial before Honourable Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos with the others listed as being at large and were first arraigned on February 3, 2022.
During today’s proceeding before Justice Oshodi, the seventh defendant, Sanlabiu was produced in court necessitating the re-arraignmemt on an amended three-count charge filed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The witness while being led in evidence by the Commission’s Counsel, N. K Ukoha, narrated how Sanlabiu led him to the fraudsters at a shrine located in Osogbo, in the bid to carry out cleansing for his family.
Bello said: “As soon as I entered the place, I wasn’t myself. I thought he was taking me to an Islamic cleric, however it was herbalist.
“In fact, Omitogun Ajayi noticed it and said to me, ‘focus on this place, do you know where Jesus Christ was born?’
“He now consulted his Osanyin at the shrine, and then he gave us a bill of about N230,000 that we need to buy somethings like ram and so on, which I paid.
“He now said that I have to bring my wife, and that was the period my wife was preparing for retirement, that she will be the one to pray, when they do their rituals.
“When my wife came, they gave us different concoctions to drink, and they made incantations.
“Omitogun was the main man, then he now said that the Osanyin said that we need to go and see their Baba in Ijebu-Igbo who will finalise the prayer for my son.
“Few days later, myself, my wife and my son, and Sanlabiu, my driver, and Omitogun Ajayi and one Alfa, who is one of them and currently at large, went to the Ijebu-Igbo.
“When we got to Ijebu-Igbo, that was where we met Morufu Yahaya Adewale, who disguised so well like an elderly man of over 100 years old.
“He welcomed us and then took us to one room, and when we entered the room, there was a curtain from where he was communicating with us.
“He now told us the things we are going to do, and afterwards, he said they’ve finished with my son, and that we should come back in two days time, that when we are coming we should buy a big ram.
“Two days later, myself, Omitogun Ajayi, the Alfa, Sanlabiu, and my driver, went there with the ram, which we bought at Ijebu-Ode, that we needed some other prayers for the family.
“When we got there, they slaughtered the ram and some other things, after which they said I should remove my dress and gave me a wrapper to cover myself.
“They now took me to one place, where they were boiling water, and I saw the water boiling and they poured the water on my head, but it was very cold.
“After this they did same to my wife and they said they were going to take us to another room in the same house; we knocked on the door, and we started hearing some noise of some women.
“They now opened the door, and immediately we entered the room using our back, we now saw about nine women wearing white clothes.
“They claimed to be white witches, and said that they were there to help us; they now said though they have finished with my son, but that we have a lot of spiritual problems in my family, and my extended family.
“They said during their own investigation, that my wife will soon retire and that another bigger office was ahead of my wife and that we still need to do a lot of spiritual cleansing for the whole family in order for her to get there.
“They now demand (or opo kan) translated to one million in English language and it was my first time of hearing that; emphasising that it should have the picture of woman and must be red in colour.
“When we now got to the room where Yahaya was, he was the one that now interpreted that what the white witches meant was one million British Pounds.
“And that, once we get the one million pounds, it will be put in a box, and that after one week, we are going to be given our money back, and then there will be an ornament under the money, which my wife will be expected to be on my wife, and they named it Oluomo.
“My lord, they were in total control of our senses,” Bello said.
“Before we left that day, Morufu Yahaya instructed Ahmed Taiwo, to give us the account number of one Gbegulerin Adelana (the alias of Morufu Yahaya), that we needed to buy somethings from the £1million and so demanded N1million which I paid into the account.
“They now said that those witches only drink the blood of pigeons, and so collected N200,000 to buy pigeons for those witches, and N10,000 for the cage as they said they’ll buy them at Sagamu.
“Omitogun kept assuring us that we were at the right place, that even Oshiomhole when he was about to leave office as governor of Edo State, that he brought the governor to see those white witches; that he initially took the Osanyin to Benin, and he also brought Obaseki the current governor to the shrine.
“Apparently they knew my wife was going to retire and she would get her gratuity and pension.”
The witness continued that the family afterwards raised £800,000, which was handed over to the syndicate.
He testified further, that after the payment of the £800,000 cash, it was one story to another, in which they were asked to go to one river or the other for one ritual or the other and all the while they kept demanding for more money from him.
“They insisted on collecting cash, and declined to take bank transfer,” the witness said.
According to him, during one of the rituals, unknown to him, the syndicate was recording them.
He told the court that in the course of the whole thing, he ran into debt, and only later in the day, did he realise that he had been scammed.
“I later got a call from Abiodun Ajisegiri (third defendant), who claimed to be an investigative journalist,” he said.
He told the court that Ajisegiri posed to be working with LTV and Radio Lagos, he said he claimed to be in possession of the video clip of where the couple were engaging in rituals and that he was going to broadcast it to the whole world.
Bello said: “I tried to explain what happened to him and how we were defrauded of the sum of almost N675 million.
“He now said that he was going to investigate and that I should bring N300,000.
“I paid an initial of N100,000 to his Ecobank account, and I later paid another N50,000.
“The day I paid the N50,000 I called his number to let him know, but he said he was at a meeting that he will call me back.
“So later he called me, and said that he was with those people, and that they were demanding for N50 million from us in order not to broadcast the clip. He now said if we can deposit N5million, that these people can kill and they can kidnap us.”
Bello claimed that upon realising that he had been scammed, he said that he approached the Special Fraud Unit, SFU, of the Nigeria Police.
He added that the case was not progressing at the SFU and someone advised that he should move the case out of SFU and petition the EFCC if he wanted the case to progress.
The witness said: “That was how Sanlabiu was arrested being the first person to be arrested, being the man that took us to them, then Omitogun was arrested. Abiodun Ajisegiri was also arrested and the video clip recovered from him. Morufu Yahaya too was arrested.”
They had pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.
The defendants were said to have committed offences bordering on obtaining money by false pretence, contrary to Section 1(1)(a) and 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006, and conspiracy to obtain money by false pretence contrary to Section 410 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.
Part of the charges against them reads:
Count one reads: “Morufu Yahaya Adewale, Omitogun Ajayi, Ajisegiri Abiodun, Abayomi Kamaldeen Alaka, Taiwo Olamilekan Ahmed, Raufu Wale Raheem and Sanlabiu Owolabi Teslim between May and July 2018 at Lagos within the Ikeja Judicial Division obtained the total sum of £1,000,000.00 (One Million GBP) from Dr. and Dr. (Mrs) Lateef Oladimeji Bello for the purpose of conducting prayers for spiritual cleansing of the family and that the money will be refunded after the prayers within one week, which pretence you knew to be false.”
Count three reads: “Morufu Yahaya Adewale, Omitogun Ajayi, Ajisegiri Abiodun, Abayomi Kamaldeen Alaka, Taiwo Olamilekan Ahmed, Raufu Wale Raheem and Sanlabiu Owolabi Teslim between August and September 2018 at Lagos within the Ikeja Judicial Division obtained the total sum of N175,000,000.00 (One Hundred and Seventy-five Million Naira Only) from Dr. and Dr. (Mrs) Lateef Oladimeji Bello for the purpose of conducting spiritual prayers for spiritual cleansing of their son and the family and that the money will be refunded one week after the prayers which pretence you knew to be false.”