A suspected fraudster, Omoniyi Ajibade Saheed, who was accused of using the name of a prominent Ilorin-born Islamic cleric, Sheikh Sulaiman Faruq Onikijipa, to dupe unsuspecting members of the public in millions of naira, has been charged before a Federal High Court, sitting in Ilorin, Kwara State capital.
Saheed, who was arraigned before Justice N I Afolabi for fraud-related offences was said to have used the personality, name and face of Onikijipa through social media to defraud people, both in Nigeria and abroad, in millions of naira.
Among those who have fallen victim of the scam is one Rafiat Olanrewaju, who was reportedly defrauded of the sum of N2m.
Before the accused was arrested, the cleric had written a petition to alert the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of the fraudulent activities by yet to be identified fraudsters using his name to defraud unsuspecting members of the public.
According to the petition, Onikijipa said he had never solicited and did not solicit any form of financial assistance from any of his followers, directly or through proxy for any activities or for the construction of any mosque or Islamic school.
Onikijipa stated further that he did not operate and had never operated any Facebook account, Twitter or Instagram, either in his name or in the name of any of his Islamic institutions.
“These fraudster (s) have devised criminal means of operating different Facebook accounts in our client’s name, using same to pretend that they are Onikijipa and using the face to interface with my followers and friends, both home and abroad, obtaining various sums of money running into millions of naira from the unsuspecting friends and fans.
“This set of fraudsters have also gone further to obtain certain GSM lines and registered same in my name in order to deceive unsuspecting public who might want to use software application called “truecaller” to detect owner’s identity”, the petition added.
However, at the last sitting, the EFCC counsel, Simon Ibekwute, led Onikijipa in evidence. Responding to the question of the persecutor seeking if the cleric knew why he was in 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 abroad.
He added that he has only a WhatsApp account but the defendant opened Facebook and other social media accounts in his name in order to carry out his fraudulent activities.
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 cross examination, the defendant’s counsel, 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 court had earlier rejected the document, 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 the court admitted it as evidence.
The judge, in his short ruling, adjourned the case to January 10, 2019 for further hearing.