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How Enugu woman discovered her daughter 20 years after she was stolen at birth in hospital

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For the Okwudilis, natives of Ogbunike in Oyi local government area of Anambra State, it was still like a dream as they never knew that they had twins.

If a soothsayer had told Professor Michael Okwudili and wife, Gloria, that after over 20 years they had a son, Nzubechukwu (Godswill) that they still had a daughter somewhere who probably was mature enough to be preparing for marriage, they would have probably stoned the person or called him a fraudster.
Luckily, today, the story is different.
For the Okwudilis, natives of Ogbunike in Oyi local government area of Anambra State, it was still like a dream as they never knew that they had twins.

They may have heard that children are being stolen from their mothers at birth or swapped in some hospitals but never thought that it could happen to them. But the reality before them is that anyone, no matter how highly placed, could fall victim once the doctors and nurses had made up their minds to commit such a heinous crime.

The professor of educational planning and Rector/ Provost, Our Saviour Institute of Science, Agricultural and Technology/ College of Education (OSISATECH/College of Education), however, recently discovered in a dramatic twist of fate that his wife, Gloria Okwudili had twin babies in 2002.
Although she didn’t know that she was pregnant with twins, people in her church had always called her mama Ijima (ie) mother of twins.
The twin female, one Juliet Agulanna, was probably stolen at birth and sold to one Mrs Chidimma Mariatha Agulanna by the owner of the defunct Madonna Infirmary Hospital, one Doctor Oguannua in connivance with his nurses when her mother delivered her on July 18, 2002.

Julie, a student of the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi, mysteriously, but as fate has programmed it, had gone to a shop located at Thinkers Corner, Enugu, a few poles away from her residence to learn hairdressing. That journey, fortunately, has become a journey of new reality as the shop was rented to her trainer (madam) by her biological parents.

As fate would have it, a woman in the next shop (Mrs Gloria Okwudili) was her real mother. Soon after Julie as she is popularly called started learning hairdressing, people visiting the shops began to ask both Julie whether she is the daughter of the woman in the next shop, the same question was also being asked Gloria whether she is the mother of Julie because they resembled.

While the argument and question continued, Julie reportedly sought for a paternity test to put to an end the rumours and embarrassment. To their greatest surprise when a DNA test was conducted, the result returned 99.9996 per cent positive, showing that she is actually the daughter of Okwudilis.

Speaking with SaharaReporters, Mrs Gloria Okwudili, said that she had never in the last 20 years plus felt that she gave birth to twins neither suspected that one was probably stolen.
“Actually I got married in September 1997. However, by 1997, 98, 99, I was waiting for the fruit of the womb because I couldn’t take in. So my sister-in-law recommended that we meet a gynecologist, one Dr Oguannua. Then he was the head of the family clinic of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu but also had a private hospital in New Haven called Madonna Infirmary Hospital. She told us that he was good at fertility medicine.

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“That was how we went to the hospital. After a series of tests he concluded that I had hormonal imbalance. He now placed me on two drugs – parlodel and clomid. Those drugs enhance ovulation which can trigger multiple fertilization. I started the medication in late 2000 and in October 2001, I took in. I went for the pregnancy test and it came out positive. I also went to see Dr Oguannua and after he conducted another test it was positive. From that time, he continued managing the pregnancy till I delivered.

“I didn’t visit any other hospital or carry out pregnancy tests outside his hospital. Dr Oguannua had an ultrasound machine which he used to monitor the baby’s growth and performance. On one of the days I went for antenatal he said that the baby is a precious child – I am using his words this is a precious child oh! God I worship you he was so happy and I also was happy. He said is a boy,” she said.

Although Gloria said that in her church, at St Mulumba Catholic Church New Haven, Enugu that people used to call her ‘Mama ijima’ that is mother of twins, when she was pregnant, however Dr Oguannua never told her that she was pregnant with twins. Whenever he checked my pregnancy in ultrasound he would always say that the baby was kicking fine.

“On the 12th of July 2002 I went for antenatal care and after going through the ultrasound, again he said “this is a precious child oh! It is a boy. Okwudili I don’t want you to waste time oh! Just carry everything and come to the hospital on Monday being 15th of July 2002. On Monday, in the morning I packed everything, having discussed with my husband what the doctor had told me. I didn’t have any problem, no sign of labour; there was no show to suggest that I’m going into labour. I had to go to the hospital because I didn’t want any problem or loss of my son.
On getting to the hospital, Gloria said, “The doctor instructed one Euchari Udeh, a Chief Nurse, to put pitocin on drip for me. I didn’t know what the drip was all about initially but later I got to know that it was for labour inducement. Thereafter, the nurse took me to one of the private rooms upstairs. She put the drip and injected the Pitocin in the drip. After that Monday morning I didn’t see the doctor again until Wednesday night but the nurse continued with the inducement drug.”
Continuing, she said that Nurse Udeh continued changing the drip until Wednesday night, when the doctor came and increased the inducement until around 12 midnight when she went into forced labour. “On that Wednesday when they put the drug again I was getting weak, you know when you are in labour you don’t have to eat, so I was so weak. In the evening my husband came, he saw me, and how I was reeling in pain and said he will not go back to the house. That he would stay with me.” But because they know what they were up to; “Nurse Udeh and other nurses started persuading him to go home so that they will take care of me. That it is their job to take care of me.

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“After so much persuasion he agreed and went home. He left around 11:30 pm and by midnight I started having labour. Unfortunately, that hospital used to be filled with women who either had delivered their babies or were in labour. But that very night being Wednesday 17th there was no single pregnant woman in that hospital. Earlier on that Wednesday, when they removed the pitocin on me; my instinct told me why not go around and check the private wards to see who and who are going to have their babies delivered at night. So, I started going around opening room after room. I opened the first door there was nobody, the second door nobody and when I opened the third one, I saw one woman lying down. She was not pregnant but was lying there holding a book and because of my eye problem I can’t say whether it is a prayer book or a novel. I said sorry and closed the door.
“When they now laid me on top of the delivery bed I was so weak but had a strong spirit. In that room it was only Dr Oguannua and Nurse Udeh. At some point Euchria Udeh climbed on me. I was like what is happening. This is the first time I am putting to bed, I don’t know the procedure, and I thought that is how children are being delivered. When she came on top of me she blocked my view from what the doctor was doing. You know when you are in that delivery bed you will raise your two legs up and I was so weak to know what they were doing. So the nurse was pressing my stomach. The next thing she disappeared and I was left with Dr Oguannua. When I wanted to get up, the doctor shouted “Lie down, your placenta hasn’t come out.”
“I started praying and shouting and they were asking me to push. After sometime I felt relieved and the excruciating pains I was having suddenly disappeared and they asked me to get up. Not quite long Nurse Udeh brought a baby and told me this is your son. I named him Nzubechukwu meaning (Godswill).

“Remember before that nurse Euchria Udeh left they asked me to push and I know I pushed. I also pushed another one which I pushed and all the pains disappeared in my body. They gave me tears which I later started having problems with, and I was taken back to the doctor. They did sutures and introduced one drug that I used with hot water.”

Speaking on how she came to discover she had a daughter 20 years after, Gloria said that sometime in March 2021, she gave out one of her three shops on rent to one woman. However, about three months later a girl came to her to inquire after the woman, whether she was good at hairdressing. The girl who now turned out to be my daughter said that she was asking because she wanted to learn hairdressing from the owner of the salon.

“So I told her that she was not around but could come back later to check for her and she left. Until one fateful day, I was in my shop when a woman came (Mrs Agulanna). She called me, madam please come and join us. She said she came to sign an agreement for my daughter to learn hairdressing here. She came with a crate of malt and biscuits. So, I came out and sat down in front of my shop and she brought a bottle of malt and biscuits. After that day the girl started working. Not quite too long, People coming to the shop started saying that this girl resembled me and my son. They said she was talking the way we talk. I was not interested in the talk because I didn’t know that I delivered twins in the hospital. As people were talking I said I have a son that people can resemble other people.

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“This was going on until one day there were many people who came to fix their hair. Immediately I came out from the shop some people called the girl (Julie) and asked her when did you say you were born? She responded on 18th July 2002. I was like that is the day I gave birth to my son, Nzubechukwu and now people are saying she resembles me. I asked her are you sure where you were born? She said at Ezeani New Haven. I said there is no hospital at Ezeani or maternity hospital in Ezeani. She took her phone and called her mother. She asked her where she said I was born and she replied at Ezeani. There were no further questions and I left.
“The next day, she came begging, “Mummy please forgive me, I wasn’t born on 18th July. I was born on 14th June.” I was like what is going on. She also said that her mother said she was born somewhere in Abakpa.

“So after some time she started coming close to me. Sometimes if she is not doing anything in their shop, she will come to my shop and we will be discussing and laughing. Thereafter, she started coming close to my family. So one day I asked her do you know your weight at birth, and she said her foster mother told her she weighed 2.2kg but my son Nzubechukwu weighed 3.8kg. I used to tell her stories about my son that he used to cry when he was tender. She also said her foster mother told her the same thing that she used to cry a lot. She started saying many things about her childhood, that she often told her foster mother that she is a twin and that she has a twin brother. That whenever they provoke her she will go and carry her things and say this is not my home, I will go to my house. She will carry her things and be going around in the house. That she had done that for more than three times because of how they have been maltreating her.”
“We continued bonding, Mrs Okwudili said, adding “one day she requested for a contact lens that her glass was bad. My husband said, so you have eye problems and she said yes. She said that when she initially told her foster parents that she has eye problems that they started quarrelling with her until one of her teacher’s (guidance counselor) called her foster mother to get glasses for her. The teacher, according to her, told Foster mother that her eye problems are hereditary. So my family has eye problem, myopia which runs in my family. I have it, my son has it. So when she saw that my son was wearing contact lenses she requested to have one. So my husband told her to ask my son, Nzubechukwu to take her to his doctor which he did. When they came back they said that the doctor after examining her, asked whether they are siblings, that they have the same eyes.

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“So, around March this year the girl started asking her foster parents, look there’s one woman in our church. She wrote a text message that I resembled her and even her son, the way they talk, the way they think but I have watched all your family members but I haven’t seen one I resembled. Daddy, who do I resemble in Agulanna’s house? He replied that she resembled one of his sisters that died 20 or 30 years ago, according to my daughter. She said that whenever she is in the village people will be asking her who her father is and who her mother is. That people will always look at her like a stranger. She said that a foster mother will always tell her ‘don’t worry that is how God created you’. She will tell her that she has a friend that gave birth to five children but four of them look alike but one was so different and that is how God created them.”
Probably not convinced or satisfied with the kind of responses they were giving her; she told her foster mother that she was in going to do a DNA test with us and she told her that not all glitters are gold but can do whatever she want, Mrs Okwudili has narrated.
She said “So one fateful morning the girl came to my shop and said please I want to do a DNA test with you. She even told her foster mother but she said that not all glitters are gold. I said alright I will tell my husband when he comes back that he travelled. So when my husband returned I told him that this girl came to my shop and requested a DNA test with you. On July 7, 2022 the girl came to our house herself and we went for the DNA test. When we got there they asked us questions, and said we should sign some documents for them. I signed, my husband and Juliet gladly signed. After they collected their samples. They asked us to go, that the result will be out in two months’ time. In September, two months after the test, my husband called me on the night that the DNA test was out. He said “I Okwudili Michael is the biological father of Juliet because we didn’t put Agulanna, we now wrote Juliet Okwudili. So Juliet Okwudili is our biological daughter, 99.99 per cent.

“I started shouting that night. I called my people – my mother because she had seen the girl one day. She met her in my shop one of the days she came to Enugu. That very day she said this girl resembled Nzubechukwu my son and embraced and hugged her. So when the result came I told her, I told my brothers. In my village there was joy. So my husband now came back on September 10, 2022 being Sunday, and said he wanted to tell Juliet first and we called her and told her the result of the DNA test. Before the test this girl said that if the test comes out negative she will cry for the rest of her life. I am using her words but if it is positive I will cry for joy. When the result came out my husband now told her and she requested that the result should be sent to her and my husband did so.”
She however, regretted that while they were trying to settle the matter amicably, Mrs Agulanna wrote a petition to the Inspector General Police against them, claiming that they are inciting people against her that she stole their child.
In the petition dated 25th October, 2022 titled: “Urgent appeal to you to intervene to avert the lynching of our client, Mrs. Mariatha, Chidinma Agulanna, at the instigation of Mr. & Mrs. Michael Okwudili residing behind AC Drug Thinkers Corner, Old Emene Road, Enugu, Enugu state on false allegation of child stealing in respect of Miss Juliet Agulanna legally adopted since year 2000 and now 20 years old,” Agulanna claimed that she has become an object of caricature, public odium and hatred.

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Mrs Agulanna in the petition she wrote through her lawyer, Ike Njoku Esq. alleged that her daughter Juliet Agulanna, has been thoroughly brainwashed by Okwudilis and has informed her that she will bring officials of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other related matters (NAPTIP) to arrest her for having stolen her at birth.

However, speaking with SaharaReporters, Agulanna stated that she never informed her daughter that she was never her biological daughter despite several attempts to uncover her paternity.
Asked for documents to show that she legally adopted the girl, she sent a document bearing the Nigeria Red Cross Society, Imo State Branch.

The document titled: “To Whom It May Concern Fostering/Adoption of a Baby Girl from This Home, is dated 21-06-2002 was signed by state secretary, Chief H.C Mela.

The document reads: “This is to confirm that Mr Lawrence Ukachi Agulanna and Mrs Maritha Chidinma Agulanna from Nnarambia in Ahiara, Ahiazu Mbaise local government area of Imo state, fostered a week old baby girl from this home. The said baby was born on June 14th 2002.

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“The adoptive parents has been advised to report to the ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Owerri, Imo state for the necessary documentation of the child and to the court for legal processes and adoption orders of the child. I wish to request that the applicants be given the necessary assistance that they may require.”

But when asked about documents from the ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, and also Court order of adoption, as required and contained in the Red Cross Society To Whom It May Concern, Mrs Agulanna said, “You know nobody knows that something like this will come up. You know Red Cross is a motherless home where they dump motherless children. I didn’t know that something like this would crop up. Even this one (To Whom It May Concern) I hid it somewhere, I didn’t want her (Juliet) to see it. I didn’t want the lady to have an idea that I adopted her. It is even God that I saw where I hid this document in the village. It is after this incident started unfolding that I went looking for it.”

On whether she told her that she was an adopted child, she said, “No. but I have told her now. She is the one who is now replying to the man (biological father). She is replying to them the way she wants because the man started by taking her. She had been telling me see, they are saying that I resembled them. Then I told her to be careful. If someone resembles someone, is it a concrete evidence that she is your child? Before they went and conducted DNA. I don’t know whether the man wants to use her to do rituals or what.”
On how she wanted the issue to be resolved, she said “What I know is that I didn’t do what they are accusing me of. So any how they want to resolve it I know I did not do what they are accusing me of. The doctor they’re accusing, Dr Oguannua, I am not in good terms with the said doctor. I did not go to him. I did not enter that hospital. So I didn’t know anything concerning the stolen child.”
However, to ascertain and unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of their daughter after birth, Okwudilis through their lawyer, Odili Emeka Izuchuwku Esq. has petitioned to the Inspector General of Police for thorough investigation surrounding the mystery.
Meanwhile, investigation by SaharaReporters showed that the Nigeria Red Cross Society, Imo State Branch doesn’t give children for adoption. The manager of Red Cross motherless home, Mrs Ugochukwu Okosisi noted that the document, To Whom It May Concern which is being paraded as a document for adoption/fostering the child has no reference number.

She, however, noted that the former state director of the home that was in-charge within that 2002 that purported to have signed the ‘certificate’ was notoriously known for child trafficking, adding “it could be possible that the woman stole a child somewhere and because she knew the man here and he issued to whom it may concern to her. To Whom It May Concern is not a proper document for adoption. Where is the adoption court order? Where are the documents from the Imo state ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development? This document look fake and she knows it is fake.”
When SaharaReporters also visited the Imo State Ministry of Women Affairs, it was discovered that there was no such record of adoption with the ministry.

Ben Amaefule, Director Child in the Ministry, said, “We don’t have a record of such adoption with the ministry. If the woman claimed that she adopted a child through this ministry, she should produce documents given to her from this ministry and adoption order from the court.”

Meanwhile, investigation has also shown that Mrs Chidimma Agulanna had been arrested and detained for weeks for involvement in child abduction and trafficking by the Enugu State Police Command. She was, however, released after she and her accomplices produced the trafficked child.

When SaharaReporters visited the Madonna Infirmary Hospital, it was observed that the hospital had since folded. A private school is now located in the facility.

Sources said the hospital was once closed down by former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani’s administration of Enugu state because of so many reports of child trafficking and deaths of women during childbirth in the facility. “Late Dr Oguanua was notoriously known for child trafficking. He was even accused of killing women after delivery.”

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Source: SaharaReporters

 

 

 

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Hoodlums break into Abuja warehouse, cart away food Items

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Some unidentified hoodlums raided a government storage facility in Gwagwa town within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Sunday morning, seizing stored food supplies.

According to accounts from locals, young individuals from the area forcibly entered the warehouse situated near the Tasha region of the community around 7 am, absconding with bags of maize and grain.

Jaafar Aminu, a resident, revealed that the looting persisted without interruption until 9 am when he spoke with our correspondent. He further explained that additional residents from nearby Jiwa and Karmo towns joined in the plunder.

The incursion resulted in heavy traffic congestion on the Gwagwa-Karmo road, affecting travel to the Dei-Dei and Jabi areas.

Aminu reported sustaining injuries before departing from the scene.

Another resident, Christopher Agbo said the looters did not spare even protectors used to barricade the site as they picked anything deemed useful from the warehouse.

Recall that the warehouse was also looted during the Covid-19 lockdown. Grain bags as well as pumping machines meant for intervention were stolen from the site by the looters.

After raiding the store, the rampaging youths headed towards Idu Industrial Estate, an area that hosts warehouses owned by individuals and also the government.

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There was no presence of security operatives to check the attacks at the time of filing this report.

But when contacted, FCT police spokesperson, SP Josephine Adeh said the police were already on ground trying to control the situation.

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Peter Obi mourns Mr Ibu

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Mr Ibu undergoes another leg surgery, hardly talks as condition worsens
Late John Okafor, Mr. Ibu
The Presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 general election, Mr. Peter Obi has mourned the demise of Nollywood actor, John Okafor popularly known as Mr. Ibu, saying that “his death is a huge loss, not just to the entertainment industry, but to the nation.

Mr. Ibu died on Saturday, March 2nd, 2024 at Evercare hospital, Lekki, Lagos state.

In a post via his X account, Obi said Ibu’s “death is very saddening” because “he was one legendary comic actor who embodied laughter, exuded joy and spread happiness.”

Obi’s post reads:

“Just as I tweeted my condolence on the death of Nollywood actor Sisi Quadri, a lot of people, through my comments section, called my attention to the death of veteran Nollywood actor, John Okafor, popularly known as Mr Ibu.

“His death is very saddening. He was one legendary comic actor who embodied laughter, exuded joy and spread happiness. When sadly he took ill, we all prayed for his quick recovery and hoped he would bounce back in good health.

His death is a huge loss, not just to the entertainment industry, but to the nation. Those artists who lighten the mood of the nation also perform a great task of helping us all to weather the dark storms of life.

“On behalf of my family, I commiserate with his bereaved family, the Actors Guild of Nigeria, who just lost two legendary actors within a few days and the entire Nollywood family. We share the pains of his death, but are comforted by the cherished moments of joy and happiness he left behind.

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“May God who called him home grant him eternal rest and grant his family, and all of us who mourn him, the fortitude to bear his sad irreplaceable loss. Rest in Peace Mr Ibu!”

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Japa: How Canadian-based Nigerian duped Jobseekers eyeing care jobs abroad of millions of naira

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How Canadian-based Nigerian duped Jobseekers eyeing care jobs abroad of millions of naira
Kayode Stephen

A Nigerian based in Canada, Kayode Stephen, has been accused of defrauding several people of millions of naira under the pretext of getting them certificates of sponsorship for care jobs in the United Kingdom.

A home learning website — www.ncchomelearning.co.uk— describes a care worker as ‘a trained professional who supports other people in all aspects of their daily life, including preparing and eating meals, socialising, physical activities, medical support, and toileting support’.

It explained that some care workers work in care homes, and others are employed on a contract basis in patient’s homes, while domiciliary carers travel to different people’s homes in the community.

Sunday PUNCH reports that of the constant wave of young Nigerians surging out of Nigeria in search of greener pastures abroad, especially in recent times, a significant portion of them are actually in search of care jobs in the UK.

For an immigrant who wants to secure such care jobs in the UK, they have to get a certificate of sponsorship, a document affirming that they have been offered employment as a carer in the country.

However, some Nigerians have found themselves at the short end of the stick, after paying Stephen, who used to be based in the UK, millions of naira, and not getting a CoS as the latter had promised.

Thousands duped over non-existent jobs

Indeed, many Nigerians desperate to escape the hardship in the country and seek better lives in the UK have been swindled out of their hard-earned money.

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In December 2023, an agency of the United Nations— International Organisation for Migration— stated that over 1,000 Nigerians had been duped with fake employment letters and other documents.

Speaking in Abuja in December 2023, IOM’s Chief of Mission, Laurent De Boeck, advised potential migrants to be cautious of syndicates that specialised in offering fake employment letters to Nigerians seeking to work in the United Kingdom.

Urging them to seek out proper information before migration, he stated that no fewer than 1,000 Nigerians were currently stranded in the UK, having got visas based on fake employment letters procured for them, only to get to the respective organisations in the UK and then be denied acceptance, because the letters did not emanate from those organisations.

In search of elusive CoS

An accountant trainee based in the UK, Anjola (surname withheld), told our correspondent that she paid Stephen the sum of £12,000 for training as well as a CoS for her boyfriend, who was in Turkey.

She alleged that upon the completion of the training, Stephen gave her boyfriend a fake CoS, which he submitted at the UK Embassy in Turkey in the course of seeking a visa, and was subsequently handed a ban of 10 years from entering the country.

Recalling the incident in a subdued tone, Anjola said, “I am in a dilemma as I was scammed of £12,000 by Stephen, who posed as a care home manager and claimed to allegedly issue certificates of sponsorship after one is done with training. He gave my boyfriend a fake CoS, which he used to unknowingly apply for a visa, and got a 10-year visa ban from the UK.

“He (Stephen) came in as a student from Nigeria, and now, he has absconded from the UK I have reported to the police but he has unfortunately not been found. Meanwhile, he has scammed other people as well, even from Nigeria, of over £100,000, and someone allegedly committed suicide because of his activities.

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“He is still actively defrauding people, as he is still posting ‘CoS available, cars available for export. Let’s deal,’ on his WhatsApp status.”

Narrating how she paid him for the training, the accountant trainee said, “I paid him in six installments. He gave me the account number of a person, who he claimed was his secretary. I later found out that the person I paid to was his accomplice.

“I contacted the bank to make complaints, and I was informed that the account had been closed because it had been flagged for fraud.”

She added that she became worried after the UK Home Office informed them that it needed more time, raising the suspicion that something was fishy about the document.

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“A month and three weeks after the training, he issued the CoS, and told us that we could go ahead and apply for the visa. I remember reaching out to him because an agent was handling the visa process for us, and I asked him for the licence number of the CoS. He told me it was there. But, I told him to highlight the place for me, because I could not see it.

“After my boyfriend applied for the visa, we later got a mail from the Home Office, saying that the application had not been straightforward and they would need more time. That usually happens when one’s document is not complete, and there seems to be something fishy.

“Another email was then sent, stating that he had been banned for submitting a fake document, which was identified as the CoS. I reached out to him (Stephen) after that, but he stopped taking my calls and did not respond to messages.

“He later told the person who referred me to him, Adeyinka Ajayi, that he would give me a refund if I stopped making noise about the issue,” she said.

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Anjola added that she had made a report to the Metropolitan Police in London, and they stated that they were still working on the case.

Yet another victim, simply identified as Adekoya, alleged that he paid Stephen the sum of £8,000. According to him, he was initially referred to a Nigeria-based lawyer, Peniela Akintujoye, by his brother-in-law, who told him that the latter could help him get a CoS.

“I was introduced to Peniela by my brother-in-law, that he could help my family with CoS. He (Peniela) also told me that his contact in the UK could get me a CoS.

“I told him I wanted the CoS to be for a care home in Birmingham (a city in England). But, he told me that he had already submitted four applications in Birmingham, and was waiting for confirmation. He assured me that it would be out in three days. So, I sent the naira equivalent to my sister-in-law in the UK to convert to £8,000 and give Peniela’s representative,” Adekoya told our correspondent.

“After two weeks, I called him and asked if the CoS was out, so I could proceed with the travel process. He replied that it was not out, so I asked him to refund my money, since it seemed that his contact was not very sure; and he promised to do so. However, he contacted me after three days and said he had another contact that could issue a CoS very fast in Wolverhampton and Manchester (also cities in England).

“After I did not hear from him in three weeks, I told Peniela that if the CoS was not issued after four weeks, they should refund my money. But, that was where the problem started. I later discovered that he gave my money to the same person I had advised him to withdraw the Birmingham application from,” he added.

Couple’s relocation plans truncated

Tosin Ojelabi, a Nigerian living in the United Arab Emirates, also alleged that he paid over N7m to Stephen for the same document to enable him to relocate to the UK with his wife and start a family, but never got what he paid for.

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Like Adekoya, Ojelabi told Sunday PUNCH that he came in contact with Stephen through Akintujoye.

Recounting his experience with Stephen to our correspondent, Ojelabi said, “I am one of the victims defrauded by Mr Kayode Stephen. I got to know him through a lawyer, Peniela Akintujoye. I gave him my hard-earned money so that he could help me get a CoS in the UK.

“The plan was to travel with my wife to the UK and start a family. Since Akintujoye is a lawyer and pastor, I felt that I could entrust him with my money. I paid him a total of N7,162,500. All the money was paid on the same day from two different accounts. As of the time I paid, that money was equivalent to about £6,006.”

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Showing our correspondent the receipts of the transfers, Ojelabi stressed that he felt even more confident because Akintujoye assured him that Stephen had procured CoS for several people through him.

He added, “After about four weeks and I did not get anything, I asked him what the update was, and he told me they were trying to get a CoS for me in Birmingham. Later, he stated that a CoS in Birmingham was not coming, and that they would get for me in another location.

“I was angry, but I decided to wait for another five weeks, yet I still got nothing. I then asked him to give me Stephen’s phone number, so I could communicate with him directly. When I sent him (Stephen) a message, he responded well initially, assuring me that everything would be sorted out soon.”

However, the UAE-based Nigerian stated that he suspected that Akintujoye was Stephen’s accomplice and not a victim.

He said, “I have a strong suspicion that Akintujoye is actually an accomplice, even if he says that he did not take a dime from the money. Throughout the process of waiting for the CoS, he kept defending Stephen and was showing me different CoS’s that Stephen had purportedly procured for some people.

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“He was constantly putting things like that on his WhatsApp status, and misleading people. I believe that as a barrister, what he did was very wrong; it was tantamount to using his platform to give people false information.”

Victims unite

United by their unpalatable experiences with Stephen, 26 of his victims later created a WhatsApp group where they discussed how to recover their money from him.

Our correspondent gathered that more cans of worms were opened when the victims started interacting with one another, as they realised to their chagrin that he had even fleeced more people than they had initially thought.

The middleman

Sunday PUNCH further gathered that many of the victims were linked to Stephen by Akintujoye, and some of them believed that the lawyer was Stephen’s accomplice.

However, in an interview with our correspondent, Akintujoye said he had no idea that Stephen would not fulfil his end of the bargain.

He said, “I am a travel agent, and Stephen told me he had links to secure CoS for my clients. I had actually known him (Stephen) before he left Nigeria, and had done some small businesses with him before he left the country; that was the basis of my trust in him. I did not know that he had become a fraudster in the UK.

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“Based on his assurances, I gave my clients his bank accounts to pay into. I also gave him about £58,000 for 10 CoS. Unfortunately, and perhaps not surprising to him knowing what he set out to do from the outset, he did not deliver even a single CoS out of the 10 I paid him for.”

The lawyer added that when the document was not forthcoming, he requested a refund from Stephen, who he said claimed that the monies were with the care homes. He also said that Stephen failed to provide any evidence of payment to the care homes.

“I also requested that he should put me on call with the said care homes, so I could speak with them personally, but he blatantly declined,” he added.

Akintujoye added that he suspected that Stephen’s girlfriend, Saratu Jubril, was in on the crime, as over £70,000 was paid to her account at the behest of her boyfriend.

Long road to justice

Akintujoye further stated that to get justice for the victims, he had written petitions to different law enforcement agencies. According to him, some of those who paid for the CoS were on the verge of being deported, because they needed to renew their visas, and they had given all their money to Stephen.

He said, “We have petitioned the Nigeria Police Force through the Inspector General of Police, Interpol, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, UK police, his former school — the University of Lincoln (in the UK), and the new school he has gone to (CAN College, Canada); as well as the Canada Anti-Fraud Centre.”

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The lawyer added that the National Cyber Crime Centre of the NPF had extended a letter of invitation to Stephen.

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A copy of the invitation letter dated January 2, 2024, and sighted by our correspondent read in part, “The Nigeria Police Force National Cyber Crime Centre is investigating a case of Advance Fee Fraud and Obtaining by False Pretence, in which your name prominently featured.

“In view of the above, you are requested to interview the Director of the Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre…”

The letter, which was signed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Usman Imam, directed Stephen to present himself at their office on January 16, 2024. However, Sunday PUNCH gathered that the invitation was not honoured.

Akintujoye also said he had been going through mental turmoil, as the alleged victims had been piling pressure on him and demanding a refund.

Promise for refund not fulfilled

One of the victims, Ojelabi, claimed that out of the over N7m he paid to Stephen, he (Stephen) refunded only N1,500,000 before going incommunicado. Akintujoye also said that out of about N90m paid by his clients to Stephen, only N6m was refunded.

However, when our correspondent reached out to Stephen over a month ago, he claimed that he was in the process of refunding all the funds that were paid to him.

Admitting that the victims indeed paid him to get certificates, he claimed, “But, my contact messed up the work, and I have started refunding them.”

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He thereafter sent receipts of the payments he claimed he made to the complainants.

But Akintujoye told Sunday PUNCH that Stephen was only trying to be clever by half.

“In my opinion, his (Stephen’s) approach to scam is that he would take a lot of money from people, later refund a part of it and keep the rest. By giving some of the money back, it would seem like he did not defraud the person.

“But, as long as the monies were diverted and not used for the purpose they were meant for, it has an element of fraud. Up till now, he has not provided any proof of his payment to the third parties he claimed to be dealing with.”

When our correspondent informed Stephen that the victims wanted their funds back in full and asked him to give them a specific timeline for the refunds to be made, he said, “They are getting refunds already. That is what I am explaining to you, but I cannot be specific on an exact time.

“However, I can keep updating you as I send the money to them. I am not employing delay tactics. I could not do anything before, but I have started returning their money.”

Stephen later told our correspondent that the victims were not being patient. He claimed that rapid changes in the immigration laws in the past few months had reduced the allocated slots employers in the UK got, as a means of regulating the inflow of immigrants into the country, hence, reducing the duration it took to secure a certificate of sponsorship from a UK employer.

He said, “Nobody was scammed. A few locations had delays, and that is why I have not been able to deliver. I am in talk with my clients, but clearly, they are not being patient.”

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However, when Sunday PUNCH reached out to the policeman handling the case, ASP Victor Okeshola, he directed our correspondent to the Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, as he was not authorised to speak to the press on the issue.

But, calls and messages put through to the FPRO were not responded to as of the time of filing this report.

In a similar vein, calls put through to the spokesperson of the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, did not connect, and messages sent to him had not been responded to as of press time.

Source: Sunday PUNCH

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