A cleric in Ekiti State, Rt. Rev. Adereti Ebenezar, and a 68 years old Chief Akinyede Joseph, has been sentenced to three years imprisonment each for conspiracy and other offences by an Ekiti State High Court in Ado Ekiti on Thursday.
According to The PUNCH, the duo were arraigned before Justice Lekan Ogunmoye on October 18, 2021, on four-count bordering on conspiracy, forgery, false sworn declaration and making documents without authority.
The accusation states that Joseph and Ebenezar “did plot to forge the minute of meeting of the Registered Trustees of the United Church of Cherubim and Seraphim Organization” on January 10, 2016, at Ilado Street, Iwore, Ifaki Ekiti.
Additionally, they were charged with making “false claims that they were appointed as members of the Registered Trustees of the Church and as well as prepared an altered constitution of the Registered Trustees of the Church without proper permission.
The offences violated sections 516, 467, 191, and 473 of the Criminal Code Cap. C16, Vol. 1, Laws of Ekiti State Nigeria, 2012, according to the prosecutor, Gbemiga Adaramola.
In his statement to the police, one of the Trustees, Faseyi Albert, said, “I was appointed alongside others as the Board of Trustees of the Church in 2001, the appointment was sent to the Corporate Affairs Commission for ratification.
“After the demise of Primate and Archbishop of the Church, Most Rev. S.A. Fadeyi, the Bishop in-council consequently ratified the appointment of Rt. Rev. Tunde Ogunseemi as the new Primate/Archbishop of the organization in 2015.
“During the manual search conducted by CAC, it was discovered that Rt. Rev. Adereti Ebenezer who was Archbishop 3 of the Church and Chief Akinyede Joseph had manipulated some documents which indicated that the trustees had a meeting and the decision was taken to remove Most Rev. Tunde Ogunseemi’s name, minutes of the same meeting was forged among others and presented to CAC.
“I was also alleged to have been present at the meeting. The matter was later reported to the police for investigation and action, he said.
The prosecutor, Adaramola, called five witnesses, submitted the petition to the CAC, the appointment letter, meeting notes, a letter from the Conference of General Secretaries to the Archbishops, and the defendants’ statements as documents, among other things.
The defendant, who spoke on their behalf through their attorney Ayotunde Ibitoye, called four witnesses and urged the judge to balance justice with mercy.
In his ruling, Justice Lekan Ogunmoye discharged and acquitted the defendants in count three, stating that there was strong evidence before the court that they worked together to fake the signatures of the Board of Trustees member and the minutes of the meeting of the Registered Trustees (false declaration).
However, Ogunmoye declared, “The defendants are sentenced to one year imprisonment each in counts one, two, and four (conspiracy, forging a document without authorization, and creating a document without authority), with an option of N20,000 fine, in each of the charges. The sentences must be read in order.