Nigeria - Fuel Subsidy Trial, Oil Marketers Granted Bail


The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Wednesday continued its arraignment of directors of oil-marketing and trading (OM&T) firms and the companies suspected to have defrauded the fuel subsidy scheme.
Five suspects implicated in the fuel subsidy scam were arraigned at the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, presided over by Justice Habeeb Abiru.
The five suspects – Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer, Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele and Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited – were arraigned on a nine-count charge of obtaining property by false pretence, altering documents, forgery and conspiracy.
The EFCC had on July 25 taken the suspects to court in order to arraign them but the absence of one of the suspects, Wagbatsoma, stalled the arraignment.
Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, told the court Wednesday the matter was for arraignment. Thereafter, the suspects were called to the dock and the charges read to them. They all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Following their plea, counsel to Wagbatsoma and Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, Babajide Koku (SAN), said he had filed an application before the court, urging it to grant the defendants bail on self-recognition.
He said he hinged his prayer on the fact that Wagbatsoma had promised to produce himself in court and he did so. Koku told the court that his client did not have any record of jumping bail and as such would be available for trial.
Responding, Jacobs said the prayer by the defence counsel did not hold water.  He told the court that granting the defendant bail based on self-recognition was not tenable because the defendant fled from the country to evade arrest upon learning about the charges filed against him.
He said all efforts to get him arrested proved abortive and that the suspect also refused to present himself before the EFCC when he was invited for interrogation.
Jacobs reminded the court that the charges were filed against Wagbatsoma on July 20 but that he claimed to have travelled out of the country on June 17 and returned to the country on July 3 only to take off again on July 20 when he got wind of the charges filed against him before the court.
“A letter was received by the EFCC from the defendant's company, Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, that he was out of the country for medical check-up and will be available the moment he returned to the country.
“But that letter was dated 18th July, 2012. So he was still very much in the country. These are some accounts of the deceit he employed to confirm that he was evading arrest.
“Up till now, we have not been able to obtain his statement. He left Abuja for France by 9 pm on the 20th July, 2012 having got wind of this,” Jacob said.
He therefore urged the court to refuse the application as he could jump bail and flee the country again.
Counsel to the second defendant, Wale Akanni (SAN), also prayed the court to admit his client to bail, having aligned himself to the prayers of the first defendant's counsel.

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