THE long-expected trial of accused persons in the oil subsidy scam scheduled to hold at the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, yesterday could not take place due to the absence of the lead prosecutor, Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke (SAN).
The accused persons were to appear before Justices Adeniyi Onigbanjo and Habeeb Abiru on charges of conspiracy, obtaining money by false pretence, forgery and use of false documents.
All the accused persons, namely Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi and Ezekiel Ejidele, appeared before Justice Abiru except Walter Wagbatsoma, who was represented by his counsel, Mr. Olawale Akanni (SAN). Akanni told the court that his client could not appear because he was yet to be served the information.
Another marketer, Abdulahi Alao and his company, Axenergy Limited, were also brought before the court but could not be arraigned for the same reasons.
Alao was charged to court for allegedly obtaining the sum of N2.6 billion being payments received from the Petroleum Support Fund for the purported importation of 33.3 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.
He is also facing a seven-count charge bothering on conspiracy, obtaining money by false pretence, forgery and use of false documents.
Prosecutor from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, urged the court to adjourn the arraignment to today to enable Adoke “personally” lead the prosecution team.
Jacobs said: “The Attorney-General of the Federation just returned to the country on Tuesday and he intends to personally come before my Lord tomorrow to lead the prosecution team.”
The EFCC alleged that the accused persons fraudulently obtained over N1.9 billion from the Federal Government under the Petroleum Support Fund from July 2010 to January 2011.
The arraignment of Mahmud Tukur, Ochonogor Alex, Abdulai Alao and Eternal Oil and Gas Ltd before Onigbanjo was also adjourned to today.
They are facing a nine-count charge of allegedly obtaining N1.8 billion from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported importation of 80.3 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.
Also to be arraigned today before Justice Onigbanjo are Mamman Nasir, Christian Taylor and Nasaman Oil Services, all accused of fraudulently obtaining N4.4 billion from the Federal Government.
The sum was obtained as subsidy payments from the Petroleum Support Fund for the purported importation of 30.5 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit from SEATAC Petroleum Limited of British Virgin Islands.
Meanwhile, about 30 oil marketers under the auspice of Depot and Petroleum Product Marketers Association (DAPPMA) may begin an indefinite strike from today, crippling petroleum products distribution nationwide.
Chairman of DAPPMA, Mr. Dapo Abiodun, confirmed to The Guardian yesterday that all the marketers and depot operators had been directed to immediately shut down from this morning, until the Federal Government respond to the payment of their outstanding subsidy claims.
Abiodun, who expressed his sympathy for any inconvenience the action might cost Nigerians, said it was the last resort for them since the minister of finance has allegedly proved adamant to their agitations.
The association, which claimed that their members have been operating under intense condition since the suspension of subsidy claims, said their banks’ debts are accumulating, thereby indicating a gloomy future for the business.
“We are running into debts and the banks are not comfortable. They have been adopting several measures to recoup their funds accruing from various transactions, including interest and foreign exchange, which runs into billions of dollars,” he said.
The industrial action is coming, as the strike embarked upon by the Jetty and Petroleum Tank Farm Owners of Nigeria (JEPTFON) continues, while negation is ongoing.