A PROSECUTION witness, Mr. Ihechukwu Ireogbu, Tuesday told an Ikeja High Court, Lagos, presided over by Justice Lateefat Okunnu, that an oil marketer, Rowaye Jubril, forged some documents to fraudulently obtain N963.7 million subsidy payment from the Federal Government.
Ireogbu, the managing director of MGI Inspection Limited, testified at the ongoing trial of Jubril and his company, Brila Energy Limited, for the alleged crime preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Ireogbu, who was cross-examined by the defence counsel, Mr. Raphael Oluyede, told the court that his company did not participate in the inspection of the 13,500 metric tonnes of premium motor spirit (PMS) purportedly imported by Jubril.
Although he admitted that his firm had a prior business relationship with the defendant, the witness refuted claims by the defendant that his company inspected the product between January 26 and 27, 2011, at off-shore Cotonou in Benin Republic, describing it as complete false.
Ireogbu, in his testimony, told the court that he instructed one Felix Iweka, an employee of Port Cargo Services, which is a subsidiary of the company, to go to Cotonou to carry out the inspection.
He, however, said Iweka later confirmed to him that he did not inspect ship-to-ship transfer of the products between the mother vessel, MT Overseas Lima and the daughter vessel, MT Delphina.
“He only carried out a survey on another vessel and not this particular transaction,” the witness said.
Also testifying, an employee of Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Mr. Akinwunmi Olarenwaju, told the court that the agency made efforts to contact the purported supplier of the product.
Olarenwaju, who was led by the EFCC counsel, Mr. Seidu Atteh, said the defendant had claimed that he purchased the product from Napa Petroleum Trade Incorporation, Panama.
He said: “The EFCC requested a tripartite meeting between the suppliers, the oil marketers and the PPPRA in respect of the transactions. We invited Napa Petroleum, Mercurial Trading and Namax Petroleum for the meeting.”
The witness said Napa Petroleum did not respond to its letter and failed to attend the said meeting.
Further hearing on the matter has been adjourned till January 21, 2014.
Meanwhile, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of an Ikeja High Court has struck out an application filed by an oil marketer, Mr. Seun Ogunbambo, seeking an order to quash the N4.4 billion fuel subsidy fraud charge preferred against him and three others by the EFCC.
The application was struck out for lack of diligent prosecution since neither the applicant nor his lawyer was present in court, a development, the judge said, smacked of lack of diligent prosecution of the application.
However, the other defendants and their lawyer, Mr. Toyin Pinheiro (SAN), were in court.
Ogunbambo, who was charged along with Mamman, Christian Taylor and their firm, Nassaman Oil Services, is seeking an order to quash the charges.
He had in the application filed on June 21, 2013, urged that charges against him (fourth defendant) be quashed.
The application was filed by former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), on behalf of the defendant, contending that the charges instituted against the accused breached some constitutional provisions.
But Justice Onigbanjo declined to strike out the application on the basis that the counter-affidavit EFCC claimed to have filed against the application was yet to get to the court’s file.
The absence of Agbakoba in yesterday’s proceeding also paved way for EFCC prosecuting counsel, Mr. Francis Usani, to urge Justice Onigbanjo to strike out the separate application for the quashing of the N4.4 billion fraud charges against Ogunbambo and others, submitting that the application has delayed progress in the matter.
Usani’s submission was upheld by the judge, who struck it out for lack of diligent prosecution and adjourned till today for further hearing on the matter.
By Bertram Nwannekanna, October 23, 2013