Police arraign two new oil subsidy suspects

THE police on Thursday arraigned two new oil marketers, Chinyerem Nweze and Olaniran Ogundipe, before a Federal High Court Lagos, over alleged N1.3 billion subsidy fraud.

They were charged together with their companies, Geacan Energy Limited and Petroleum Brokers Limited, on a six-count charge bordering on conspiracy and fraud.

But they pleaded not guilty to the charge.

After the pleas of the accused were taken, the prosecutor, Dania Abdullahi, prayed the trial judge, Justice Musa Kurya, to order the remand of the accused in prison, and grant accelerated trial.

Counsel to the accused, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), however objected to the application for remand, and informed the court of a bail summons he had filed on behalf of the accused.

He argued that since the accused were granted police administrative bail on September 12, they had always appeared at the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) whenever invited without default.

Idigbe also told the court that the accused were present in court as early as 7.am for their arraignment, and so, there was no likelihood that they would jump bail.

He said: “My lord, the accused have always demonstrated good faith, by availing themselves for interrogations at the SFU whenever required to do so. We have particularly exhibited documents showing the medical conditions of the accused, and which we urge the court to consider in granting bail.

“The first accused is suffering from a severe spinal cord disorder, while the second accused has acute peptic ulcer, which both require proper medical attention.

“It will serve the interest of justice if the accused are admitted to bail on liberal terms, since they have proved themselves to be honest people”.

Thereafter, the prosecutor informed the court of a counter affidavit he had filed in response to the bail summons.

He argued that an application for remand of an accused was a natural consequence flowing from arraignment, but added that bail was at the discretion of the court.

Justice Kurya in a short ruling admitted the accused to bail in the sum of N1.5 billion each, with one surety each in like sum.

He added that the sureties must occupy the position of a permanent secretary in Lagos State, and must exhibit evidence of such position before the court.

The judge also added that the accused should be remanded at the Ikoyi prisons within 24 hours, if they fail to meet the bail conditions and adjourned the case to November 6, 7 and 8 for trial.

The accused were alleged to have committed the offence between January and April 2011.

They were alleged to have fraudulently obtained the sum of N1.3 billion from the Federal Government under the pretext of importing about 18,000 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).

According to the prosecutor, the accused forged a consolidated Hallmark Marine Insurance Certificate, with which they allegedly perpetrated the fraud, adding that the accused never imported the products.

The offence is said to contravene the provisions of sections 1(1), 1(2), 3 (1), 8 (a), and 10 (1) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, Cap. A6 Laws of the Federation 2004 as well as the provisions of section 467 of the Criminal Code, Laws of the Federation 2004.

By Joseph Onyekwere, September 20, 2013