Subsidy: EFCC Suspends Arraignment of Marketers
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has suspended the further arraignment of oil-marketing and trading company (OM&T) and their directors, THISDAY has learnt.
Sources in the presidency said the suspension of the arraignment is to enable the law enforcement agency conduct detailed investigations into the activities of the marketers, preparatory to preferring charges against them that can withstand legal scrutiny.
The source said with the arraignment of 19 suspects for the N13 billion fraud perpetrated in the management of the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF), the EFCC wants to take its time before arraigning another batch of oil marketers indicted by the various panels set up to investigate the management of the fuel subsidy scheme.
It was also learnt Monday that the police have sent the case file of the suspended Chairman, House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on the Monitoring of the Fuel Subsidy regime, Hon. Farouk Lawan, to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, for his consideration, preparatory to Lawan’s arraignment.
The presidency source said the EFCC has been directed to ensure that the outstanding oil marketers are properly investigated before seeking fiat from Adoke for their prosecution.
The source said the government was trying to avoid a situation where the prosecution team would have to withdraw charges before the court for amendment.
“We don’t want to do a shoddy job. We do not want to file charges in a hurry and begin to withdraw them. Definitely more prosecutions will come. More people will be arraigned.
“What we are doing now is for the EFCC to thoroughly conduct investigations. As soon as that is done, the AGF will give his fiat for prosecution. What the government is determined to do is ensure that they are prosecuted and the stolen money recovered,” the source said.
The EFCC had last month arraigned seven companies and 12 individuals, including Nasaman Oil Services, Eternal Oil and Gas Limited, Ontario Oil and Gas Plc, Nadabo Energy Limited, Pacific Silver Line Limited and Axenergy Limited.
Others whose trial has taken off are Mamman Nasir Ali, Christian Taylor, Mahmud Tukur, Ochonogor Alex, Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer, Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele, Abubakar Ali Peters, Jude Agube Abalaka, Abdullahi Alao and Oluwaseun Ogunbambo.
Two more directors and an OM&T were arraigned last week before a Lagos High Court in Ikeja, for the fuel subsidy fraud.
The oil marketers and the company arraigned before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo were Ogunbambo, Habila Theck and Fargo Petroleum and Gas Limited.
However, the EFCC on July 31 discontinued the criminal charges filed against two directors and two oil-marketing and trading firms at the Lagos High Court in Igbosere, Lagos.
The suspects, whose charges were withdrawn, are: Durosola Omogbenigun, Peter Mba, Integrated Resources Limited and Pinnacle Oil and Gas Limited.
EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, in an application dated July 26, sought the leave of the court to withdraw and discontinue the charges because after it reviewed the case and the evidence available to it, it found out that the defendants did not commit the offences for which they were charged.
Oyedepo told the court that he had instructions of the AGF to withdraw the charges against the defendants.
Following the discontinuance of the charges, the trial judge, Justice Samuel Candide-Johnson, consequently struck out the suit.
When the charges were filed against the suspects on July 20, the EFCC failed to appear at the court until July 31 when it sought to discontinue the case.
On July 26, when the suspects were supposed to be arraigned, both the prosecution and the suspects were absent in court.
THISDAY gathered that it was to avoid a recurrence of the embarrassing situation in which the EFCC discontinues a trial due to either inconclusive investigations or badly prepared charges that could give the defence team the loophole to stall or win the case that prompted the Federal Government to suspend further arraignment of indicted oil marketers.
On the planned arraignment of Lawan for allegedly collecting $500,000 from the Chairman, Zenon Petroleum & Gas Ltd, Mr. Femi Otedola, to doctor the report of the House ad hoc committee, it was learnt that Adoke was studying the case file and would take a decision this week on whether the police, which investigated the allegation, have enough evidence to sustain a trial in court.
Lawan is billed for arraignment along with the secretary of the ad hoc committee, Mr. Boniface Emenalo, who reportedly collected $120,000 from Otedola in the cash-for-clearance scandal that rocked the House.
“I can tell you authoritatively that the file is right there on the table of the minister. He is still studying it and by tomorrow (today) or next, we would decide on the next thing to do,” the source said.
Detectives who investigated the matter had finished their report last week and submitted it to the police Legal Department for advice.
It was learnt that the police investigative team, headed by Ali Amodu, the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Special Task Force, was able to gather incriminating evidence which would be used to prosecute Lawan and Emenalo in court.
A source told THISDAY that in its response, the Police Legal Department recommended the trial of the duo.