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Attorney-General absence stalls trial of those indicted in oil subsidy scam
By Theo Adegoke
July 25, 2012 23:14:17pm GMT
Law

Lagos (WorldStage Newsonline)-- The planned arraignment of the first set of suspects indicted in the oil subsidy scam before the Lagos High court in Ikeja was  Wednesday stalled due to the absence of the Minister of Justice and Attorney- General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke (SAN).

Among the ten suspects brought before the court is Mahmud Tukur, who is said to be the son of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Abdulahi Alao, believed to be the son of Ibadan based politician, Alhaji Arisekola Alao.

A counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs who held the brief of the Attorney General urged the court presiding over by Justice Habeeb Abiru to adjourn the trial till Thursday, the 25th of July to enable the AGF who had just returned to the country from a trip and has personally indicated his interest to lead the prosecution team to come to court.

Jacobs also informed the court that the commission has not being able to produce or locate the first defendant, one Walter Wagbatsoma, urged the Judge to get his counsel, Olawale Akoni (SAN)u to give an undertaking that he would be present in court on Thursday.

When the judge put the questions to the counsel why he was in court and his clients is absence, he immediately withdrew his appearance for Wagbatsoma and then turned around to put in his appearance again before subsequently informing the judge that there was a bail application for the defendant.

Akani also said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had not served his client with the court papers.

"I haven't' spoken with him, I received instructions to appear on his behalf to protect his interest" he stated.

At this stage, the court noted that the procedure adopted by Akoni was wrong as the defendant ought to be present in court before asking for bail, he's not in court and he is dodging, there are implications to it," he stated.

Charged along with Wagbatsoma before Justice Abiru are Adaoha Ugo- Nnadi, Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer, Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele and Ontario Oil & Gas Nigeria Ltd.

In the 9 count charge brought against them by the EFCC, they are alleged to have conspired by false pretences to obtain from the Federal Government the sum of four hundred and fifteen million Naira at one time and another, three hundred and forty one million naira purporting it to be subsidy payable to Ontario Oil & Gas Nigeria Ltd under the petroleum support fund, a sum which was in excess of the actual value of the product imported into Nigeria by the company.

The offences according to EFCC are punishable under section 1 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act and various other sections of the criminal code of Lagos.

Also arraigned before the court is Abdulahi Alao and Axenergy Ltd on a seven count charge of obtaining various sums of money for similar offences.

Another set of suspects, Mahmud Tukur, Ochonogor Alex, Abdulahi Alao and Eterna Oil & Gas could also not be arraigned before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo owing to the absence of the Attorney General of the Federation.

The court has adjourned till tomorrow, Thursday when Mr Adoke Bello is expected to be present.

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