N1.9bn Fuel Subsidy Fraud: Court Frees Accountant Of Complicity

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AGENCY REPORTS
— Oct 10, 2014
An Ikeja High Court on Friday discharged an accountant, Ezekiel Ejidele, who was tried for complicity in a N1.9 billion fuel subsidy fraud.

Justice Lateefat Okunnu discharged Ejidele, a staff of Akintola Williams Delloite, after upholding his no-case submission application.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ejidele was charged alongside two oil marketers — Walter Wagbatsoma and Adaoha Ugo-Ndagi.

Also charged with them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is Fakuade Babafemi, a staff of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Authority (PPPRA).

They are facing a nine-count charge of conspiracy, obtaining property by false pretences, forgery and uttering.

The defendants had all filed their respective no-case submission applications, urging the court to discharge them.

In her ruling, Okunnu held that the prosecution had not been able to provide sufficient evidence linking Ejidele to the alleged offences.

The judge said the prosecution solely relied on the testimony of an EFCC Investigative Officer, Mr Shehu Mohammed, who claimed to have interrogated one Danjuma Edeko.

She said Mohammed had claimed that Ejidele instructed Edeko not to monitor the discharge of the petroleum product imported by the defendants at the Integrated Oil and Gas Depot.

“This piece of evidence is inadmissible. There is nothing before the court to prove that he gave the said instruction to Edeko,” Okunnu added.

She noted that Ejidele had calculated the amount and endorsed the Shore Tank Certificate which the marketers used to process the subsidy payment in dispute.

According to her, there is no evidence that he knew that the document contained false representation.

The judge said:” In my humble view, there is no evidence linking the fourth defendant (Ejidele) to the crime.

“I hereby uphold his no-case submission and he is accordingly discharged.”

Okunnu, however, dismissed the applications of the other four defendants, adding that sufficient evidence had been established against them.

She said the EFCC had alleged that the marketers imported 12.4 million litres and 10 million litres of petrol (Premium Motor Spirit) in two transactions between July and November 2010.

The judge said the prosecution claimed that they had received subsidy payment for 19 million litres and 15 million litres respectively by forging the shore tank certificate.

Okunnu noted that Babafemi, who was supposed to oversee the discharge of the product, failed to do so but later signed the said certificate used for the alleged fraud.

The judge also held that the court had jurisdiction to entertain the case contrary to the argument by the defendants’ counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN).

“The applications of the other defendants are hereby dismissed. I hereby call upon them to present their defence.

The case was adjourned to Nov. 26 for the defendants to open their defence. (NAN)

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