Walter Wagbastsoma, Adaoha Ugo-Nnadi and the owners of Ontario oil and Gas Company were found guilty by a High Court in Lagos for fuel subsidy scam.
We all rememberthe fuel subsidy saga that was partially removed during the Goodlucks’ administration which led to massive protests most especially in Abuja and lagos.
The subsidy was finally removed by President Muhammadu Buhari in May after a serious debate that took time which increased fuel pump price to N145 from N87. President Buhari was backed up by the minister of state Petroleum products, Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu who stated that the citizens were not benefiting from the so called subsidy which made it necessary to be removed.
There were 4 suspects all together and It was confirmed that the suspects had eight count charges against them and were found guilty of all on Friday, January 13 except for the third person Babafemi Fakuade who was found not guilty and was duly discharged and acquitted.
The NNPC released recently a comprehensive list of 39 companies allowed to lift crude oil from Nigeria for the 2017/2018 period.
In that same list the NNPC released and stated clearly the 2017/2018 crude oil trade agreement, at least six of those companies have been indicated for subsidy fraud.
According to Premium Times, more than 30 companies were indicted after investigations were launched, and several of them are still facing criminal charges in Nigerian courts for making hugely inflated subsidy claims.
The judge also said the prosecution gave evidence that the convicts discharged “a much lesser quantity” of petrol in their transaction with the government and presented a forged shore tank certificate.
“The fourth defendant defrauded the federal government of N340 million,” she said.
A prosecution witness gave evidence that, in the first transaction, Ontario Oil paid N37 million for 12 million litres of fuel in a throughput agreement with Integrated oil and Gas, but later collected subsidy for 19 million litres.
In the second transaction, the company collected subsidy for 19 million litres while they paid a throughput agreement with Obat Oil worth N28 million for 10 million litres of fuel.
“Both the first and second defendants signed the cheque for the throughput agreement,” the judge quoted the witness as saying.
“I find that there is credible, concrete evidence that the quantity of petrol discharged was 12 million litres.
“Evidence by the prosecution is that the product was discharged into one tank which cannot contain more than 16.5 million litres because of an inbuilt floating roof that takes about two million litres,” said the judge.
The report also said when the convicts were first arraigned, Mr. Wagbatsoma was absent.
“The first defendant while testifying laboured to convince the court that he was not involved in the day to day running of the fourth defendant, but he signs the cheques,” Mrs. Okunnu said.
“He is of sound, literate mind. Over and over again, he informed the court he sits on the board of 27 companies. He knew what he was doing when he signed those cheques, and there is evidence that he used the money from the subsidy payment.”
For Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi, the judge described her as the “operating mind and the alter ego” of the company.
“She had full knowledge of the entire exercise.”
“I find the first, second, and fourth defendants guilty of forgery. All three of them conspired as there was a meeting of minds,” she said.
The case against Mr. Fakuade, who was discharged and acquitted, was that he signed and embossed the PPPRA stamp on a forged document, the judge said.
“There is nothing that shows that he was aware of the real document that showed the actual amount of fuel discharged. It was simply gross negligence on his part.”
Olanrewaju Suraju the chairman of Civil Society Network Against Corruption, a coalition of anti-corruption organizations said:
“Many of these multinationals, oil companies, and other high-level investors in the system, they have a way of manipulating the system that you won’t be surprised if many of them also have contributed to the campaign and funding of some of these political parties and government officials.
“So they pay them back which is usually considered an investment in the electoral process. They get to pay them back with these kinds of contracts.”