LAGOS—The long awaited prosecution of oil marketers who allegedly defrauded the Federal Government of N304 billion in the oil subsidy scam commenced, yesterday, at the Ikeja judicial division of Lagos State High Court. Five directors of the affected oil companies were arraigned.
Those who were docked include Mahmud Tukur, son of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, the incumbent chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Maman Nasir Ali, son of Ahmadu Ali, former chairman of PDP, and Abdulahi Alao, son of Ibadan-based business man, Alhaji Azeez Arisekola-Alao. The three of them were granted bail but Arisekola-Alao’s son, Abdulahi will not enjoy his freedom until he is granted bail in his second case before another judge, Justice Habeeb Abiru.
SUSPECTS—From right: Fuel subsidy scam suspects, Mahmud Tukur, Abdulahi Alao, Mamman Nassir Ali and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) official, during the suspects’ arraignment at the Ikeja High Court, Lagos, yesterday. Photo: Bunmi Azeez.
Two others who were also arraigned were Ochonogor Alex and Christian Taylor.
While one of the charges came up before Justice Habeeb Abiru, two other charges were entertained by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, also of the Ikeja High Court.
Contrary to expectation, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, in whose instance the arraignment of the accused was delayed till yesterday to enable him personally handle the cases, was not in court to lead the prosecution team.
EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs said the minister was away on official matters.
Just as it happened , Wednesday, the EFCC claimed ignorance of the whereabouts of the first defendant, Wagbatsoma, who was not in court. His lawyer, however, told the court that his client travelled outside the country but promised he would be available next Wednesday.
In the first case before Justice Habeeb Abiru, Arisekola-Alao’s son, Abdulahi and his company, Axenergy were arraigned on a seven-count charge of conspiracy, obtaining over N5 billion under false pretence and forgery of documents. After the charge was read to him, he pleaded not guilty, while his counsel, Mr. Babajide Koku, SAN, applied for his bail.
The EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, however, opposed the bail application arguing that he needed to reply on point of law to the motion for bail. Abdulahi Alao’s bail application was therefore adjourned till August 1.
In Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo’s court, where Mahmud Tukur, Mamman Nasir, Abdulahi Alao, Christian Taylor and Eterna Oil and Gas PLC. had their day, they were all accused of obtaining different sums of money running into over six billion naira under false pretence.
They were also accused of forging several importation and shipping documents to allegedly commit fraud. The prosecution alleged that the accused had between January and April 2011 in Lagos, fraudulently obtained the sum of N1.8 billion from the Federal Government. They were accused of obtaining the money from the Petroleum Support Fund for the purported importation of 80.3 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
The accused persons were also alleged to have forged a Bill of lading dated April 28, 2011, which they used in facilitating the fraud and therefore contravened Sections 467 and 468 of the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State 2003.
They all pleaded not guilty to the charges and then proceeded to argue their application for bail.
In spite of the strong opposition from the EFCC, Justice Onigbanjo released them on bail in the sum of N20 million with two Sureties in like sum.
According to the court, one of the sureties must be a blood relation of the accused.
He said: “The other surety must be a level 16 officer in the Lagos State or Federal Civil Service.
“The sureties must produce three years tax clearance and they must be verified by the chief registrar of the high court. The accused persons are to deposit their international passports with the EFCC which must not be released without the express permission of the court”.
Beside, one of the sureties is also expected to own a property worth two hundred million naira in Lagos.
The judge, however, adjourned the case involving Tukur, Alex, Alao and Eterna Oil and Gas till November 13 while that of Nasaman Oil Services, Ali and Taylor was adjourned till October 30, 2012.
You are on your own, PDP to Tukur’s son
Meanwhile the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday distanced itself from Mahmud Tukur, the embattled son of its National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC over fuel subsidy fraud.
Addressing Journalists, yesterday, on the outcome of the meeting of the National Working Committee, NWC, Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja who cleared the name of the PDP National Chairman from the oil subsidy scandal, stressed that his son was old enough to carry his cross.
Flanked by the PDP National Treasurer, Bala Kaoje; the Deputy National Chairman noted that the subsidy scandal as it relates to Mahmud Tukur, was not a party issue and as such, the law should take its course.
He said: “On the issue of some PDP members being involved in oil subsidy, these are individuals, everybody bears his own cross. There are governors who are now facing prosecution as a result of their actions and inactions, so it is not a party thing.
“PDP did not send anybody to go and misbehave. Even if you mention my Chairman’s son, he is up to age, assuming he is to go to jail they will not come and jail the National Chairman, because he did not send him. He is a man of age and he has his household; he has his family, everybody accounts for his own position and, of course, it has been mentioned, until they are proved guilty they still remain innocent.
“The party cannot just get out and breathe down on them and begin to condemn them, they will be given equal opportunity to defend themselves in competent courts of law, and until they are found guilty, then the party will come out and take a position. For the party now to begin to condemn them is absolutely premature and prejudicial.”