N1.9b Subsidy Scam: ‘Wagbatsama, Others Have Case To Answer’ – Court Rules

ADAOHA UGO_NGADI AND WALTER WAGATSOMA OF ONTARIO OIL AND GAS NIG LTD OUTSIDE THE COURTWalter Wagbatsama, Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi and their company, Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited have lost in their bid to stop their trial for obtaining N1.9billion in unearned fuel subsidy. Justice Lateefa Okunnu of a Lagos High Court, Ikeja, on Friday, October 10th, 2014, dismissed their applications challenging the jurisdiction and competence of the court and seeking the quashing of the charges preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The defendants had, through their counsel, made a no-case submission before the court.

However, Justice Okunnu upheld the argument of the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, who argued that “the High Court has concurrent jurisdiction to try this matter as provided for by the appropriate legislations”. According to Okunnu, “it is the nature of the offense that determines the jurisdiction of the court and the charges here are matters that can be tried in the High Court. When it comes to trial of criminal cases, the line between federal and state is necessarily blurred. Section 251 (3) has not robbed the High Court of jurisdiction in this matter, this case is not an admiralty case but a pure criminal matter. Therefore, it is not the pieces of peripheral evidence before the court that determines jurisdiction, but the nature of the law that has been infringed.”

The application for a no-case submission was consequently thrown out on the grounds that enough has been said and put before the court by the prosecution, to warrant at least an explanation and answers by the defendants. According to Okunnu, “it is only when there is nothing linking the accused to the crime committed that it becomes unfair to put the accused through the trial. The question now is, has enough been said to warrant at least an explanation by each defendant? Enough has been said to warrant explanations and answers by the defendants”

Also dismissed by Okunnu were applications filed on behalf of Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer, a staff of the Petroleum Product Pricing and Regulatory Agency , PPPRA, and Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele of Akintola Williams Delloite, standing trial alongside Wagbatsama, Ugo-Ngadi and Ontario Oil Limited, for their alleged involvement in the scam.

While Fakuade’s application was dismissed for what the court called negligence on his part in the discharge of his legitimate duty, Ejidele was discharged on the grounds that his role does not include determining if the documents presented to his office were forged, altered or genuine.

Walter Wagbatsama; Adaoha Ugo -Ngadi; Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer and Ontario Oil & Gas Nigeria Limited are alleged to have fraudulently obtaining the sum of N1, 959, 377, 542, .63 (One Billion, Nine Hundred and Fifty Nine Million, Three Hundred and Seventy Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Forty Two Naira, Sixty Three Kobo) from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported importation of 39.2million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.

Justice Okunnu then adjourned the case to November 26th, and 28th, 2014 as well as January 12, 13, 14, 20 and 21, 2015, for continuation of trial.

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