The trial of five suspects implicated in a N1.9billion subsidy scam -Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi; Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer; Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele and Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited – commenced on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 before Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja.
Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, informed the court that the prosecution was ready to proceed with trial. He presented the first prosecution witness, Damon Yelma who addressed the court that the defendants were docked based on a petition to the EFCC by the Minister of Petroleum Resources. He said Ontario Oil and Gas Limited was among suspects in the scam. Walter Wagbatsama is the Chairman of the company. According to him, the EFCC investigations uncovered a discrepancy in the quantity of products supplied by Ontario Oil and Gas and the quantity for which the company was paid. The witness said in the third quarter of 2010, the company discharged twelve million(12,000,000) liters of fuel to Integrated Oil depot and claimed to have discharged nineteen million (19,000,000) liters. He said the company went ahead to claim subsidy for nineteen million liters knowing fully well that the quantity discharged was seven million liters less.
He also said that, in the fourth quarter of 2010, the same company imported and discharged petroleum products to the Obat Oil and Gas depot. The quantity at that time as shown on the depot Shore Tank was Ten Million Four Hundred and Forty Six Thousand, Five Hundred and Forty Four (10,446,544) liters but Ontario Oil and Gas claimed that the products supplied was Nineteen Million, Five Hundred and Twenty Three Thousand, Eight Hundred and Ninety Two (19,523,892) liters, and went ahead to claim subsidy for the same number of liters.
After giving his evidences, Jacobs presented the petition from the Minister of Petroleum Resources, dated January 12, 2012 to the court. It was accepted as the first exhibit and tagged Exhibit PI. The witness statement was also tendered tagged Exhibit P2, statement of the first and second defendant tagged Exhibit P 3. They were all accepted in evidence as no objection was raised by all defence counsel.
Counsel to the first, second and fifth defendants, Wole Olanipekun, SAN asked the witness if during the entire investigations there was any evidence that the tank farms used to discharge the products belongs to any of the defendants and he said “no”.
The defence counsel then presented other documents from the proof of evidence to the witness for clarification and he obliged. These documents are the Shore Tank Certificates for the third and fourth quarters, Shore Tank Quantity Reports and the product’s Bill of Lading. They were presented before the court and also accepted as Exhibits.
Olanipekun thereafter, asked for an adjournment. He said the defence just received additional documents attached to the proof of evidence which they will need time to study. The Judge obliged and the matter was adjourned to May 9, 2013.
The five defendants were initially arraigned before Justice Habeeb Abiru of the Lagos State High Court on a 9-count charge for offences bordering on obtaining money by false pretences, alterations of document, forgery and conspiracy. The matter was transferred to Justice Okunnu after Justice Abiru was elevated to the Court of Appeal.