Suspects of fuel subsidy scam convicted

A High Court in Lagos has found Ontario Oil and Gas Company and the owners, Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo-Nnadi guilty of fuel subsidy s...



A High Court in Lagos has found Ontario Oil and Gas Company and the owners, Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo-Nnadi guilty of fuel subsidy scam.

There were eight count charges against them and they were found guilty of all on Friday, January 13.

Babafemi Fakuade who is the third defendant was found not guilty and duly discharged and acquitted.

The fuel subsidy saga and its partial removal during the administration of former president, Goodluck Jonathan led to massive protests especially in Lagos and Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari finally removed subsidy in May after a lengthy debate which increased fuel pump price from N87 to N145.

The minister of state for petroleum products, Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, had said that the citizens were not benefiting from the subsidy which made it necessary to be removed.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), recently released a list of 39 companies allowed to lift crude oil from Nigeria for the period of 2017/2018.

At least six of those companies have been indicted for subsidy fraud. This was contained in the same list released by the NNPC, where they stated the the 2017/2018 crude oil trade agreement.

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 organisations 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.”

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