The ongoing trial of Abubakar Ali Peters and his company, Nadabo Energy Limited, over an alleged N761.6 million subsidy fraud could not hold yesterday before Justice S.S. Ogunsanya of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, following the absence of the defendant.
Ogunsanya had, at the last proceedings on September 22, 2021, adjourned till November 1 and 2, 2021 for the defence to cross-examine Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, after the conclusion of his examination-in-chief.
Bawa had told the court that investigations by the EFCC into petitions received from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and some concerned Nigerians in 2015 alleging fraud in the subsidy regime uncovered forged documents allegedly used by the defendant to claim subsidy funds for 12,000MT of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) “whereas only about 6,000 MT was imported by the defendant”.
According to EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, at the resumed sitting, yesterday, rather than commence with the cross-examination of the witness, counsel for the defence, E.O. Isiramen, informed the court that his client was absent, having contracted coronavirus.
“He is ill with coronavirus, as he tested positive for the virus and he is currently at an isolation centre, where he is receiving treatment,” he said.
However, the judge asked him to give the court the specific isolation centre, where his client was receiving treatment. In response, Isiramen said: “I don’t know precisely where he is; the report was sent via email.”
The judge, surprised, stressed that the court was a “court of records not of speculations”. In his response, the prosecuting counsel, S.K. Atteh, told the court that the same reason was given for the absence of the defendant at another fraud case against him before Justice C.A. Balogun of a Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja.
But the judge was displeased that the defence was “wasting judicial time”. While adjourning till December 16 and 17, 2021, Justice Ogunsanya gave the defence seven days to furnish the prosecution and the court with the medical report, and pay the sum of N309,000 within seven days, to defray the costs incurred by the two witnesses, whom the prosecution had brought to court from Abuja for the matter.
In another development, Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court in Ikeja, dismissed the no-case submission filed by Managing Director of First Nation Airways Ltd., Mr. Kayode Odukoya, who is being prosecuted for alleged N1.7 billion fraud.
Dada ordered Odukoya, who is being prosecuted by the EFCC to open his defence on January 17, 2022. Odukoya is standing trial alongside First Nation Airways Limited and Bellview Airlines Limited on a seven-count charge bordering on forgery, use of false document, perjury, stealing and obtaining credit by fraud contrary to sections 85(1), 86(1), 278(1)&(b), 285(1), 313(1)(a) &(b), 361(1)(a)& (b), 363 (1) and 364(1) of the criminal law of Lagos State of Nigeria 2011.” He had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Also, the House of Representatives, yesterday, summoned the Managing Director of Premium steel and Mining Company (PSMC) Prasanta Mishra, to appear before its Committee on Steel tomorrow.
This follows the failure of the MD to appear before the committee yesterday to answer charges of fraudulent allegations leveled against the company by the host community of Delta Steel Complex DSC, which it bought over. At the public investigative hearing, the lawmakers heard how Premium Steel is indebted to government to the tune of N30 billion.