Fuel subsidy fraud: Wagbatsoma’s application faces dismissal
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on Thursday, urged an Ikeja High Court of Lagos State, to quash an extraneous application brought before it in the ongoing trial of some oil marketers accused of fuel subsidy fraud that is in the eleventh hour, pointing out that it was a tactics to forestall trial.
Mr. Walter Wagbatsoma alongside Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi, Fakuade Ebenezer, and Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, are being tried before the court presided over by Justice Lateefat Okunnu led-court on alleged fuel subsidy fraud of N1.9 billion.
The accused persons were alleged to have obtained the said money under the pretence of importing of N40 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly called petrol.
They were re-arraigned before the court in February, 2013, on a nine-count charge bordering on forgery, conspiracy, and obtaining by false pretences.
Today’s proceedings which was for adoption of written addresses suffered a setback as counsel to Wagbatsoma, Mr. Edoka Onyeke, brought a fresh application on the ground that the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacob, SAN, did not have the fiat of Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to prosecute the matter.
In response to the accused persons’ submission, lawyer to EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Jacob, SAN, informed the court that the power to prosecute and employ the service of private legal representation is given to EFCC by the constitution and the Act that set up the anti-graft agency.
The prosecutor further informed the court that it was the head of legal department of the EFCC, who deposed the charge sheet upon which the suspects were arraigned not him.
He also informed the court that he has letter of instruction from EFCC, which empowered him to represents the agency, that the ‘Fiat’ of AGF was no longer needed to prosecute, and representing the agency.
Attempt by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs to tender a copy of his authorisation letter from the EFCC was opposed to by the accused persons’ lawyer.
Consequently, lawyer to the accused persons, Mr. Edoka Onyeke argued that since Jacob did not oppose the fact that he did not have the fiat of the AGF, the court should endeavour to strike out the trial for misrepresentation.
Onyeke stressed that having not attached a ‘Fiat’ along with the charges since 2013, when trial commenced, the entire proceeding before the court constituted a gross abuse of the court process.
Meanwhile, the trial judge, Justice Okunnu advised the defence lawyer to argue from point of law and cite relevant authorities to support his submission.
While she equally asked the EFCC lawyer to file the EFCC’s authorisation by means of an affidavit, and serve same on the defence lawyer.
The matter has been adjourned till May 24 for mention.
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