The ongoing trial of Abubakar Ali Peters and his company, Nadabo Energy Limited, for an alleged N1.4billion fraud, before Justice C.A. Balogun of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos was stalled on Monday, January 24, 2022, as the counsel for the defendant, Abbas Oyeyemi, told the Court that the defence could not continue with the cross-examination of Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, who is testifying as the prosecution’s fifth witness.
Abubakar and his company are being prosecuted by the EFCC on a 27-count charge for allegedly using forged documents to obtain N1,464,961,978.24 from the Federal Government as oil subsidy, after allegedly inflating the quantity of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, purportedly imported and supplied by the company.
One of the counts reads: “Nadabo Energy Limited and Abubakar Ali Peters, on or about the 3rd day of April, 2012 at Lagos within the Lagos Judicial Division with intent to defraud, fraudulently obtained the sum of N978,401,732.09 (Nine Hundred and Seventy-eight Million Four Hundred and One Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty-two Naira Nine Kobo) from the Federal Government of Nigeria by falsely claiming that the sum represented subsidy accrued to Nadabo Energy Limited under the Petroleum Support Fund for the importation of 19,488,992 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) which Nadabo Energy Limited purported to have purchased from Ashland SA Geneva Switzerland, and transported the 19,488,992 litres of PMS through MT American Express (Mother Vessel) and MT. St. Vanessa (Daughter Vessel) to Nigeria, whereas Nadabo Energy Limited only imported 6,505,140.04 litres of PMS to Nigeria through MT Evridiki (Mother Vessel) and MT St Vanessa (Daughter Vessel).”
Another count reads: “Nadabo Energy Limited and Abubakar Ali Peters, on or about the 25th day of October 2011 at Lagos within the Lagos Judicial Division with intent to defraud and in order to facilitate your obtaining money by false pretence from the Federal Government of Nigeria under the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF) forged a document titled: Certificate of Marine Insurance no. 0047851 and purported the Marine Insurance certificate to have been issued by Staco Insurance Plc to Nadabo Energy Limited.”
He pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.
At the last sitting on December 20, 2021, Bawa, who was led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, S.K. Atteh, had concluded his examination-in-chief.
Following the conclusion of his testimony, the Court ordered the defence counsel, E.O. Isiramen, to commence the cross-examination of the defendant, which he did.
Afterwards, Justice Balogun adjourned till today, January 24, 2022 for further cross-examination.
However, at today’s proceeding, Isiramen was not in Court, as the defendant was represented by Oyeyemi, who told the Court that he held the brief of J.B. Daudu, SAN.
“We are not ready to proceed with the cross-examination as the defendant’s counsel is acting on the instance of the defendant and can’t continue with the cross-examination,” he said.
Oyeyemi further hinged his inability to continue with the cross-examination on the argument that the defence was yet to have the Certified True Copy, CTC, of the court’s proceedings.
“We have applied for the record of proceedings containing the testimony of the prosecution witness since 20th December 2021.
“However, we have been unable to procure the record,” he said.
In response, Atteh described the action of the defence as an attempt ” to just frustrate the trial”, adding that the witness had been testifying since June 3, 2015.
He added: “There is no single document that the prosecution has not frontloaded, and provided for the defence.
“Moreover, the defence counsel is supposed to have his own record.”
Thereafter, Justice Balogun, while adjourning till January 25, 2022 for continuation of hearing, added that, “it is noted that Isiramen had even commenced cross-examination on that day and he is fully aware of today’s date for continuation of cross-examination.
“Moreover, all documents tendered were already in the possession of the defendant.
“It is obvious that the defendant counsel has everything.
“However, this Court shall grant the defence one last chance to continue the cross-examination of the witness who is the Chairman of the EFCC and had to travel to Lagos to continue to be cross-examined.
“The Registrars of this Court have already been directed to release to the defence counsel whatever they require.