Five more suspects in the fuel subsidy scam were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Wednesday in a Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Habeeb Abiru.
Those arraigned include: Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo – Ngadi; Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer; Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele and Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, were arraigned on a nine count charge bordering on obtaining property by false pretences, altering, forgery and conspiracy.
The EFCC had on July 25th , 2012 taken the suspects to court in order to arraign them but the absence of one of the suspects, Walter Wagbatsoma, stalled the arraignment.
Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs told the court the matter was for arraignment.
Thereafter, the suspects were called to the dock and the charges read to them. They all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Counsel to Wagbatsoma and Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, Babajide Koku, SAN, said he had filed an application before the court, urging it to grant the defendants bail based on self- recognition.
Koku told the court that Wagbatsoma did not have any record of jumping bail and as such will be available for trial.
Responding, Jacobs said the prayers made by the defence counsel did not hold water.
He told the court that granting the defendant bail based on self recognition was not tenable because the defendant fled from the country to evade arrest upon learning about the charges filed against him.
He said all efforts to get him arrested proved abortive and he also refused to present himself before the EFCC when he was invited.
Jacob reminded the court that charges were filed against Wagbatsoma on July 20th, 2012 and that he claimed to have travelled out of the country on June 17th, 2012 and returned to the country on July 3rd, 2012 only to take off again on 20th July when he got wind of a charge filed against him before the court.
“A letter was received by the EFCC from the defendant’s company, Ontario Oil and gas Nigeria Limited that he was out of the country for medical check up and will be available the moment he returned to the country. But that letter was dated 18th July, 2012. So he was still very much in the country.
These are some accounts of the deceit he employed to confirm that he was evading arrest. Up till now, we have not been able to obtain his statement. He left Abuja for France by 9pm on the 20th July, 2012 having got wind of this”, Jacob said.
He therefore urged the court to refuse the application as he could jump bail and run out of the country again.
Counsel to the second defendant, Wale Akanni, SAN, also prayed the court to admit his client to bail as he aligned himself to the prayers of the first defendant’s counsel.
Fakunade Babafemi Ebenezer, who is the third defendant, was represented by A.A Badejo, SAN. Badejo also prayed the court to grant his client bail.
He said his client is merely a supervisor who did not have any knowledge of how the subsidy was utilized. He assured the court that his client will be available for trial.
J.J Ogunyemi who appeared for the fourth defendant, Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele, also sued for bail for his client. He promised to make him available for trial.
Jacobs however objected to all these pleas.
He said based on his earlier position, all the accused persons were influential members of the public who may tamper with investigations.
He urged the court to deny them bail because there are indications that they may jump bail and stall their trial.
Justice Abiru, after listening to all these arguments, granted all the accused persons bail.
The first defendant( together with Ontario Oil & Gas Nigeria Limited) received bail in the sum of One hundred and fifty million naira ( N150, 000,000.00), and
three sureties in like sum; two of whom must have landed properties in Lagos and must all be resident in Lagos .
Bail was also granted the second defendant in the sum of One hundred million naira (N100, 000, 000.00) and two sureties in like sum, one of whom must have landed property in Lagos and must all be resident in the state.
Also, the third defendant was granted bail in the sum of ten million naira (N10, 000,000.00) and two sureties in like sum, one of whom must have landed property in Lagos and they must all be resident in Lagos state.
Finally, the fourth defendant was also admitted to bail in the sum of ten million naira (N10, 000, 000.00) and two sureties in like sum, one of whom must have landed property in Lagos and they must all be resident in Lagos state
All the sureties must show evidence of two years tax payment, must be gainfully employed with identifiable means of livelihood.
The documents of the properties should be deposited with the court registrar. The documents should be verified with the Lagos State Land Registry.
One of the EFCC officials who participated in the investigations should be part of the document’s verification.
Justice Abiru subsequently adjourned the case till 24th October, 6th, 7th and 8th November, 2012 for commencement of trial.