Fuel Subsidy Fraud: Trial of suspects Begin …As Court Remands Alao in EFCC Custody

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday July 26th, 2012 docked some of the 20 suspects billed for trial over the fuel subsidy scam before Justices Habeeb Abiru and Adeniyi Onibganjo of the Lagos High Court. While Mr. Abdulahi Alao and Axenergy Limited were docked before Justice Abiru over a N2.6billion scam, seven others were separately arraigned before Justice Onigbanjo.

Alao, the managing director of Axenergy Limited was docked on a seven count charge bordering on conspiracy to obtain money by false pretences contrary to Section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006. . The accuse , together with his company, Axenergy Limited allegedly obtained the sum of N2,640, 141, 707.75 ( Two Billion, Six Hundred and Forty Million; One Hundred and Forty One Thousand; Seven Hundred and Seven Naira, Seventy Five Kobo only) being payments obtained from the Petroleum Support Fund for the purported importation of 33.3 million litres of  Premium Motor Spirit. 
He pleaded not guilty to all the charges prefered against him when they were read to him. His counsel, Babajide Koku, SAN, informed the court that he had filed an application for bail in respect of his client. He prayed the court to consider the application.  However, the lead prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacob, SAN, objected to the prayers of Koku saying that he would need more time to respond to the application and to prepare his written address. 
In his ruling, Justice Abiru declined the prayers of the defence counsel and remanded the accused person in EFCC custody pending hearing of the bail application. The case was adjourned till August 1st, 2012.
However Justice Onigbanjo admitted the other seven accused persons that appeared before him in separate arraignments to bail. They are Nasaman Oil Service, Mamman Nasir Ali and Christian Taylor; and Mahmud Tukur, Ochonogor Alex, Abdulahi Alao and Eterna Plc.
The first three accused persons; Nasaman Oil Service, Mamman Nasir Ali and Christian Taylor were docked on a three count charge that borders on conspiracy and obtaining N4.4 billion from the federal government through Petroleum Support Fund by false pretence.
When the charge was read to the accused persons, they pleaded not guilty, prompting their counsel, Joe Kyari Gadzama, SAN to inform the court that he had filed a bail application for his clients and that the offence was bailable. He said the court had the right to grant bail to the accused persons and that they will make themselves available for trial. He said the accused persons were presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
But prosecution counsel, Jacobs, SAN vehemently opposed the bail application. He urged the court to look at the evidence before it and exercise its discretion by refusing bail to the accused persons.
Justice Onigbanjo however resolved the argument in favour of the accused and granted bail to the accused persons in the sum of N20 million each and two sureties in like sum. One of the sureties must own a landed property worth N100 million and the certificate deposited with the court.  The judge also ordered that one of the sureties should be a level 16 officer either with the Lagos State government or the federal government and should present evidence of tax payment in the last three years. The accused persons are to deposit their international passport with the EFCC while the registrar is to verify all sureties. 
The same bail conditions were handed to the second group of four accused persons. Mahmud Tukur, Ochonogor Alex, Abdulahi Alao and Eterna Plc were arraigned on a nine count charge for offences that borders on obtaining money through false pretence, forgery and uttering contrary to section 468 of the Criminal code. The quartet was alleged to have fraudulently obtained N1.8billion from the federal government through the Petroleum Support Fund. Wole Olanipekun, SAN, counsel to three of the accused persons said he had filed bail application and served the prosecution. However, Jacobs, SAN did not argue the application in view of the first ruling by the court. He said what was paramount is the terms and condition for the bail.
The case was adjourned to November 13, 2012 for trial.
Wilson Uwujaren
Ag. Head, Media & Publicity
26th July, 2012