The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday docked some of the 20 suspects billed for trial over their alleged involvement in fuel subsidy scam before justices Habeeb Abiru and Adeniyi Onigbanjo of the Lagos High Court.
Mr. Abdulahi Alao, son of Ibadan-based business mogul Alhaji Azeez Arisekola Alao, and Axenergy Limited were arraigned before Justice Abiru over a N2.6billion scam while seven others were separately arraigned before Justice Onigbanjo.
Alao, the managing director of Axenergy Limited, was arraigned on a seven-count charge of 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 person, together with his company Axenergy Limited, allegedly obtained the sum of N2.64 billion being payments obtained from the Petroleum Support Fund for the purported importation of 33.3 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.
When the charge was read to him, he pleaded “not guilty” to all the charges preferred against him Lawyer to Alao, Babajide Koku, SAN, informed the court that he had filed an application for bail in respect of his client and prayed the court to consider the application.
But the lead prosecution lawyer, Rotimi Jacob, raised an objection, 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 Koku and remanded Alao in EFCC custody pending hearing of the bail application. The case was adjourned till August 1, 2012.
But 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, Christian Taylor, Mahmud Tukur, Ochonogor Alex, Abdulahi Alao and Eterna Plc.
The first three accused – Nasaman Oil Service, Mamman Nasir Ali and Christian Taylor – were arraigned on a three-count charge of conspiracy and obtaining N4.4 billion from the federal government through the Petroleum Support Fund by false pretence.
When the charge was read to the accused persons, they pleaded “not guilty”, prompting their lawyer, 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 Jacobs vehemently opposed the bail application and urged the court to look at the evidence before it and exercise its discretion by refusing bail to the accused persons.
But Justice Onigbanjo resolved the argument in favour of the accused persons and granted bail to them in the sum of N20 million each with two sureties in like sum. According to the judge, 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 passports with the EFCC while the court 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 of obtaining money through false pretence, forgery and uttering contrary to section 468 of the Criminal code.
The accused persons were alleged to have fraudulently obtained N1.8billion from the federal government through the Petroleum Support Fund. Lead lawyer to three accused persons, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, said he had filed a 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 was the term and condition for the bail. The case was adjourned to November 13, 2012, for trial.
Party chieftains’ sons, others will carry their cross if found guilty — PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has said that all persons including the sons of its party chieftains – Mamman Nasir Ali, son of former national chairman Dr. Ahmadu Ali, and that of incumbent Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Mahmud Tukur – will carry their cross if found guilty by the court.
The deputy national chairman of the PDP, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, stated this at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja yesterday.
He added that it was pertinent that Tukur and Ali should be separated from their respective sons on the grounds that they were adults and could answer for charges brought against them.
The EFCC yesterday began prosecution of the suspects, including Tukur and Ali, following their alleged involvement in fuel subsidy fraud, in a Lagos High Court.
But Jaja said that there is the need to exercise caution before condemnations and conclusions are drawn on the grounds that the court should be allowed to run its full course as it would be wrong to pronounce them guilty before the pronouncement of the court on the matter.
He said: “On some PDP members being involved in oil subsidy, these are individuals, everybody would bear’s his own cross.
There are governors who are now facing prosecution as a result of their actions and inactions, so it’s not a party thing. The PDP did not send anybody to go and misbehave. Even if you mention my chairman’s son, he is up to age. Assuming he is to go to jail, they will not come and jail the national chairman, because he did not send him.
“He is of age and he has a household and has his family. Everybody accounts for his own position and, of course, it has been mentioned; until they are proven guilty, they still remain innocent.
“So the party cannot just go out and breathe down on them and begin to condemn them. They will be given equal opportunity to defend themselves in a competent court of law. Until they are found guilty, the party will exercise restraint before taking a position. But for the party now to begin to condemn them is absolutely premature and sub-judice.”