The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday closed its case in the trial-within-trial of Abubakar Ali Peters and his company, Nadabo Energy Limited, who are being prosecuted for offences bordering on obtaining money under false pretence, diversion of Federal Government funds and forgery to the tune of N761,628,993.84.
The case against Peters is before Justice S. S. Ogunsanya of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos.
One of the counts reads: “Nadabo Energy Limited and Abubakar Ali Peters, on or about 26th day of September, 2011 in Lagos, within the Ikeja judicial division, fraudulently obtained the sum of N761,628,993.84 from the Federal Government by falsely representing that the sum represented the subsidy accrued to Nadabo Energy Limited under the Petroleum Support Fund for the importation of 16,808,064 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), which Nadabo Energy Limited purported to have purchased from Delano Petroleum Corporation Akara Tortola British Virgin Island, and transported the 16,808,064 litres through MT Gotland Carolina (mother vessel) and MT Sonia (daughter vessel) to Nigeria, whereas Nadabo Energy Limited only imported 7,953,962 litres of PMS from Delany Petroleum Corporation Akara Tortola British Virgin Island and transported 7,953,962 litres of PMS through MT Gotland Carolina (mother vessel) and MT Songa (daughter vessel) to Nigeria.”
Peters pleaded “not guilty” to the charges when he was arraigned on October 7, 2015, thereby prompting the commencement of his trial.
In the course of the trial, the prosecution had, on November 17, 2022, through its 6th prosecution witness, Adene Ogbemudia, a Police Detective, who at the time of the investigations worked as an operative with the EFCC, sought to tender in evidence two statements made by the defendant dated March 4, 2015 and May 7, 2015.
However, the defence had raised an objection to its admissibility and also challenged the voluntariness of the statements.
The objection necessitated a trial-within-trial, in which Ogbemudia, on November 29, 2022, as the first witness, testified that the defendant was not forced or coerced into making the statements.
At Monday’s proceedings, the Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, testified as the second witness, having been a team leader in the Extractive Industries Fraud Section of the EFCC that led the investigation into the alleged fraud.
Led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, S.K. Atteh, Bawa narrated the circumstances surrounding the making of the said statements, noting that the defendant himself came to the office of the EFCC of his own volition and was not forced to make the statements.
He said: “The defendant made several statements in the course of investigation, and he made a statement again on the 4th of March 2015 at the EFCC and also came back on 7th May 2015.
“The defendant was already being prosecuted before Justice Balogun and the Commission decided to file another case, which is before your lordship based on the findings involving MT Gotland Carolina and MT Songa.
“I remember vividly that the defendant came and said he wanted to pay back the money.
“And on the 4th of March, he came to our office and we showed him all the necessary documents.
“I then handed him over to members of the team, who took his statement.
“Later, he wrote a letter addressed to the then Chairman of the EFCC, indicating that he was willing to make payment of the money he benefited.
“And so he made an additional statement on the payment he made to the Recovery Account of the EFCC.
“He came on his own and volunteered his statement.”
Bawa then identified the said statements, which had earlier been identified as Exhibits ID1 (March 4, 2015 statement) and Exhibit ID2 (May 7, 2015 statement).
Under cross-examination by the lead defence counsel, E.Y. Kurah (SAN), Bawa re-asserted that the defendant came on his own volition to the EFCC and he admitted his role in the subsidy fraud.
He said: “The statements were made of his own volition and in his own handwriting.
“He explained the circumstances surrounding the transactions.”
He added that the defendant, in his May letter to the EFCC, confirmed payment into the Recovery Account of the EFCC.
The EFCC called its third witness, Ala-Shehu Mohammed, an operative of the EFCC, who also narrated the circumstances surrounding the March 4, 2015 statement.
He testified that following the making of the statement to the EIFS team members, Ogbemudia brought the defendant to him.
Mohammed said: “Ogbemudia brought the defendant to my office to endorse the statement.
“I asked him certain questions and he confirmed to me that his statement was made voluntarily and that there was no inducement; and I endorsed the statement he made.”
The Judge adjourned till January 16, 2023 for the defence to open its case.