The trial of Abubakar Ali Peters and his company, Nadabo Energy Limited, for alleged N1.4billion fraud, before Justice Christopher Balogun of the Lagos High Court Ikeja, was again, stalled on Monday, as the counsel for the defendant, Osagie Isiramen, told the court that the defence was not ready to continue with the cross-examination of the fifth prosecution witness, Abdulrasheed Bawa, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The EFCC is prosecuting Abubakar and his company on a 27-count charge for allegedly using forged documents to obtain the sum of N1,464,961,978.24 from the Federal Government as an oil subsidy, after inflating the quantity of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, purportedly imported and supplied by the company.
On December 20, 2021, the defence counsel had begun his cross-examination of the witness. He also cross-examined the witness at the proceedings of January 25, 2022.
On Monday’s proceedings, which was meant for the continuation of cross-examination, Isiramen told the Court that he would not be able to continue.
He hinged his inability to continue with the cross-examination on the argument that the defence was yet to receive a Certified True Copy (CTC) of the court’s records of proceedings.
“ We are not ready to continue, he said.
“We had applied for the certified copy of the proceedings, but we are yet to receive same,” he added.
The Judge, who expressed surprise at the argument of the defence counsel, stated that the records of proceedings had already been prepared and that no certification was required since they were needed only for cross-examination of the witness.
The Judge further noted that since the court’s file was a public document, the defence could also easily have requested it from the court’s registrar and read it for the cross-examination, instead of asking for a certified true copy.
The Judge said: “The file is always there, and the records have already been printed out.
“What is going on here? Is it not to use it for cross-examination of the witness?”
Expressing concerns about the inability of the case to go on, the Judge noted that other cases were, in fact, vacated in order for the matter to go on.
“I didn’t want anything to disturb the proceedings and I don’t like what is going on here.
“You don’t use a thing like this to stall proceedings, “ the judge added.
While adjourning till March 29, 30 and 31, 2022, the Judge held that: “I shall concede to the request made by the defendant’s counsel for the last time to proceed with the cross-examination of the prosecution’s witness.
“The record of proceedings already printed out should be handed over to the defence counsel for the purpose of cross-examination.”
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.”