Witness fails to prove fraud against oil marketers


Henry Ojelu

As the trial of Walter Wagbatsoma and four others over alleged fuel subsidy fraud commenced today at the Ikeja High Court, a prosecution witness, Damon Yelma failed to substantiate the fraud claims against the defendants.

Wagbatsoma and four others were on February implicated in the alleged fuel subsidy infraction by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of about N1.9 billion.

They were charged with a nine count bordering on alleged altering, forgery, conspiracy and obtaining property by false pretences.

Other defendants include Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo – Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer. Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele and Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited.

At the commencement of the trial today, Damon Yelma, an inspector of police attached to EFCC told Justice Lateefa Okunnu that his investigation was mainly based on information provided by Integrated Oil services and 0bat 0il services Tanks where the products were discharged.

In his evidence Yelma claimed that the defendants allegedly received payment for 19 million litres of fuel from the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency(PPPRA) against about 12 million litres of the product discharged at the Integrated Oil services tank.

Yelma, who was led in evidence by EFCC’s counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) also alleged that the first(Wagbatsoma), second (Ugo – Ngadi )and third (Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited) defendants received payment from PPPRA some times in 2010 for 18 million litres of Premium motor spirit against 12 million litres.

But under cross examination, Yelma failed to substantiate his claims, when he was confronted with Shore-Tank quantity certificates issued by the Integrated Oil services Ltd and Obat Petroleum and 0il facilities in Lagos.

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The investigator rather confirmed that the oil marketers actually imported and discharge the volume of product in which they received payment.

Yelma rather confirmed the existence of two separate Shore-Tank quantity certificates with different volumes of products.

While a set, which have stamps and signatures of relevant authorities were in tandem with the payment made to the oil marketers, another set with a stamp and signature of the tank farm had a lesser volume of the product (18& 12 million litres).

Asked why he chose to stick with the one with lesser volume without investigating the discrepancies contained in the two set of documents, Yelma could not offer any explanation.

He only said investigation into the matter was sequel to a petition written to the EFCC by the Minister of Petroleum Resources.

The court later admitted the letter and voluntary statements of the Wagbatsoma and Ugo – Ngadi dated 5 July, 2012 in evidence, marked as Exhibits P1, P2 and P3.

Meanwhile the witness could not continue on his testimony due to the filing of additional proof of evidence filed by the EFCC.

This, Justice 0kunnu said was to allow the defending parties examine the bundle of document in the interest of justice.

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