N754m Oil Subsidy Fund: Court convicts Wagbatsoma, others

Walter Wagbatsoma (left) going to court

Justice Lateefa Okunnu of a Lagos State High Court in Ikeja, on Friday convicted two oil marketers, Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo- Ndagi and their company Ontario Oil & Gas Limited of defrauding the Federal Government of the sum of N754 million.

The convicts, were arraigned before the court for allegedly obtaining the sum from the government through the petroleum product subsidy support fund.

They were arraigned on an eight count charge of conspiracy, obtaining property by false pretence, forgery and altering of documents.

While delivering her judgment in the five year old case, Justice Okunnu held that the prosecution has been able to prove its case against the convicts beyond all reasonable doubt.

The judge stressed that the convicts knew that the documents they presented to the government to claim subsidy was forged but they presented it anyway to derived undeserved benefits.

On the issue of conspiracy, the court agreed with the prosecution, stating that there was a meeting of minds as the actions of the convicts was well planned and coordinated to achieve a common criminal goal.

The judge therefore held, “on the strength of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and the volumes of material evidence, I hereby found the defendants guilty on all counts and they are hereby convicted.

However, Justice Okunnu discharged and acquitted the third defendant, Babafemi Fakuade, an official of Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) for lack of evidence linking him to the crime.

However, a mild drama occurred just as the judge was about to pronounce the sentence, the only convict in court,  Ugo- Ndagi collapsed in the dock.

After an initial 15 minutes break before hearing the plea for mercy, the judge had again stood down the matter till 1:15pm to write the sentence.

The confusion started immediately the court resumed sitting, the convict who had been chatting with her lawyers and family members in court, fell to her side apparently losing consciousness.

The ensuing confusion forced the court to adjourned the proceedings to Monday, January 16 to deliver the sentence.

Ugo- Ndagi, who is the Managing director of Ontario Oil & Gas Limited, was later rush by family members in company of some prison officials to Havana Specialist Hospital in the Surulere area of the state.

The Chairman of Ontario Oil & Gas Limited had earlier jump bail by travelling outside the country without the court permission.

He was later arrested in arrested by United Kingdom authority in Germany

Wagbatsoma, who is being accused of involvement in a multi-million pound fraud had already appeared before Lincoln Magistrates’ in London.

The investigation against Wagbatsoma was said to have commenced in September 2011 following a report of fraud involving Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

He has been remanded in custody and may appear before Lincoln Crown Court in August this year.

Justice Okunnu had earlier dismissed three separate applications filed on behalf of the convicts in which they challenging the jurisdiction and competence of the court as well as a no-case submission, argued by the defendants through their lawyers.

The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal also struck out the applications on appeal.

In a lead ruling delivered by Justice Amina Augie, on April 30, 2015, the appellate court affirmed the jurisdiction of the lower court, and ordered Wagbatsoma and others to “go and face their trial”.