The Managing Director of Ontario Oil and Gas Limited, Ada Ugo-Ngali, and the co-defendant Walter Wagbatsoma, the Chairman of the company, standing trial for N1.9 billion oil subsidy fraud, was absent in court on Monday.
Ugo-Ngali was rushed to the hospital on Friday after slumping in the dock when her sentence was about to be read to out by Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja.
Okunnu had found Wagbatsoma and Ugo-Ngadi guilty of an eight–count charge bordering on conspiracy, obtaining property by false pretences and forgery brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The conviction of the duo is the first of its kind since the prosecution of oil subsidy fraud began in 2012.
Wagbatsoma has been in recent months absent in court as he was reportedly held by the Interpol during a trip to Germany on June 6, 2016.
He is currently being held in the United Kingdom on charges relating to a £12 million National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Trust Fund fraud.
During Monday’s proceedings, a medical certificate was presented to the court by the defence counsel and the counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacob, gave the court a status update on the case.
Jacob said, “On Friday when the convict left the court, she was taken to a private clinic which the prison officials were not comfortable with.
“Information that I got was that she was doing well and men of the EFCC were there to watch her from Friday to Sunday.
“Her private doctor had assured us that she would be discharged on Saturday but she was transferred to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) on Sunday.
“My Lordship should take this medical report on its face value, the co-convict (Wagbatsoma) took off to Germany despite the fact that there are able medical doctors here.
“This might be a ploy to avoid going to prison, the prison officials said that since the convict is in a government hospital, the men of the EFCC should withdraw and they did.”
The EFCC prosecutor urged the judge to make an order for an independent assessment and should pronounce a sentence in respect of the company.
Counsel to Ugo-Ngali; Y.A Kadiri, however, opposed to the EFCC’s referring to his client as a convict.
“Before the law, my client is still a defendant and not a convict.
“I have read through Section 278 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) and it does not seem to make provisions for sentencing where the defendants are not present in court,” he told the court.
Justice Okunnu noted the lacuna in the law and that since Ugo-Ngali was a representative of Ontario Oil and Gas Ltd and was not in court, she would not sentence the company in absentia.
“The medical report from Havana Specialist Hospital dated Jan. 15, 2017 must be accompanied with an affidavit sworn to by the medical director of the hospital.
“The medical attendant at LASUTH must swear to an affidavit as to her medical condition, the affidavits must be filed within a day.
“The Commissioner of Police is hereby directed to keep her under watch.”
The case has been adjourned to Jan. 18 for sentencing hearing.
Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.