A witness for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday told a court that Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo-Ndagi, Fakuade Babafemi, Ezekiel Ejide and their firm, Ontario Oil and Gas Limited, received payment in excess of N414 million by filing fraudulent fuel importation claims. The suspects are part of numerous fuel marketers standing trial for allegedly defrauding Nigeria by forging documents that enabled them to receive fuel subsidy payments from the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF).
At a hearing at the Lagos High Court in Ikeja, an EFCC detective, Shehu Mohammed, testified that the four oil marketers and their firm scammed the Nigerian government and conspired to receive an overpayment of N414 million in fuel subsidies.
Prosecutors allege that the marketers carried out their fraudulent scheme by submitting false certificate of shore tank content. Mr. Mohammed told the court that the suspects claimed they received 19 million liters of petroleum product, adding that they forged certificates to support their fraudulent claim.
The prosecution witness said EFCC investigations at Integrated Oil and Gas depots, OBAT Oil, the Debt Management Office, and the Central Bank of Nigeria indicated that the suspects forged documents to carry out their hoax.
“Analysis of the shore tank certificate we recovered from Integrated Oil Services reads 12 million liters while the one that was given to the commission by the Ontario Oil claims 19 million liters,” said Mr. Mohammed. He added that two separate certificates were obtained by the commission, one from the source where the oil presumably originated, the other presented by the suspects to claim subsidy payments.
“We discovered there were two shore tank certificates of 12 million liters recovered from the Integrated Oil depot and one of 19 million liters that was used by Ontario Oil and Gas Services to the PPPRA in the payment of fuel subsidy claim,” said the witness. He added: “We also asked Integrated Oil to furnish us with evidence of payment by Ontario Oil and Gas Services. Our finding reveals that Ontario Oil paid Integrated Oil the sum of N37 million for the usage of the facilities for 12 million liters.”
The witness also alleged that EFCC investigations revealed that the MT Union Brave, the ship reportedly used by the accused to import the fuel, discharged a quantity that was not more than 12 liters. Mr. Mohammed said that OBAT Petroleum also admitted that Ontario Oil and Gas discharged only 10 million liters, a far cry from the company’s forged documents claiming to have discharged 19 million liters.
“Our investigation at the OBAT Oil and Gas revealed that Ontario Oil discharged 10 million liter to their storage tank. OBAT showed that exhibit marked (A), containing 10 million liters, emanated from them while the one marked exhibit (A1), indicating 19 million, is not from them. They said the shore tank marked exhibit (A1) did not represent the true quantity discharged. There was overpayment of over 10 million liters in this transaction which is about N414 million,” Mr. Mohammed further stated.
His testimony in court revealed that government agencies failed to authenticate documents before approving fuel subsidy claims submitted by oil marketers.
In a prior case involving another oil marketer, Jubril Rowaye, an official of the PPPRA, Tope Ogundola, confessed to the court that the agency did not verify documents submitted by oil marketers before helping to process their claims. Mr. Ogundola said PPPRA officials simply accepted the documents on the basis of “trust.”
Saharareporters learned that PPPRA officials issued a query to, and reprimanded, Mr. Ogundola for making the confession in open court.
Mr. Wagbatsoma, Ms. Adaoha Ugo-Ndagi, Mr. Babafemi, Mr. Ejide as well as their firm, Ontario Oil and Gas Limited, are facing a nine-count criminal charge related to their alleged fraudulent fuel subsidy claims. Prosecutors allege that the suspects altered and forged documents and conspired to obtain property by false pretences.
Justice Latifat Okunnu adjourned the tria