N1.9b Subsidy Scam: Oil Marketers Say EFCC Counsel has No Fiat to Prosecute Them

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By Akinwale Akintunde

Some embattled oil marketers, Walter Wagbatsama, Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer and their company, Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited have once again challenged the power of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) lawyer, Rotimi Jacob (SAN) to prosecute the matter.

The oil marketers, who were re-arraigned in February 2013, on a nine-count charge of forgery, conspiracy and obtaining by false pretences are facing a N1.9 billion oil subsidy fraud charge.

The EFCC alleged that the oil marketers fraudulently obtained the sum of N1,959,377, 542,63 (One Billion, Nine Hundred and Fifty Nine Million, Three Hundred and Seventy Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Forty Two Naira, Sixty Three Kobo) from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported importation of 39.2million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.

The fuel subsidy trial had almost reached conclusion until last month when Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) filed a motion challenging the legality of the EFCC prosecuting counsel, Jacob SAN to represent the Federal Government.

The trial judge, Justice Lateefa Okunnu had fixed May 12 for the final written address of counsel in the trial but there was a twist with the new motion filed by the defendants.

Moving the application yesterday, Mr. Edoka Onyeke insisted that Rotimi Jacob did not have a valid fiat to represent the Federal Government in the matter.

Onyeke prayed the court to dismiss the charges filed against his clients on the ground that Rotimi Jacob being a private legal practitioner failed to produce before the court a fiat by the Attorney General of the Federation authorising him to prosecute the defendants.

He argued that any private prosecutor prosecuting a charge for and on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation or of Lagos State must obtain the fiat of the Attorney General of the Federation duly issued and sign by the Attorney General.

According to him, since no fiat was attached to the charges as at May 8, 2013 when trial commenced, the entire proceeding before the court constituted a gross abuse of the court process.

In his response, Rotimi Jacobs noted that the motion was based on the false premise that the EFCC cannot initiate criminal proceeding without the fiat of the AGF.

He noted that the constitution also empowered other security agencies such as the EFCC and the police to initiate a trial.

Jacob said the instant case was initiated by the EFCC which subsequently authorised him to prosecute the matter.

He prayed the court to dismiss the motion filed by the applicant.

Attempt by Rotimi to tender from the bar, a copy of his authorisation letter was objected to by the defendant’s lawyer.

Justice Okunnu however asked the EFCC lawyer to bring in the document through an affidavit which should be served on other parties.

The matter was adjourned till May 24 for mention.