By Kingsley Nwezeh
The ongoing trial of Mr. Abubakar Peters and his company, Nadabo Energy Limited, for an alleged N1.4 billion fraud before Justice C.A. Balogun of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, continued yesterday with the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, making history as the first chairman of the commission to give evidence in court.
An EFCC statement said Bawa, who testified as the fifth prosecution witness, PW5, had begun his examination-in-chief on June 3, 2015 long before his appointment as the EFCC chairman.
Before yesterday’s proceedings, Bawa had given evidence against the defendants, who pleaded “not guilty” to the alleged fraud.
Bawa had said Nababo Energy Limited allegedly obtained N1,464,961,978.24 from the federal government as oil subsidy with forged documents.
Bawa had also told the court that after studying the documents submitted to the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), where the defendants claimed they imported about 14,000 metric tonnes of petrol, the EFCC conducted an investigation, which revealed the contrary.
“Contrary to the claim of the defendants as par Exhibit B, which they submitted to PPPRA to claim subsidy, the defendant imported only 4,850 metric tonnes of PMS (petrol) as opposed to 14,000 metric tonnes that he claimed to have imported,” Bawa said.
At the last sitting on February 23, 2021, Justice Balogun had admitted in evidence an email correspondence between Bawa and Ullrich Afini Awani of Global Commodities Africa as well as the certificate of identification.
At the resumed sitting yesterday, Bawa, while being led in evidence by SK Atteh, further gave insights into the alleged fraudulent activities exposed by the investigation.
He said: “The email correspondences were analysed and we found out that the defendant, contrary to their claim took about six million litres of PMS onboard MT St Vanessa and the same quantity from the mother vessel, MT Eviridiki, into their own chartered vessel, MT St Vanessa.
“The email further confirmed that the same quantity was discharged at Port Harcourt.
“The email also showed that one Mr. Jide Ofor Akpan was the agent of the vessel i.e. MT St. Vanessa.”
He told the court that in furtherance of the investigation, Akpan was invited for questioning, and he confirmed that Nadabo Oil and Gas, through the second defendant, Ali Peters, chartered the vessel, MT St. Vanessa, and also paid for it.
Bawa added that Akpan was confronted with the “purported shipping documents” that the defendant submitted to the PPPRA for payment of subsidy.
According to him,” he confirmed to us that the vessel, Vanessa, has nothing to do with MT American Express, which is the vessel which the defendant claimed to have given product to his own vessel, but that the St Vanessa loaded product from MT Eviridiki.”
Bawa said the EFCC wrote a letter of investigation activities to Petrocam, the traders which supplied the defendant the actual product that they imported, requesting that they furnish the commission with all the financial and shipping documents with respect to the transaction under investigation.
Bawa who told the court that Petrocam responded, thereafter identified the letter from the EFCC to Petrocam as well as the response received.
When the prosecution sought to tender the documents as evidence, the defence team, led by EO Isiramen, objected to the admissibility of the documents, which included proforma invoice, commercial invoice, letter of credit and others relating to the transaction.
The defence also raised objections to the admissibility of the response from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) with respect to the investigation of the company, which the prosecution also sought to tender against the defendant.
After listening to both parties, Justice Balogun adjourned till April 28 and 29, 2021 for ruling and continuation of hearing.