Alleged $8.4m Fraud: Group Raises Alarm as AGF Moves to Take Over Prosecution

Funke Olaode

A rights group, the Center Against Injustice and Domestic Violence (CAIDOV) in collaboration with Advocate for Social Justice and Defence of Rule of Law has raised the alarm over the intent of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Lateef Fagbemi to take over prosecution of a case involving a foreign oil company and five others accused of $8.4million fraud.

Trafigura Beheer BV Trafigura PTE Ltd is facing trial alongside two oil marketers – Osahon Asemota and Yusuf Kwande as well as Mettle Energy and Gas, Renbrandt Ltd and Jil Engineering and Oil Services Limited.

The defendants have been for six years, facing a three-count charge of conspiracy, stealing and receiving stolen property proffered against them by the Police Special Fraud Unit, SFU before Justice Mojisola Dada of an Ikeja Special Offences Court.

The prosecution had accused the foreign oil company alongside its four co-defendants of stealing 6.4 metric tonnes of diesel oil worth $8.4million belonging to Nadabo Energy Limited in October 2008.

During the six-year trial, 17 witnesses had testified on behalf of the prosecution before the agency closed its case while the defendants have so far, presented four witnesses.

According to CAIDOV, the trial took a puzzling turn when the Director of Public Prosecution of Federation,  Mr. M.A Abubakar, in a letter dated February 29, 2024, announced the takeover of the prosecution of the matter by the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

According to the letter, the takeover of the prosecution of the case was in exercise of the AGF’s powers under section 174(1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which provides: (b) to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other authority or person.

However, CAIDOV in its statement revealed that according to their investigations on the matter, the AGF took over the prosecution of the case based on complaints to his office sequel to a letter dated November 17, 2023.

According to the group the office of the AGF’s takeover of the prosecution of the criminal suit would lead to more delays in the matter which has been in court for six-years.

The group noted that the same Section 174(3) of Constitution of the 1999 Federal Republic

of Nigeria (as amended) which empowers the AGF to takeover prosecution of matters also provides that: (3) In exercising his powers under this section, the Attorney General of the Federation shall have regard to the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process.

The group queried why other options as provided by law which would not cause further delays in the case were not explored before the aggrieved parties in the suit resorted to writing to the office of the AGF.

“It is our humble view that there are quite a number of options available for any of the parties before the court that has any complaint against the handling of such matter by the judge.

“Such party(ies) can complain directly to the National Judicial Council (NJC), a body responsible for discipline of judicial officers or lodged a complaint with the Chief Judge of the State who has the administrative power to look at such complaint and reassign the matter to another Judge or asked the trial judge to continue if such complaint usually initiated via a petition is found unmeritorious.

“However, in the instant case, fear is been expressed in some quarters that the matter may have been infested with virus of delay,” the group said.

Describing the Honourable AGF Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, as a quiet achiever, CAIDOV also noted that he is also a stickler for rule of law and a notable combatant in the defence of justice.

“We are calling on the AGF to always look at the larger picture of his office as commanded by Section 174(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended),” they added.

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