Why judge adjourned sentencing of convicted fuel subsidy fraudsters

Lagos High court
Lagos High court

Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Ikeja Division of the Lagos High Court on Monday adjourned the sentencing of Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo-Nnadi, and Ontario Oil and Gas till January 18 after Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi was reported to be “in very precarious” health condition.

The convicts were found guilty on eight counts of fuel subsidy fraud last Friday; but Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi, the managing director of Ontario Oil and Gas, fainted in the dock just before her sentencing forcing the judge to adjourn.

Mr. Wagbatsoma is still in the UK where he is under house arrest for alleged money laundering.

Monday’s proceedings began with Rotimi Jacobs, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, informing the defence counsel for the umpteenth time that his clients are no longer to be referred as defendants but convicts.WALTER WAGBATSOMA 1

  1. A Kadiri, the defence counsel, told the court that Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi was still “lying prostrate” at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital after her collapse on Friday.

“Prison officials accompanied them on Friday, first of all she was taken to Havana Specialist Hospital, her private hospital, where she was put on life support,” Mr. Kadiri said.

“On Saturday, she was referred to LUTH. Prison officers have been mounting beats there with her in her ward.”

Mr. Kadiri presented a medical report from Havana Specialist Hospital before informing the judge that a second one – an interim report” from LUTH “is on the way.”

In his response, Mr. Jacobs said the prison and EFCC officials had been uncomfortable when the convict was taken to a private hospital because it was difficult to station officers there.

“But according to the information I got, she was doing very well,” said Mr. Jacobs, a senior advocate of Nigeria.

“Our men from the EFCC were also there to watch on her from Friday to Saturday. I was informed that her doctor was going to discharge her but on request she was transferred to LUTH.”

Mr. Jacobs, however, did not mention who gave the request for the transfer.

Adaoha Ugo Ngadi
Adaoha Ugo Nnadi

The prosecution counsel also asked the judge to treat the medical report presented by the defence lawyer “with great caution” because it was a ploy for Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi to avoid going to prison.

“I will be urging my Lord to make an order for an independent assessment of the convict,” Mr. Jacobs said, adding that the judge should pronounce the sentence on Ontario Oil and Gas.

But Mrs. Okunnu said there has not been a precedent, where a convict was hospitalised just before sentencing.

On sentencing the convicts’ company, the judge said she would “rather err on the side” of caution because Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi had been representing Ontario Oil and Gas.

In her ruling, the judge said the medical reports from both Havana Specialist Hospital and LUTH should be accompanied by an affidavit to be sworn by the medical director and “attending doctor” respectively within 24 hours.

“The commissioner of police in Lagos is hereby directed to keep the second defendant under watch at whichever hospital she is taken to,” Mrs. Okunnu said.

“The matter is adjourned till Wednesday, January 18, for further proceedings and sentencing.”


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