Justice Silvanus Oriji of the FCT High Court, Apo, Abuja, has adjourned hearing in the suit involving a director of Origin Oil and Gas Limited, Adegibite Adetoye, and others in the alleged N735 million subsidy fraud to March 7th, 2019.
The defendants are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on an 11- count charge bordering on fraud and abuse of Petroleum Support Fund to the tune of N735 million.
The Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources had invited the EFCC to help investigate the subsidy scam.
The defendants were alleged to have conspired and fraudulently obtained N735 million from the federal government as payment for the importation of 15,000 mt of petrol, which they claimed to have purchased from Vitol SA and imported into Nigeria through MT Silverie.
At the resumed sitting on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, the fourth prosecution witness, an operative with the EFCC, Chidi Nweke, led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Steve Odiase, told the court that fourth quarter allocation in 2010, was given to the three defendants by the PPPRA, for the importation of PMS.
According to him, the importation was carried out by the defendants using the M.T. Silverie, which was purportedly loaded offshore through Cotonou in January 2011 and discharged its entire cargo with the quantity of 19,179,999 litres of PMS at Lister depot Apapa Lagos operated by ‘O and O’ PLC.
Mr Nweke told the court that the defendants, in turn, submitted a claim to the PPPRA, in February 2011, for their company, Origin Oil and Gas, and was paid N1.1 billion for 19,179,999 million litres of PMS, which was later confirmed to be false.
“On confronting the operator of lista depot, we discovered that only 6,784,921 litres of PMS was discharged. They also forwarded copies of the lease agreement which showed that ‘O and O’ plc; was the sole operator of the lista depot”, he added.
“Also, while interviewing the terminal manager of Lista depot, Mr Irene Moses also confirmed that the said amount was supplied, while also inspection agents/surveyors who participated in the operation of discharge of PMS confirmed the said amount of 6,784,921 litres”.
Mr Nweke while giving his witness, also said that during investigations, the documents explaining how the PMS was discharged for which M.T. Silverie used to claim subsidy payments and certified copies show that only 6,784,921 litres was discharged.
“Furthermore, we contacted the ship owner of M.T. Silveria Union Maritime Limited, who represents the manager of the vessel in Nigeria Betta Shipping Limited who stated that although the M.T. silverie loaded over 19 million litres in January 2011, they received instruction from Nepal Oil and Gas Business Partners to the defendants to transfer about 12 million litres to another vessel at offshore Cotonou in the name of MTTDT2,” he said.
“When we invited the Managing Director of Nepal Oil and Gas, Mrs Ngozi Ekemo, she informed us that she had bought the entire cargo from the defendants in two parts. The first part was sold to her offshore in Cotonou at 12,000000 million litres. The second part was sold to her in Nigeria at a quantity of 6,784,921 million litres, which she sold to ‘O and O’ PLC; and she submitted documents of transactions to her claims.
“On receiving this information, a letter was written to PPPRA, and the response amounted to N402 million only instead of N1, 137,565,740 billion paid by the Federal Government of Nigeria to the defendants. The difference being N735, 152, 76 million.”
The prosecution witness further explained that the documents of the inspection agents notably, Quantity Marine Services (qms) and port cargo experts were altered and forged adding that the same was used to claim the subsidy from the Federal Government of Nigeria.