The forgery trial of John Abebe, younger brother of former First Lady, the late Stella Obasanjo, was stalled on Wednesday due to the provision of incomplete documents by a defence witness.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Abebe is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before an Ikeja Special Offences Court.
The trial could not proceed after defence counsel, Oritsematosan Nabuyaka, Head, Registry Department, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), produced an incomplete set of documents necessary for Abebe’s defence.
Explaining why the documents were incomplete,Mr Nabuyaka, a subpoenaed witness, told the court that the documents were the only ones that could be produced due to insufficient time.
Ms Nabuyaka, who was led in evidence by defence counsel, Uche Nwokedi, said she brought before the court certificate of incorporation of BP Nig. Ltd. and certificate of incorporation of Statoil Nig. Ltd.
According to the witness, the other documents are Certificate of Change of Name of Statoil to Equinox Nig. Ltd., Memorandum and Articles of Association of BP Nig. Ltd. and Form C07 of BP Nigeria Exploration Ltd.
“This was what was transmitted to me from the head office.
“By the time the head office was able to transmit page eight, we did not have ample time,” the CAC Assistant Director said.
Reacting, Rotimi Oyedepo, counsel to the EFCC, expressed displeasure at the development.
“The last witness came from the same establishment (CAC). He said he had seen the subpoena and that they needed ample time to produce the documents.
“It was with that same subpoena that the first defence witness, who is from a different establishment, appeared in court to give evidence.
“Your lordship graciously gave us today and tomorrow for this trial.
“In order not to waste today and tomorrow, we should deal with this witness today as she is not here in her private or personal capacity,” Mr Oyedepo said.
Justice Mojisola Dada adjourned the case until August 15 for the continuation of trial.
NAN reports that Mr Abebe had on July 26, 2018, pleaded not guilty to a four-count charge of forgery, fabricating evidence, using fabricated evidence and attempt to pervert the cause of justice.
According to the EFCC, the defendant committed the offences on June 22, 2010, in Lagos.
“Abebe knowingly forged BP Exploration Nig. Ltd. letter dated November 30, 1995, to Inducon (Nig.) Ltd.
“He committed the forgery by inserting in page two of the said letter, the following words: ‘Also note that the ‘Buy-Out Option’ only applies to the pre-production stage of the Net Profit Interest Agreement (NPIA). The $4 million buy-out is thus irrelevant from production of oil in any of our fields’.
“He purported same to have been issued by BP Exploration Nig. Ltd.,” Mr Oyedepo said.
The prosecution claims that the defendant used the allegedly forged letter as evidence in suit No. FHC/L/CS/224/2010 between Abebe, Inducon Nig. Ltd. and Statoil Nig. Ltd. in a Federal High Court.
The evidence was admitted in evidence in the suit, according to the EFCC.
The commission said that the defendant attempted to pervert the course of justice through the actions.
The alleged offences violate Sections 120(1), 120(2), 126(2) of the Criminal Code Law of 2003.