The trial of Jide Omokore and five others over an alleged fraud of $1.6 billion took a different turn on Wednesday when the fourth defendant, Victor Briggs, recanted his earlier statements.
Mr Briggs, a former managing director of the National Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), made the statements to the prosecuting agency, the Economic and Financial Crimea Commission (EFCC).
His recant necessitated a trial within a trial.
Mr Omokore is an ally of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke.
Following Mr Briggs’ change of tone, a prosecution witness, Abdulrasheed Bawa, who is an operative of the EFCC, insisted the statements he made to the EFCC on July 23, 2015, and on February 12, 2016, were both voluntary.
In cross-examination by the EFCC counsel, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, Mr Bawa said the statements were not made under duress but out of free will. Mr Bawa added that they even threw banters at the end of the question and answer session.
Although, Mr Bawa told the court that the defendant had no legal representation at the time of interrogation, “he was cautioned, we explained to him, which he said he understood before signing the caution note.
“He wrote the statements which he signed. The statements were recorded in the presence of other investigators,” he said.
Mr Bawa said, prior to the investigation, he had never met Mr Briggs.
Mr Omokore is being prosecuted alongside Mr Briggs and Abiye Membere, former Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Also listed with Mr Omokore as a defendant is David Mbanefo who is deceased. He was a former Manager, Planning and Commercial at NNPC.
They face a nine-count amended charge of criminal diversion of about $1.6billion alleged to be proceeds of petroleum products belonging to the Federal Government.
Other defendants in the suit are two corporate entities, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited, allegedly owned by Mr Omokore.
The companies were alleged to have been used by the defendants to commit the alleged fraud.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...