By Bartholomew Maduekwe
The ongoing subsidy trial of Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer and Ontario Oil & Gas Nigeria Limited before Justice Lateefat Okunnu yesterday continued with the prosecution presenting various documents and drafts allegedly issued by the defendants for payment to defraud the Nigerian government of N1.9 billion.
“The 1st defendant (Wagbatsoma) said he never participated in the operation of this company (Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited) in the alleged matter. He said he is only a nominal chairman.At the resumed hearing, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacob SAN, showed the 1st defendant (Wagbatsoma) how he participated in the activities that led to the alleged fraud by signing documents and drafts used.
“What we are trying to point out here is his involvement in the proceeding of the company which he had already testified to the court that he was involved in the transactions that led to the alleged fraud,” Jacob stated.
Objecting to the documents and drafts tendered by the prosecution, the defence counsel, Mr. Edoka Onyeke, argued that the document tendered was to ambush his client (Wagbatsoma), adding that the prosecution was springing surprises.
“Normally, we should be availed with any document they intend to use in this matter. My client has been ambushed,” he said.
Giving ruling on the issue, the judge held that the witness had specifically asked that the said document be shown to him, which was done.
“This, however, means that the issue of surprise does not take place. Saying that the defence has been ambushed does not hold any water,” the judge said.
The 1st defendant (Wagbatsoma) told the court that Summerset, which was also mentioned as a company that transacted business with the defendants in the alleged oil subsidy, was among the 27 companies he had interest.
“You told the court that you used your influence to procure an oil permit for Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited (4th defendant). What influence is this?” the prosecutor asked.
1st defendant (Wagbatsoma) answered: “I would not want to say connection. I pursued the permit by making contacts with relevant offices. My role was to make initial contact to get the permit.
“I attended St. Andrew Primary School, Warri; Federal Government College, Ikot Ekpeme; and University of Lagos- where I studied Accounting. Although I am not Chartered and I am not practising Accounting, but I have worked in the banking industry.
“I worked with Zenith Bank and Trade Bank. I worked with Trade Bank and left as a consultant in 2001. I helped them set up their Energy Group subsidiary.”
The prosecution further argued that as at 2011, the defendants did not have a tank farm, but he (Wagbatsoma) answered, “we had our tank farm in 2008 or 2009 at Oghara, Delta State.”
Jacob, then put it to the 1st defendant (Wagbatsoma) that Ontario Oil & Gas Nigeria Limited never had any tank farm, even the one mentioned at Oghara, Delta State, until 2010.
It will be recalled that the defendants had pleaded not guilty to the charge bordering on altering, forgery, conspiracy and obtaining property by false pretences.
They (defendants) had approached the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the jurisdiction of Lagos High Court, Ikeja, to entertain the N1.9billion oil subsidy theft charge brought against them.