N1.9bn fuel subsidy fraud: Wagbatsoma challenges FG’s lawyer’s authority to prosecute
The Managing Director of Ontario Oil and Gas Ltd, Walter Wagbatsoma, on Thursday at an Ikeja High Court, challenged the power of the lawyer of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) , Mr Rotimi Jacob (SAN), to prosecute the N1.9 billion fuel subsidy fraud charge levelled against him.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Wagbatsoma, alongside Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi, Babafemi Fakuade and Ontario Oil and Gas Ltd are facing a nine-count charge bordering on fraud.
The trial which was almost concluded took a new twist on April 12 when Wagbatsoma’s lawyer, Mr Wole Olanipekun (SAN) challenged the authority of Jacob to prosecute on behalf of the Federal Government.
During Thursday’s proceedings, the defence lawyer, Mr Edoka Onyeke, moved an application stating that Rotimi did not have a valid fiat to represent the Federal Government in the case.
“I urge Your Lordship to dismiss the charges filed against my client on the grounds that Mr Rotimi Jacob, being a private legal practitioner, failed to produce before the court a fiat by the Attorney General of the Federation or the State authorising him to prosecute the defendants, ”Onyeke said.
He argued that any private prosecutor prosecuting for and on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation or of Lagos State must obtain the fiat duly issued and signed by the Attorney General.
He said: “A fiat was not attached to the charges on May 8, 2013 when trial commenced, the entire proceedings before this court constitutes a gross abuse of court processes.”
Responding, Jacob said: ” The motion of the defence is based on the false premise that the EFCC cannot initiate criminal proceedings without a fiat from the Attorney General of the Federation.
“The constitution also empowers other security agencies such as the EFCC and the police to initiate a trial.”
According to him, the case was initiated by the EFCC and the anti-graft agency authorized him to prosecute the case.
He urged the court to dismiss the application filed by the defence.
Attempts by Jacob to tender in court a copy of his authorisation letter was successfully objected to by the defence.
Justice Lateefa Okunnu ordered that Jacob should tender the document through an affidavit which should be served on other parties.
Okunnu adjourned the case to May 24 for mention. (NAN)