The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja a businessman, Mr. Jide Omokore, who is also an ally of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, on nine counts of alleged crude oil fraud involving $1.6bn.
Alison-Madueke, whom the prosecution stated was at large, was not listed as an accused person in the charges, but her name was mentioned in one of the counts as having perpetrated the alleged fraud alongside Omokore and the other listed co-accused persons.
But with the insistence of the court on Monday, the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), removed the former minister’s name and that of a businessman, Kolawole Aluko, from the count.
The prosecution, in the case numbered FHC/ABJ/CR/121/2016, named Alison-Madueke (said to be at large) in count 8, accusing her of “abetting the commission of money laundering,” committed by those listed as defendants in the charge. Aluko, also said to be at large, was mentioned as engaging in conspiracy, money laundering and fraud in the said count.
The judge said since Alison-Madueke and Aluko were not served with the charges and they were not brought before the court, their names ought not to appear in any of the counts. She then struck out the two names from the count upon Jacobs’ application. Shortly after Alison-Madueke’s and Aluko’s names were removed from the count 8, the charges were read to Omokore and his co-accused persons.
They all pleaded not guilty to the nine counts.
Those arraigned along with Omokore were a former Managing Director of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, Victor Briggs; a former Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Abiye Membere; and a former Manager, Planning and Commercial of the NNPC, David Mbanefo. Two other companies linked with Omokore – Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited – were also arraigned along with them.
They were arraigned on nine counts of obtaining under false pretences and engaging in money laundering estimated at about $1,646,140,379.90. Omokore was alleged to have used the Strategic Alliance Agreement, signed between the NPDC and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited, to swindle the NPDC and the Nigerian government of monies running into billions of dollars through the lifting of crude oil from some oil wells between March, 2013 and May, 2014.
The other accused persons, who were senior management staff of the NNPC, are accused of conspiracy in inducing the NPDC to facilitate the lifting of crude by Omokore, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited. They were also accused receiving car gifts from Omokore, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited.
Justice Nyako granted bail to the defendants in the sum of N50m each with a surety each after hearing the accused of persons’ bail applications. The judge said the sureties to be produced by the accused persons must either be a director in the Federal Civil Service or must have a landed property in the jurisdiction of the court.
She adjourned till October 19 for the commencement of trial of the accused persons.