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N1.9bn Subsidy Scam: Sentencing on Hold As Ugo- Ngali Remains in Hospital

Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, on Monday, January 16, 2016, deferred sentencing in a N1.9billion oil subsidy scam charge brought against Walter Wagbatsoma, Chairman, Ontario Oil and Gas Limited, and three others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFFC owing to the absence of the second defendant, Ada Ugo-Ngali, Managing Director, Ontario Oil and Gas Limited, in court.
Wagbatsoma, Ugo-Ngali, Babafemi Fakuade, an official of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, and Ontario Oil and Gas Limited are being prosecuted by the EFCC on an amended eight-count charge of conspiracy, obtaining by false pretences, forgery and uttering .
At the last sitting on Friday, January 13, 2017, Wagbatsoma, Ugo-Ngali and the company were found guilty of N754m oil fraud by the court.
In her ruling, the judge held that “the defendant defrauded the Federal Government of N340m in the third quarter of 2010 and N414m in the fourth quarter of 2010. 
‘‘According to a forensic audit by Akintola Willaims Delloitte, the defendants did not remit an excess of N754m to the Federal Government.
‘‘The first defendant knowingly received the sum in excess of what the fourth defendant (Ontario Oil and Gas Limited) was entitled to. 
‘‘In my opinion, he contributed to the false pretence.’’
The judge, however, discharged and acquitted the third defendant, Fakuade, on the grounds that the prosecution could not sustain the charge against him.
The judge held that ‘‘the case against the third defendant is that he helped in forging the Shore Quality Certificate. But what I see before me is that he only signed the document while acting in his capacity as a PPPRA official.
‘‘It is not right in criminal cases to infer guilt without concrete evidence; there is no proof that he was aware that the documents were false.
‘‘The prosecution has not been able to prove the case of forgery against the third defendant.’’
While addressing the court last Friday, the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, had urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence of seven years jail term on Ugo-Ngali.
Ugo-Ngali, had fainted while judge was about to pronounce the sentence, a situation that resulted in the adjournment of proceedings to today.
At today’s sitting, counsel to the second defendant, Y.K. Kadiri, told the court that his client was still lying prostrate in hospital.
He said, ‘‘The second defendant is still lying prostrate after she broke down in the court room last Friday.
‘‘We later got a feedback that your Lordship had permitted us to take her to hospital. She was, thereafter, taken to Havana Hospital, Lagos a private hospital, where she was put on life support.
‘‘ The second defendant was later referred to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, where she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit on Saturday.’’
Kadiri further stated that the prison officials had been mounting beat at the convict’s ward in the hospital.
He added: ‘‘We have a medical report issued by the first hospital, Havana. Also, about five minutes ago, we got an interim medical report from the LUTH. 
‘‘My Lord, the health condition of the second defendant is very precarious.’’
He, however, stated that he could not obtain an affidavit to formally present the medical report before the court due to ‘‘time constraint.’’
However, in his reaction, Jacobs pooh-poohed Kadiri’s claim, while urging the court to take the medical report presented by him with caution.
According to him, ‘‘On Friday, when we left this court, my client proceeded to the private hospital, where the second defendant was admitted to. She was playing very well at the hospital.
‘‘Some EFCC’s officials were also at the hospital to keep watch over her from Friday to Saturday.
‘‘The doctor said he was going to discharge her on Friday. But on request, we heard she was transferred to the LUTH.
‘‘My Lord, you know the antecedent of the defendant in this case. I urge my Lord to take the medical report with great caution. This is just a ploy to see that the convict does not go to prison.’’
When the judge asked if anyone had heard from the LUTH authorities, the prosecuting counsel said his client was barred from the hospital.
‘‘Our men were not allowed to stay there. They said it is a government hospital, so they (our men) had to withdraw.’’ 
Jacobs, therefore, urged the court to order an independent assessment of the convict’s medical situation.
He also urged the court to pronounce sentence on the fourth defendant, Ontario Oil and Gas Limited.
After listening to both counsels, Justice Okunnu ordered the counsel to the second defendant to file in a medical report from the LUTH accompanied by a sworn affidavit within official hours today. 
The medical doctor, who is attending to the convict at the LUTH, was also ordered to swear to an affidavit stating the medical condition of the convict as of today. 
The judge also ordered the Lagos State Commissioner of Police to keep the second defendant under watch at any medical facility she may be until she is taken to prison.
The case has been adjourned to January 18, 2017 for further proceedings and pronouncement on the sentence.

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