By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Thursday, granted request by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to file additional proof of evidence against oil mogul and ally to the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, Mr. Jide Omokore.
Trial Justice Nnamdi Dimgba gave the anti-graft agency the nod to tender fresh evidence against Omokore who is facing trial alongside former Managing Director of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, Victor Briggs, former Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production of the NNPC, Abiye Membere, former Manager, Planning and Commercial of the NNPC, David Mbanefo.
The defendants are answering to a nine-count charge bordering on their alleged illegal diversion of about $1.6billion, being part of proceeds of sales of petroleum products belonging to the Federal Government.
Two of Omokore’s companies, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited, were also cited as defendants in the matter.
Justice Dimgba dismissed objection the defendants raised against EFCC’s request to enter additional evidence against them.
Specifically, the defendants contended that it was was wrong for the prosecution to adduce fresh evidence in a matter where two witnesses had already testified.
They urged the court to reject the application and proceed with the trial based on the initial proof of evidence.
However, in his ruling, Justice Dimgba said there was nothing in the law that prohibited the EFCC from adducing additional proof of evidence against the defendants.
He held that under section 379 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, the prosecution was at liberty to at any stage of the trial, before judgement is delivered, enter additional proof of evidence.
“That section does not contain any restriction as to admission of additional evidence, nor does it say that it is only evidence that is placed that can be reviewed”, the court ruled.
The court however noted that the law equally permitted the defendants to respond to such additional evidence before judgment is delivered.
Consequently, Justice Dimgba okayed the additional evidence EFCC filed through its lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs,SAN, even as he adjourned the matter till July 5 for continuation of hearing.
It will be recalled that Justice Binta Nyako who previously presided over the case, had in a ruling on July 4, 2016, granted the defendants bail to the tune of N50million each.
Justice Nyako equally struck out the name of the former Petroleum Minister, Deziani, which was earlier reflected in count eight of the charge.
Aside ordering the defendants to deposit N50m each, the court said each of them must produce a surety who must either be a senior civil servant or must have a landed property.
It said the sureties must depose to an affidavit of means, adding that the defendants must deposit their international passport and other travelling documents with the court.
Some of the charge against the defendants read: “That you, Olajide Jones Omokore, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Ltd and Kolawole Akanni Aluko (now at large) between May and October, 2013, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, by false pretence and with intent to defraud, induced the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Federal Government of Nigeria to deliver to you 5, 652, 227 barrels of crude oil (Brass blend) valued at the sum of US $ 616, 013, 615.27, through the medium of contact (Strategic Alliance Agreement) which delivery was induced by false pretence to wit: the representation that you have technical competence, professional skills and funds (both local and foreign) necessary to support NPDC in petroleum operation for the OML 60, 62, 62 and 63 and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1 (1b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other fraud related offences Act CAP A6 2010 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Punishable under Section 1 (3) of the same Act.
“That you, Olajide Jones Omokore, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Ltd and Kolawole Akanni Aluko (now at large) between May 2013 and March 2014, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court obtained by false pretence and with intent to defraud 7, 551, 867 barrels of crude oil (Brass blend) valued at the sum of US$ 823, 075, 189.95 from Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Federal Government of Nigeria on the false pretence that you had funds (both local and foreign) necessary to support the Nigerian Petroleum Company Ltd in Petroleum operation for the OML 60, 61, 62 and 63 and you thereby committed an offence, contrary to Section 1 (a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other fraud related offences Act CAP A6 2010 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and punishable under Section 1 (3) of the same Act.