By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to return the sum of N124million to an oil company that was wrongly accused of engaging in subsidy scam.
The court, in a judgement that was delivered by Justice S.C. Oriji, quashed 11-count charge the anti-graft agency preferred against the company and its Directors, Abiodun Ponnle and Adetoye Adegbite.
Justice Oriji held that the prosecution failed to establish the allegation that the defendants discharged 6,784.921 metric tons of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) as opposed to the 14,208.908 metric tons over which subsidy was paid.
According to the court, evidence before it established that the volume of PMS that was discharged by Mr Ponnle and Mr Adegbite, through their company, Origin Oil & Gas Ltd, at the Lister Jetty Terminal, was 14,208.908 metric tons.
It will be recalled that the EFCC had moved against some oil marketers, including the defendants, for allegedly claiming and processing excess subsidy payment that was far more than what was legitimately due to them.
In a bid to recover the alleged excess subsidy payment, the EFCC entered a criminal charge marked CR/50/2016, against the defendants.
The charge was later amended on March 24, 2017, while the defendants pleaded not guilty before trial Justice Oriji on March 30, 2017.
Specifically, the charge against them bordered on criminal conspiracy, conspiracy to obtain money under false pretence and obtaining money under false pretence, contrary to Section 1(i) (a) and 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006, and Section 97 of the Penal Code Act; as well as the offence of forgery and using of forged document as genuine, contrary to Sections 364 and 366 of the Penal Code Act.
Determined to nail the defendants to the charge, the prosecution, which closed its case on February ,19, 2020, called a total of five witnesses that testified before the court.
On their part, the defendants, entered a no-case-submission, insisting that EFCC failed to adduce sufficient efficient capable of ensuring their conviction before any competent court.
They contended that the proof of evidence did not establish a prima-facie case against them.
However, the court, while dismissing the no-case-submission on November 10, 2020, ordered the defendants to open their defence.
Following the order of the court, the defendants called four witnesses that included the 1st defendant who testified as the DW3 and a forensic expert.
In his judgement on the matter, Justice Oriji, held that the prosecution failed to by way of a convincing evidence, prove the allegations it levelled against the defendants, beyond a reasonable doubt.
Consequently, the court discharged and acquitted the defendants of the 11-count charge against them.
It directed that the sum of N124m recovered from the defendants during the course of investigation, be returned to them on/before December 31, 2022; the defendants, having not been found guilty of any of the offences contained in the amended charge.