By RICHARD F INOYO
In 2017, Justice Lateefa Okunnu in Ikeja High Court sentenced the Managing Director of Ontario Oil and Gas Limited, Mrs Adaoha Ugo-Nnadi, and the Chairman of the said company, Walter Wagbatsoma for oil subsidy fraud to 10 years in prison for defrauding the Nigerian government of some N754 million Naira in oil subsidy transactions.
It would interest you to know that the EFCC had taken the suspects to court following their arrest about 5 years ago.
This came five years after a massive oil subsidy fraud perpetrated by some top oil companies and marketers was exposed in the petroleum industry in the year 2012.
EFCC in its due diligence tracked and took the suspects to court following their arrest in 2012 to get that historical conviction with the Federal High Court in Lagos ordering the convicted suspects to return the
N754 million which was defrauded by their company back to the Federal Government, while their sentences were to run concurrently.
That was just a slid of a $6.8Billion US Dollar Oil Subsidy scam that came to national light following series of investigations and audits carried out and committees set-up to investigate the fuel subsidy scheme that took place between 2009 and 2011.
Among the list of companies indicted in that huge national fraud, which saw oil companies and top oil marketers fraudulently took a sum total of $6.8Billion ( one-fourth of our national budget) from Nigeria, was Zenon Oil and Gas) a company owned by Femi Otedola_ the very man who would simultaneously become agent provocatuer in a massive fraud case against his company.
Just few days ago, we witnessed how Farouk Lawal, the former House of Representative Member and Chairman of the ad-hoc committee investigating the $6.8billion Dollar Oil Subsidy fraud that implicated series of oil companies (including Otedola’s Zenon Oil and Gas) sentenced to seven years in jail over the bribing charge brought against the ex-lawmaker involving his collection of $500,000 US Dollars bribe from Otedola who now has been passed as agent provocatuer.
In my opinion, the bribing case is secondary, and at best diversionary from the core issue of oil subsidy fraud that showed oil importers being paid for 59 million liters a day, while the country only consumes 35 million, an unacceptable scam that should see all indicted culprits tried.
As far as I am concerned, the Otedola-Farouk issue is an appalling distraction from what matters to us as a nation. In serious climes, the bribe allegation against the chairman of an ad-hoc committee investigating a fraud would only lead to the chairman stepping down and prosecuted without the issue at hand swept under the carpet.
As long as some $6.6Billion US Dollars out of the $6.8Billion US Dollars fraudulently disappeared by the said oil subsidy scam is still out there and largely unaccounted for, Nigerians must demand the reopening of the said case with a call that all oil companies indicted in the fraud be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law irrespective of the sudden emergence of an agent provocatuer in the wake of a massive oil fraud that indicted his company and those of others.
For that sum of money when returned can build and replicate in four regions, I mean the current 156-kilometer Lagos-Ibadan railway ( which costs the government some $1.5 billion, and runs from Lagos to Ibadan) with such replication connecting 8 States in those four regions.