Saturday, 14 January 2017

1/14/2017 04:44:00 am





Mrs Ada Ugo-Ngali, the Managing Director of Ontario Oil and Gas Limited, on Friday January 13th 2016, fainted in the dock as she was about to be convicted for an N1.9billion oil subsidy fraud. Mrs Ugo-Ngali, and her co-defendant of Walter Wagbatsoma, the Chairman of the company, were before Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos state high court in Ikeja, for the ruling of the subsidy fraud that has been going on since 2013. When Ugo-Ngadi came to, she was panting loudly, and her lawyers were frantically calling for a medical personnel and an ambulance. She was eventually carried out of the court by her lawyers into a black jeep which sped out of the court premises. Earlier during Friday’s proceedings, Justice Lateefa Okunnu found Wagbatsoma and Ugo-Ngadi guilty conspiracy, obtaining property by false pretense, and forgery brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The two convicts were arraigned at the Ikeja High Court on Aug. 1, 2013 alongside Mr Babafemi Fakuade and their company Ontario Oil and Gas Limited. Fakuade, an official of the Petroleum Products Price and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) was found not guilty and acquitted of the charges. Okunnu while reading the judgment said that the convicts defrauded the Federal Government of N754million in oil subsidy transactions totalling N1.7billion. “The defendants defrauded the Federal Government of N340million in the third quarter of 2010 and N414million in the fourth quarter of 2010. According to a forensic audit by Akintola Williams Deloitte, the defendants did not remit an excess of N754million to the Federal Government,” she said. The judge said Wagbatsoma knowingly received the sum more than what the fourth defendant (Ontario Oil and Gas Limited) was entitled to, thereby contributing to pretense. The judge found Wagbatsoma guilty of pretense. On finding Ugo-Ngadi guilty, she said “The second defendant is the MD of the company, she is the alter–ego of the fourth defendant and was aware of the going ons of the company,” she said. While acquitting Fakuade, Okunnu said “The case before the third defendant is that he helped in forging the Shore Quality Certificate, what I see before me is that he only signed the document while acting in his capacity as a PPRA official. Okunnu said; “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. The judge continued in her ruling; “I find the allegations of obtaining by false pretences about the first, second and fourth defendants to be true. They were all participants in the crime and altered the document; they are therefore guilty of the offences in the amended charge,” Okunnu said”. While lawyer to Fakuade, Mr B.A Ayeni, emotionally thanked Okunnu for acquitting his client, the counsel to Ugo-Ngadi, Mr E.A Onyeke pleaded for mercy on behalf of his client. “The second defendant has health challenges, in the course of the trial she has had cause to visit doctors abroad to take care of her health issues as the health care system in Nigeria is poor. As the MD, she is an employer of labor and her workers depend on her managerial abilities; her workers will suffer more than necessary especially in this period of recession. It is our humble plea that court grants her a custodial sentence starting from the day she was arraigned,” he said. However, counsel to the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Jacob (SAN) requested for a stiff sentence. “The minimum sentence for the offences which the convicts have been convicted is seven years. A custodial sentence will be sending a wrong signal to the public that the rich cannot go to prison and will be a hindrance to our fight against corruption. There is also no medical report regarding the alleged ill health of the defendant, and the prison has medical facilities, if they can provide for the poor, they can provide for the rich," Rotimi said. In the light of Ugo-Ngadi condition, the judge adjourned sentencing to Jan. 16.

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