Leadership (Abuja)

7 August 2012

Nigeria: Fuel Subsidy Suspects May Flee the Country, Immigration Warns

Photo: Vanguard

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has raised the alarm that suspects being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged involvement in subsidy fraud may jump bail and flee the country if the commission does not forward the watch list of the suspects to the NIS.

A source close to the NIS, who sought anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, disclosed this during an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP yesterday.

The source added that unless the watch list comprising suspects being tried is forwarded to the NIS, some of the suspects might jump bail and escape from the country through the use of multiple identities.

He explained that there was no way the NIS would know persons standing trial for any particular offence, unless relevant agencies handling such cases issue it with full details of such individuals.

According to him, the development will guide the NIS to be on the lookout for indicted persons who may want to flee the country using any of the seaports and airports in the country.

When asked the propriety of how some individuals obtained multiple copies of Nigerian international passports, the source said unless the visa pages were exhausted, the NIS would not issue any holder a new passport.

He however linked the possibility of suspects jumping bail and fleeing the country un-detected to a situation where such a criminal has dual citizenship. According to him, the development enables such a person to hold international passports other than those of their native land.

He said, "I can tell you that the Immigration does not issue passports to anybody by proxy. You have to be physically present, showing vital documents which we require to issue any Nigerian a passport.

"So when you talk about a suspect facing trial for subsidy scam being denied bail because he jumped bail and fled the country, it cannot be that he has more than one Nigerian passport. Don't forget, some of these people carry dual citizenship status, in which case they not only carry a Nigerian passport, but they also have foreign passports with which they can travel at any time".

He also confirmed the existence of a special desk within NIS for collaborating with agencies of government to carry out surveillance on fleeing suspects with their full identities, saying that the measure is a tactical way to forestall a situation where suspect will abscond. He added that this development would better guide the service to scale up its surveillance.

One of the fuel subsidy suspects, Oluwaseun Ogunbambo, was denied bail last week. Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of a Lagos high court had denied Ogunbanbo bail on the grounds of his criminal antecedents. Prior to the commencement of the subsidy trial, Ogunbambo was alleged to have failed to service huge debts totalling N230m and N430m respectively which he secured from StanbicIBTC Bank. The suspect was reported to have fled the country, despite the confiscation of his international passport and all other vital documents by the EFCC. He was said to have immediately obtained another international passport to evade the IBTC loan scam.

It took the collaboration of the EFCC and Interpol to track and arrest of Ogunbambo at the Dublin Airport in Ireland months after. He was reportedly caught with huge sums of foreign exchange which contravened the law in Ireland.

Further investigations by the EFCC also revealed that Ogunbambo allegedly operates multiple travel documents obtained with fictitious names. For instance, he is said to be popularly known and addressed as "Benson Adekunbo" and at other times "Aladapo Sobowale" in the United Kingdom.

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