14 November 2012

Nigeria: Fuel Subsidy Scam - EFCC, Tukur's Son in Plea Bargaining Talks

Indications emerged Tuesday that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has commenced negotiation with Mahmud Tukur, the son of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, on how to refund the billions of naira he allegedly benefited from the fuel subsidy scam.

This came as the anti-graft agency yesterday arraigned another oil marketer, Rowaye Jubril before Justice Lateefa Okunnu of an Ikeja High Court, Lagos for allegedly defrauding the Federal Government of N963.7 million.

Mahmud Tukur is facing trial alongside Abdullahi Alao, son of business tycoon, Arisekola Alao; and Alex Ochonogor, for their alleged involvement in the fuel subsidy fraud.

When Tukur's trial came up yesterday before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, his lawyer told the court that they had entered into a "discussion" with the EFCC.

Their company, Eternal Oil and Gas Plc, allegedly obtained N1.9 billion from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported importation of 80.3 million litres of petrol.

The EFCC insisted that the company never imported the petrol.

Tukur's counsel, Tayo Oyetibo, asked the court for an adjournment so that they could finalise their "conference" with the EFCC.

"We as senior counsels we have studied the processes and have decided to enter into discussion with the prosecution," said Oyetibo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

"That' is why we didn't file any processes to challenge the prosecution in court," he added.

Both Oyetibo and Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) and counsel to Alao, did not shed light on the nature of their discussion with the anti graft agency.

Rotimi Jacobs, the EFCC counsel, however, did not oppose their application.

"The EFCC must give them the benefit of doubt and opportunity to explore," Mr. Jacobs said.

Oyetibo also prayed the court to release the international passports of his clients, Tukur and Ochonogor, to enable them travel out of the country.

The EFCC did not oppose the application.

The judge granted the request, asking that the application be put in writing.

He fixed December 13 for the next sitting to "allow counsel resolve" their discussion.

Meanwhile, Jubril was arraigned alongside his company, Brila Energy Limited on a 13-count charge bordering on obtaining money by false pretences, forgery and uttering.

EFCC alleged that the defendants had between October 2010 and May 2011 in Lagos fraudulently obtained the sum of N963.7 million from the Federal Government in the fuel subsidy region.

The anti-graft agency also alleged that the defendants obtained the money from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported importation of 17.3 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) which it never did.

They were also alleged to have forged documents including certificate of cargo transfer, certificate of origin and cargo manifest.

Counsel to EFCC, Mr. Seidu Atteh, told the court that their alleged offences contravened Sections 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act of 2006.

According to him, it also contravened Sections 467 and 468 of the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State 2003.

Jubril pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail in the sum of N75 million with two sureties in like sum.

Justice Okunnu said the sureties must be gainfully employed and must deposed to an affidavit of means.

She also ruled that one of the sureties must own a landed property in Lagos State, while the other surety must be a director in a public or private quoted company in Nigeria.

The sureties must also produce three years tax clearance and all documents should be verified by an officer from the EFCC.

The judge also ordered the defendant to deposit his international passport and other travelling documents with the Chief Registrar and must not travel without the court's permission.

She also directed Jubril to report once every month to the EFCC office during the duration of the trial.

The matter was adjourned to January 23, 2013 for trial.

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