26 March 2019

Nigeria: Alleged Forgery - You Have Case to Answer, Judge Tells Obasanjo's in-Law

Justice Mojisola Dada of an Ikeja Special Offences Court, on Tuesday, told John Abebe, brother to late former First Lady, Mrs Stella Obasanjo, that he had a case to answer over an alleged forgery of some portions of an oil contract document.

Newsmen report that Abebe had made a no-case submission after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission's (EFCC) closed its case against him.

In the submission dated Jan. 19, Abebe said that the anti-graft commission had no case against him.

However, in a ruling on Tuesday, Dada held that evidence by the EFCC established a prima-facie case against Abebe.

"The no-case submission is hereby dismissed, and the defendant is hereby called upon to open his case," the judge ruled.

Newsmen report that, in the no-case submission, which relied on Section 239(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, 2011, Abebe's counsel, Mr Uche Nwokedi (SAN), had urged the court to dismiss the EFCC's case against him.

He said that evidence relied on by the commission had no grounds in law and that the testimony of the prosecution witnesses had been discredited under cross-examination.

The defence counsel also said that no original copy of the allegedly forged document was produced in court, arguing that evidence of prosecution witnesses amounted to hearsay.

In his response, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, the lead counsel to the EFCC, had said that evidence adduced by the prosecution had not been discredited, adding that evidence of prosecution witnesses was not hearsay.

Oyedepo urged the court to dismiss the no-case submission.

Newsmen report that Abebe had on July 26, 2018, pleaded not guilty to a four-count charge of forgery, fabricating evidence, using fabricated evidence and attempt to pervert the course of justice.

According to the EFCC, the defendant committed the offences on June 22, 2010, in Lagos.

"Abebe knowingly forged BP Exploration Nig. Ltd.'s letter, dated Nov. 30, 1995, to Induction (Nig.) Ltd.

"He committed the forgery by inserting in page two of the said letter, the following words: 'Also note that the 'Buy-Out Option' only applies to the pre-production stage of the NPIA. The $4 million buy-outs are, thus, irrelevant from the production of oil in any of our fields.'

"He purported same to have been issued by BP Exploration Nig. Ltd.," Oyedepo said.

The prosecution claimed that the defendant used the allegedly forged letter as evidence in suit No. FHC/L/CS/224/2010 between Abebe, Induction Nig. Ltd. and Statoil Nig. Ltd., before a Federal High Court.

The evidence was admitted and marked exhibit BB in the suit, according to the EFCC, which added that the defendant, through his actions, attempted to pervert the course of justice, in violation of Sections 120(1), 120(2), 126(2) of the Criminal Code Law of Lagos State, 2003.

The judge adjourned the case until June 11 for defence. (NAN)

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