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Oil marketers fight fraud charges in court

09 June 2014, 16:17

Lagos - Oil marketers, Mahmud Tukur, and Alex Ochonogor, have appealed to the Lagos High Court in Ikeja to quash the N1,8 billion fuel subsidy fraud charges the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
(EFCC) preferred against them.

The marketers were arraigned alongside their company--- Eterna Plc and another marketer, Abdullahi Alao on a nine-count charge of conspiracy, obtaining money by false pretences, forgery and use of false documents.

The defendants are accused of obtaining N1,8 billion from the Federal Government for a purported importation of 80.3 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.

Their counsel, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), while moving the application, said the proof of evidence did not support the offences alleged against them, adding that they should be discharged by the court.

Oyetibo said the criminal charge preferred against them was an abuse of court process which should be struck out in the interest of justice.

He said the charge arose from a joint venture agreement between Eterna Plc,  Axenergy Ltd, Sahara Energy Resources and Ontario Oil for the importation of fuel into the country.

Oyetibo said it was improper for Tukur and Ochonogor, who are the Managing Director and Head of Financial Control of Eterna Plc to be charged for the alleged offences.

“It is submitted that the proof of evidence does not disclose or support the fact that the first and second defendants obtained money for themselves in the transactions in which the offences were alleged to have been committed.

All financial dealings involved in those transactions were particularly between Eterna Plc and the other companies mentioned in the proof of evidence,” he added.

According to him, there is no proof that the alleged fraud was committed as a result of the defendants' connivance or negligence.

He said: "although a company acts through its officers, those acts of the officers are seen in law, as the acts of the company itself and therefore it is the company that is legally responsible and not the officers."

Arguing further, Oyetibo who cited Section 65 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, Oyetibo said did not act in their personal capacities in the transaction.

He, also faulted Section 10 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act which the EFCC claimed gave them power to charge the defendants to court.

He said his clients were being charged in their personal capacity to embarrass and harass them because there was no vicarious liability under the Nigerian criminal law.

Responding, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, said Section 260 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State prohibited the court from entertaining such applications.

“A company on its own cannot commit an offence.  It has to use human beings to do so. The argument that the principal officers of the company are not liable is baseless. It is the evidence that will distinguish the role of each of the defendants when the trial starts.

He urged the court to dismiss the application for being premature and lacking in merit.

The court adjourned the matter to June 27 for ruling.

– CAJ News

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