New EFCC chair Bawa in court to testify over alleged N1.4bn subsidy fraud

March 10, 2021
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The newly-appointed chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, on Wednesday, appeared before an Ikeja High Court to testify as a prosecution witness in an oil subsidy fraud case of N1.4 billion.

40-year-old Bawa, who was confirmed the EFCC chairman by the Senate on February 24, assumed office on March 5.

He was in court to testify in a case involving Nadabo Energy and its chairman, Abubakar Peters.

The case is one of the alleged fraud cases that Mr. Bawa investigated when he was an operative of the EFCC.

The anti-graft agency is prosecuting the defendants for allegedly obtaining N1.4 billion from the federal government as oil subsidy, using forged documents.

The defendants are also accused of inflating the quantity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) purportedly supplied to the federal government to 14,000 metric tonnes.

Led in evidence by the lead EFCC Counsel, Seidu Atteh, Mr. Bawa narrated to the court how he investigated the case.

He alleged that he analysed some electronic mail correspondences and found out, contrary to their claims, that the defendants took only approximately six million litres of PMS on board the mother vessel, MT Evriduk, into their own chartered vessel, MT St. Vanessa.

“Emails further confirmed that the same quantity of PMS (six million litres) was discharged in Port Harcourt. The email also informed us that Mr. Jideofor Akpan was the agent of the vessel (MT St. Vanessa).

“We invited the said Mr. Akpan, and in the course of our interview with him, he confirmed to us – the EFCC – that the first defendant (Nadabo Energy), through the second defendant (Peters), chartered the vessel (MT St. Vanessa) and paid for it.

“My lord, he volunteered the statement to us and also submitted several documents to us,” Mr. Bawa said.

The EFCC boss testified that during the interview, he presented the purported shipping documents, which the defendants submitted, to the Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) for payment of subsidy to Mr. Akpan.

“We presented it to him to confirm to us whether or not the vessel that he is the agent for, had anything to do with the vessel called MT American Express.

“My Lord, Mr. Akpan confirmed to us that MT St. Vanessa had nothing to do with MT American Express, rather, St. Vanessa loaded products from MT Evriduk,” Mr. Bawa said. 

He testified that he wrote a letter of investigation to Petrocam, the trader that supplied the defendant with the petroleum product.

The EFCC chairman told the court that a request was made in the letter for all the financial and shipping documents in respect of transactions with Nadabo Energy. 

“My lord, Petrocam responded to our letter in writing, attaching all requested documents which include a proforma invoice, commercial invoice, letter of credit and bill of laden,” he said.

Mr. Bawa said that the EFCC also wrote a letter of investigation of activities to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to confirm the registration status of Nadabo Energy. 

He said the CAC responded in writing by forwarding Certified True Copies (CTCs) of all the documents requested. 

“On receipt of the response, we studied it and found out that the second defendant (Peters) is a shareholder as well as a director of the first defendant.

“My lord, in furtherance to that, we invited two of the directors and shareholders of the first defendant – Mr Akeem Abalaka and one Mr. Sanni.

“They both confirmed to us that although they are linked to the company, they are not involved in the contentious matter before this honourable court,” he said. 

During Mr. Bawa’s testimony, the EFCC sought to tender to the court the CTCs of the documents it received from Petrocam and the CAC.

Defence counsel, E.O. Isirameh, however, objected to it.

Mr. Isirameh argued that the documents were invalid, saying that they were produced by the prosecutors several years after the subsidy transaction occurred.

Justice Christopher Balogun adjourned the case until April 28 for ruling and continuation of hearing.

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