Fuel subsidy fraudsters sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, company to refund N758 million to FG

A Federal High Court in Ikeja has sentenced the managing director of Ontario Oil and Gas Ltd, Mrs Ada Ugo-Ngali to 10 years imprisonment after being found guilty of fuel subsidy scam.

Mr. Walter Wagbatsoma who is the chairman of the company was also sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by Justice Lateefat Okunnu.

Justice Lateefa Okunnu had found Wagbatsoma and Ugo-Ngadi guilty of an eight – count charge of conspiracy, obtaining property by false pretences, forgery and uttering brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

While they were both pronounced guilty of N1.9bn oil subsidy fraud, Justice Okunnu ordered their company, Ontario Oil and Gas Ltd to pay back N745 million to the federal government.

There were eight count charges against them and they were found guilty of all on Friday, January 13.

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Babafemi Fakuade who is the third defendant was found not guilty and duly discharged and acquitted.

The fuel subsidy saga and its partial removal during the administration of former president, Goodluck Jonathan led to massive protests especially in Lagos and Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari finally removed subsidy in May after a lengthy debate which increased fuel pump price from N87 to N145.

A prosecution witness gave evidence that, in the first transaction, Ontario Oil paid N37 million for 12 million litres of fuel in a throughput agreement with Integrated oil and Gas, but later collected subsidy for 19 million litres.

In the second transaction, the company collected subsidy for 19 million litres while they paid a throughput agreement with Obat Oil worth N28 million for 10 million litres of fuel.

Walter Wagbatsoma(left)

“Both the first and second defendants signed the cheque for the throughput agreement,” the judge quoted the witness as saying.

“I find that there is credible, concrete evidence that the quantity of petrol discharged was 12 million litres.

“Evidence by the prosecution is that the product was discharged into one tank which cannot contain more than 16.5 million litres because of an inbuilt floating roof that takes about two million litres,” said the judge.
It would be recalled that when the convicts were first arraigned, Mr. Wagbatsoma was absent.

“The first defendant while testifying laboured to convince the court that he was not involved in the day to day running of the fourth defendant, but he signs the cheques,” Mrs. Okunnu said.

“He is of sound, literate mind. Over and over again, he informed the court he sits on the board of 27 companies. He knew what he was doing when he signed those cheques, and there is evidence that he used the money from the subsidy payment.”

For Mrs. Ugo-Nnadi, the judge described her as the “operating mind and the alter ego” of the company.

“She had full knowledge of the entire exercise.”

“I find the first, second, and fourth defendants guilty of forgery. All three of them conspired as there was a meeting of minds,” she said.

The DailyBells Nigeria recalls that on January 13, 2017, when Justice Okunnu first pronounced the duo guilty, Ada Ugo-Nnadi had collapsed in the court, thus making the judge to postpone the sentencing.

As Justice Lateefa Okunnu pronounced them guilty, after noticing the state of health of Ugo-Nnadi, she adjourned to January 16 for sentencing.

When Ugo-Ngadi regained consciousness, she was panting loudly as her lawyers frantically called for medical personnel and an ambulance.

She was eventually carried out of the court by her lawyers and loved ones into a black jeep which sped out of the court premises.

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