Oil marketer bags 10 years over fuel subsidy fraud a month after earlier conviction
Justuce Adebukola Banjoko of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Gudu has sentenced an oil marketer, Jubril Rowaye, to 10 years imprisonment.
The judge, in a judgment that lasted over five hours, found Rowaye guilty of involvement in the about N1.05bn fraud perpetrated under the Petroleum Subsidy Fund Scheme.
Also convicted with the oil marketer were his company, Brilla Energy Limited, and another firm, Alminnur Resources Limited, to which the permit to import 10,000metric tons of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) into Nigeria was issued in 2011.
This is the second time Rowaye and his company would be convicted. A High Court of Lagos State in Ikeja had on March 16 this year, convicted Rowaye and Brila Energy Limited in relation to a fuel subsidy scam of N963.7m.
Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the High Court of Lagos State court sentenced Jubril to 10 years jail term.
Yesterday, prison officials flew Rowaye to Abuja from Lagos where he was kept in Kirirkiri Prison.
Justice Banjoko convicted Rowaye and others on 14 out of the17 counts on which they were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2012.
On the offences of conspiracy and fraud, brought under the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006, the court sentenced Rowaye to 10 years imprisonment each without an option of fine. The sentences are to run concurrently.
In relation to the 12 counts of conspiracy, forgery of documents and using the documents as genuine to facilitate the act of obtaining the total sum of N1,051,030,434.63 from the Federal Government under the fuel subsidy scheme by false pretence as charged under the Penal Code Act, the court sentenced him to seven years of imprisonment on each of the 12 counts.
Justice Banjoko said the seven years imprisonment on each of the 12 counts, totalling 84 years jail term, must run consecutively, but with an option of N5m fine on each of the counts, amounting N60m fine option for the 12 counts.
The judge directed that the convicts should refund to the Federal Government the equivalent of losses it suffered in the transaction.
But Justice Banjoko noted yesterday that if the defendants had called witnesses, they might have been able to offer explanations that could exonerate them of some of the charges.
She held that due to the failure of the defendants to call witnesses, crucial evidence of the prosecution was not contradicted.
The court held that although there was evidence that the defendants supplied the 10,000MT of PMS to the Federal Government, evidence showed that the product was not sourced from Netherlands as indicated in the contract paper and as claimed in the documents submitted by the defendant to facilitate payments for the importation under the subsidy scheme.
Justice Banjoko held that the origin of the product and time of arrival of the vessel conveying the product from the source country were “crucial” factors in the computation of payments to the marketers.
She explained that relying on the evidence of the PPPRA officer who testified during the trial, “distance matters”, the reason why a marketer that sourced products from Cotonou, would not be paid the same amount as another who sourced the same volume of products from the Netherlands or Alaska.
The judge said the oral and documentary evidence led by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, showed that Form M used by the defendants to source foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Credit Letter purportedly issued by the defunct Spring Bank to guarantee the transaction, and the bill of lading allegedly sent by Napa Petroleum Inc from which the product was purchased in the Netherlands, were fraught with discrepancies and inconsistent information.
The judge, also relying on EFCC’s report of Lloyd’s List Intelligence, a global shipping and maritime intelligence-gathering organisation, held that as of June 2011, when the defendants claimed that the Mother Vessel brought the product from Netherlands to Offshore Cotonou, the said Mother Vessel, MT Kriti Akti, was already “dead, demolished, deregistered, since April 2010 and was lying on Gadani Beach in Pakistan”.
She said it was indeed a “fairy tale” that “the ghost of MT Kriti Akti resurrected, it was loaded with PMS from the Netherlands, sailed on high sea to offshore Cotonou and discharged to the Daughter Vessel, MT Althea”, which in turn discharged to MT Brilla Keji in Port Harcourt.
The judge berated the 13 Federal Government agencies involved in the oil subsidy scheme, including the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulation Agency (PPPRA), Department of Petroleum Resources, the Federal Ministry, the Debt Management Office, saddled with oversight functions of verifying the documents and the monitoring the supply of products at various stages, for failing in their responsibilities.
Justice Banjoko noted that the PPPRA in particular, “was only interested in figures and not in compliance with its own rules.”
She said the convicts were paid the sum of N1,051,030,434.63 in two tranches “assisted by lack of diligence, lack of vigilance, lack of thoroughness, lack of zeal for work by the Federal Government agencies saddled with oversight functions to ensure compliance with the rules.
“The saddest thing in this transaction is the fact that none of the agencies of the Federal Government, with the exemption of DPR which raised some queries, saddled with the oversight functions, detected the discrepancies in the documents submitted to them.”
The three counts on which they were freed relate to conspiracy, forgery and using as genuine, relating to the document titled: “Certificate of Quality Transfer” dated August 26, 2011, purportedly issued by MGI Inspections.
The judge held that the evidence led by the prosecution only related to “Certificate of Quantity Transfer” and not “Certificate of Quality Transfer”.”
Incidentally, the defendants did not lead evidence in their defence in the case.
At the closure of the prosecution’s case after calling 12 witnesses, the defence decided to file separate no-case submission, which they lost.