by Isi Esene
The trial of 20 individuals and companies who are suspected to have fraudulently received fuel subsidy funds amounting to about $6.8bn has again stalled today due to the absence of the Welter Waggabatsoma of Ontario Oil.
Ontario Oil is the first defendant in the suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on charges of receiving money from the Federal Government of Nigeria under false pretense.
According to SaharaReporters, Waggabatsoma left Nigeria to France shortly before his arraignment which informed his inability to be present in court for the commencement of the trial. This is the second time, in as many days, that the absence of individuals relevant to the trial will stall its progress.
Justice Habeeb Abiru, who is the presiding judge in the case, expressed his inability to hear the pleas of the defendants present since the first defendant failed to appear.
Observers expressed displeasure over the repeated adjournment which they said were meant to stall the momentum necessary to prosecute such a case.
Joseph Nwobudu (SAN), Waggabatsoma’s attorney, who had yesterday promised to present the accused in court, repeated his pledge today stating that Walter Wagatsona will appear on August 1 without fail.
Earlier in the week, the EFCC released names of several companies allegedly involved in the fuel subsidy scam, they are: Nasaman Oil Services; Eternal Oil and Gas Plc; Ontario Oil & Gas Plc; Nadabo Energy Limited; Pacific Silver Line Limited; Axenergy Limited, and Fago Petroleum and Gas Limited.
The individuals who are mainly made up of businessmen are: Mamman Nasir Ali; Christian Taylor; Mahmud Tukur; Ochonogor Alex; Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi; Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer; Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele; Abubakar Ali Peters; Jude Agube Abalaka, Abdulahi Alao and Oluwaseun Ogunbanbo.
Yesterday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) hauled 20 oil marketers allegedly involved in the subsidy fraud and arraigned before a High Court sitting in Ikeja, but a series of postponement has trailed the first two sittings.