Saturday, January 14, 2017 11:54 am
Mrs Ada Ugo-Ngali, the Managing Director of Ontario Oil and Gas Limited and the co-defendant Mr Walter Wagbatsoma, who is the Chairman of the company, on Friday, fainted in the dock.
Ugo-Ngadi fainted as the presiding Judge Lateefa Okunnu was about to sentence her after finding her guilty in a N1.9billion oil subsidy scam
Okunnu, noting the state of Ugo-Ngadi, adjourned sentencing till January, 2017.
When Ugo-Ngadi came back to life she was panting loudly and her lawyers were frantically calling for a 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 to unknown hospital.
Earlier during Friday’s proceedings, Justice Lateefa Okunnu 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).
The two convicts were arraigned at the Ikeja High Court on Aug. 1, 2013 alongside Mr Babafemi Fakuade and their company Ontario Oil and Gas Limited.
Fakuade, an official of the Petroleum Products Price and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) was found not guilty and was acquitted of all the charges.
Okunnu while reading the judgment noted that the convicts defrauded the Federal Government of Nigeria to the tune of N754million oil subsidy transactions totalling N1.7billion.
“The defendants defrauded the Federal Government of N340million in the third quarter of 2010 and N414million in the fourth quarter of 2010.
“According to a forensic audit by Akintola Williams Delloitte, the defendants did not remit an excess of N754million to the Federal Government,” she said.
On finding Wagbatsoma guilty the judge said: “The first defendant knowingly received the sum in excess of what the fourth defendant (Ontario Oil and Gas Limited) was entitled to.
“In my opinion, he contributed to the false pretence.”
On finding Ugo-Ngadi guilty she said “The second defendant is the Managing Director of the company, she is the alter – ego of the fourth defendant and was aware of the going on of the company,” she said.
While acquitting Fakuade, Okunnu said “The case before the third defendant is that he helped in forging the Shore Quality Certificate, what I see before me is that he only signed the document while acting in his capacity as an PPRA official.
“It is not right in criminal cases to infer guilt without concrete evidence, there is no proof that he was aware that the documents were false.
“The prosecution have not been able to prove the case of forgery against the third defendant,” Okunnu said.
In holding Wagbatsoma, Ugo-Ngadi and Ontario Oil liable for the offences, Okunnu said.
“I find the allegations of obtaining by false pretences in relation to the first, second and fourth defendants to be true.
“They were all particeps criminis and uttered the document, they are therefore guilty of the offences in the amended charge,”Okunnu said.
Lawyer to Fakuade, Mr B.A Ayeni, emotionally thanked Okunnu for acquitting his client.
“I thank your Lordship for acquitting the third defendant,” he said.
In his plea for linlency counsel to Ugo-Ngadi, Mr E.A Onyeke told the judge to temper justice with mercy.
“The second defendant has health challenges, in the course of the trial she has had cause to visit doctors abroad to take care of her health issues as the health care system in Nigeria is poor.
“As the Managing Director she is an employer of labour whose workers depend on her managerial abilities, her workers will suffer more than necessary especially in this period of recession,”Onyeke said.
“It is our humble plea that court grants her a custodial sentence starting from the day she was arraigned,” he said.
Responding, counsel to the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Jacob (SAN) requested for a stiff sentence.
“The minimum sentence of the offences which the convicts have been convicted is seven years.
“A custodial sentence will be sending a wrong signal to the public that the rich cannot go to prison and will be a hindrance to our fight against corruption.
“There is also no medical report regarding the alleged ill health of the defendant and the prison has medical facilities, if they can provide for the poor, they can provide for the rich,” Rotimi said.