Origin Oil & Gas Limited and its directors Abiodun Ponnle and Adetoye Adegbite have been cleared of all charges relating to a fuel subsidy scheme by Justice Sylvanus Oriji of the High Court in Abuja.
It may be noted that the defendants were prosecuted in court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for allegedly claiming and processing subsidy payments in excess of what they were legally entitled to.
However, in a judgement issued on Thursday, Justice Oriji, concluded that the EFCC failed to demonstrate the claim that the defendants discharged 6,784.921 metric tons of premium motor spirit (PMS) as opposed to the 14,208.908 metric tons over which subsidy was paid.
The court held that rather, evidence abound before the court establishing that the volume of PMS discharged by Mr Ponnle and Mr Adegbite, through their company, Origin Oil & Gas Ltd, at the Lister Jetty Terminal was 14,208.908 metric tons.
The judge held that the EFCC failed to prove the offences levelled against the defendants beyond a reasonable doubt, consequently discharged and acquitted them of all the 11 counts.
Consequently, the trial judge ordered that the sum of N124 million recovered from the defendants during the course of the investigation be returned to them on/before December 31, 2022; the defendants, having not been found guilty of any of the offences contained in the amended charge.
Following the charge marked: CR/50/2016, Adegbite Adetoye, Ponnle Abiodun and Origin Oil & Gas Ltd, were arraigned on an 11-count charge on March 30, 2017. On March 24, 2017, the EFCC amended the charge and the defendants.
However, the defendants pleaded not guilty to all the counts bordering on criminal conspiracy, conspiracy to obtain money under false pretence and obtaining money under false pretence all contrary to Section 1(i) (a) and 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006, and Section 97 of the Penal Code Act; and the offence of forgery and using of a forged document as genuine all contrary to Sections 364 and 366 of the Penal Code Act.