The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal today affirmed the jurisdiction of Lagos High Court, Ikeja to entertain the N1.9billion oil subsidy theft charge brought against Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo- Ndagi and Ontario Oil & Gas Limited by the Economic and Finacial Crimes Commission, EFCC
In a lead ruling delivered by Justice Amina Augie, the appellate court knocked off the three grounds on which Wagbatsoma and others objected to the ruling of the lower court affirming its jurisdiction and ordered accelerated hearing of the matter.
Wagbatsoma's grounds of appeal rested on the fact that the lower court lacked jurisdiction to try him because the case "pertained to admiralty matter; petroleum and issues of revenue to the Federal government”, contending that only the Federal High Court could assume jurisdiction.
Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacob, SAN, while arguing against the submissions of the defense, told the court that a prima facie case had been established against Wagbatsoma and others. He stressed that section 251(3) has not robbed the High Court of jurisdiction on the issues raised by the defence. He prayed the court to discountenance all the grounds of appeal.
Justice Augie upheld the prayers of Jacobs and ordered that hearing on the matter be accelerated at the lower court. Two other Justices: Justice Obaseki Adejumo and Justice Tijani Abubakar consented to the ruling.
Wagbatsama, Adaoha Ugo Ngadi and their Company, Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, are standing trial for defrauding the Nigerian government of N1.9billion in unearned oil subsidy payments.
It would be recalled that, Justice Lateefa Okunnu had earlier dismissed all three applications filed on behalf of Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi and their company, Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, challenging the jurisdiction and competence of the lower court as well as a no- case submission, argued by the defendants.
According to the judge, “it is the nature of the offense that determines the jurisdiction and the charges here, are matters that can be tried in the High Court. When it comes to trial of criminal cases, the line between federal and state is necessarily blurred. Section 251 (3) has not robbed the High Court of jurisdiction in this matter, this case is not an admiralty case but a pure criminal matter. Therefore, it is not the pieces of peripheral evidence before the court that determines jurisdiction, but the nature of the law that has been infringed.” She, subsequently directed the defendants to be ready for trial.
Head, Media & Publicity
30th April, 2015