Alleged N3m Fraud: Court Acquits, Discharges Fmr. PPMC MD’s Wife, Others

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

A Federal High Court in Abuja has acquitted and discharged Mrs. Ochuko Momoh, wife of a former Managing Director of Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, Haruna Momoh and five others on money laundering related charges.

In a judgment delivered on Thursday, Justice Taiwo Taiwo held that the prosecution failed to discharge the burden of proving its case against the defendants beyond reasonable doubt.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), had filed a 22 counts against Mrs. Momoh and her co-defendants, Blessing Azuka-Agozi, StanbicIBTC Bank Plc, Energopol Nigeria Limited, Blaid Construction Limited and Blaid Farms Limited.

The ICPC, in the charge accused Mrs. Momoh of laundering funds estimated at about N3 billion through her companies – Blaid Construction and Blaid Farms.

Azuka Agozi was alleged to have reneged on her promise to provide ICPC’s investigators with documents relating to the contracts Energopol Ltd allegedly executed for the PPMC, for which it was allegedly paid huge sums.

The ICPC also accused Stanbic IBTC of failing to report suspicious transactions in the accounts of Blaid Construction and Blaid Farms to the relevant authorities as required by law.

In his judgment on the matter, Justice Taiwo upheld the argument by Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ade Adedeji who represented Mrs Momoh, that the prosecution’s case was based on mere speculation and conjecture, having failed to conduct credible investigation to support its allegations against the defendants.

The judge also resolved the sole issue identified for determination – whether the prosecution proved the 22 counts against the defendants beyond reasonable doubt – against the prosecution.

On the alleged offence of money laundering, the judge held that the prosecution failed to prove the predicate offence by establishing that the funds allegedly laundered were proceeds of crimes or other unlawful acts.

On the claim that Blaid Construction unlawfully got contract from the PPMC, Justice Taiwo held that there was no evidence to show that Haruna Momoh (as the MD, PPMC) committed any offence when his wife’s firm got contract during his tenure.

The judge noted that the prosecution failed to show how Blaid Construction benefited from Mrs. Momoh’s husband’s alleged favouritism to the detriment of others.

He added that the prosecution also failed to show that Blaid Construction was not qualified to be awarded the contract for which it was paid over N200million and that the project contracted to it was not well executed.

Justice Taiwo further held that the prosecution failed to show that the transactions, where N10m was paid in tranches into the accounts of Blaid Construction and Blaid Farms were suspicious to support its allegation against StanbicIBTC.

He held that having not established that the funds deposited in StanbicIBTC were proceeds of crime or unlawful acts, it was wrong for the prosecution to accuse the bank of failing to report suspicious transaction when the deposits were within the threshold set by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Justice Taiwo proceeded to vacate the interim order of forfeiture obtained against the assets and funds belonging to Mrs. Momoh and her companies, as requested by their lawyer.

The judge said: “In the final analysis, the case of the prosecution was entirely based on suspicion, without any reliable ground.
“The investigation allegedly carried out was without merit and unable to establish the allegations against the defendants.

“This court holds that it will only rely on probable facts and not suspicion and conjecture as resented by the prosecution in this case.

“The law remains trite that doubts arising from criminal proceedings must be resolved in favour of the defendant.

“Consequently, the prosecution, having failed to discharge its onerous duty of proving the 22 counts against the defendants beyond reasonable doubt, the defendants are hereby discharged and acquitted of all counts of the charge,” Justice Taiwo said.

Ex-Depot Price For Petrol Increased To N151 – Reports

Report Any Station Selling Petrol Above N145, NNPC Tells Nigerians
A file photo of a nozzle pump.

 

The ex-depot price of Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise known as petrol has increased from N138.62 to N151.56 in September, according to reports by several news organisations.

Wednesday’s reports cited an internal memo from the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC).

The PPMC, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Wednesday informed the depot’s owners and other stakeholders in the petroleum marketing business of the increase in price through a memo signed by the Lead Sales, Ibadan Depot, Mr Abalaka.

READ ALSO: FEC Approves $3.1bn For Automation Of Nigeria Customs

The ex-depot price is the price at which the depot owners sell the commodity to retail outlets across the country

According to the memo, the new product price adjustment will take effect from September 2, 2020. It did not state the Expected Open Market Price of the commodity.

The PPMC and the Petroleum Pricing Product Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) have not confirmed or denied the reports.

Sources within both agencies maintain that the memo did not necessarily amount to an increase in price.

Also, a source in the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association (IPMAN) said they are yet to get the official directive from the government agency, and they have not directed its members to adjust their retail pump price to reflect an increase.

The source added that it was monitoring trends and will make the necessary adjustment following advice by the PPRA.

The PPMC has since March this year, provided a guiding template through the ex-depot price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).

This followed the announcement by the Federal Government earlier in the same month that the downstream sector had been deregulated and fuel subsidy removed.

That policy shift essentially made way for a monthly price band in accordance with market forces.

PPMC Fixes Ex-Depot Price Of Fuel At N138.62 Per Litre

File photo of an attendant selling fuel to a customer.

 

The Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC) has fixed the ex-depot price for Premium Motor Spirit also known as petrol at 138 naira 62 kobo per litre.

According to a memo issued by the PPMC, a downstream subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the new price will take effect from today August 5, 2020.

The memo states that the latest price which is what depot owners sell to retail outlets will reflect in the monthly pump pricing modulation for petroleum products this month.

The PPMC also put the ex-coastal price for the commodity at 113 naira 70 kobo, while the ex-depot price for diesel and kerosene stands at 160 naira per litre.

Forfeited N2.4bn: Ex-PPMC Boss, Wife Say ICPC Misled Judge

 

A former Managing Director of the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), Haruna Momoh and his wife Eileen, have said a court was misled into temporarily forfeiting their N2, 417, 037, 404 billion.

It was reported on Monday that a Federal High Court in Abuja had ordered the interim forfeiture of the sum, following an ex-parte application by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).

The Commission said it had initiated moves to recover the N2.4b permanently, alongside some landed properties linked to Momoh.

But reacting to the ruling through a statement by their counsel, Mr Ade Adedeji (SAN) on Tuesday, the Momohs claimed that the ICPC obtained the order by suppressing facts.

They alleged that the Commission deliberately failed to inform the judge that two other Federal High Courts, in 2017 and July 2019, had ruled that the source of the funds was not illicit.

She said the ICPC had appealed the July judgment, but rather than prosecuting its appeal, it surreptitiously approached another court and misled the judge into forfeiting the funds.

The statement reads: “We have read the publications in the newspapers on Tuesday and we confirm that the order obtained by ICPC, which we have since confirmed through a search of the records of court, is a calculated scheme by ICPC to pervert justice.

“Indeed, we can confirm that on 4th July, 2019, Blaid Group and Mrs. Momoh obtained judgment at the Federal High Court, which judgment permanently settled issues between parties in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/132/2019.

“As it is also the right of parties, ICPC had appealed the judgment through filing of Notice of Appeal, etc. But rather than prosecute their appeal, they surreptitiously approached the FCT High Court and misled the court as if the appeal never existed.

“Without disclosing to the new court that there was judgment of the Federal High Court against them, they moved the court ex-parte to grant an order of temporary forfeiture.

“The act of ICPC, which has become a pattern to score cheap publicity and enhance their deliberate scheme of boosting their image as hard-working and crime busters where there is none, is a shame, a travesty of justice, a gross abuse of process of court and of power granted them under their enabling law which never anticipated it would be used for self-aggrandizement.”

The statement noted that in 2017, the ICPC “approached the FCT High Court, obtained a similar order, went to the press to run down the clients and their businesses.”

However, it said that in the ruling vacating/setting aside the order, the court in Suit No. FCT/HC/M/5388/17 “castigated ICPC for obtaining order fraudulently.”

“We have identified counsel that are often engaged to commit these atrocities and on clients’ instructions are considering the relevant provisions of Legal Practitioners’ Act as it relates to discipline of counsel in such circumstances.”

It said the couple is taking “immediate steps” to vacate the order as well as filing petitions against “Counsel involved in misrepresenting facts to court to obtain ex-parte order which ordinarily would not have been granted.”

NNPC Receives Seven Cargoes Of Petrol To Ease Fuel Scarcity

fuel scarcityThe long fuel scarcity may soon abate going by plans announced by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to embark on massive importation of products which should guarantee availability of petrol across the country.

This is aimed at ensuring the lingering scarcity ends this week as promised by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu.

Speaking to journalist in Lagos on Tuesday, the Executive Director, Supply and Distribution, Pipeline Products and Marketing Company, Mr Justin Ezeala, said that normalcy should return following increased efforts in areas of monitoring, enforcement and product supply.

“I am happy to announce that as at today we have received seven cargoes of PMS. We are apparently ahead of schedule in terms of our importation and what we do is that as these cargoes come in we send to Port Harcourt, Warri, Calabar.

“Of course most of it is kept in Lagos to distribute to major cities,” he said.

He also said that distribution pipelines which had been down had resumed operation and subsequently a cargo of product would be arriving the country every day.

He added that the NNPC would not sell product to any marketer above the official price and the DPR had been mandated to intensity monitoring to ensure that consumers are not ripped off by marketers.

“If a marketer does that (sell above official price) the marketer is not only taking us for a ride but also taking the whole country for a ride. So, name and shame them and we will be willing to take action,” he concluded.

The Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, had to shelve his scheduled interaction with the media to attend a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday.

The Nigerian President has reportedly summoned Kachikwu for a brief on the supply of products across the country in a bid to address the lingering fuel scarcity.

Nigerians are hoping that the new efforts yield result as they continue to grapple with fuel scarcity across the country.

There are still long queues, high prices, and black marketers are taking advantage of the situation.

Fuel Scarcity Spreads to Kaduna, Other States

fuel scarcityThe ease of getting petrol by motorists and other residents in Kaduna has become more difficult as long queues resurfaced in the state capital and other parts of the state.

Channels TV correspondent who monitored the situation within the state capital, reported that long queues have taken over the few filling stations in the city, selling the petrol as motorists besiege the outlets to get the product for their respective uses.

Motorists and commercial tricycle operators were seen struggling to get into the station as only two out of the ten pumps were dispensing product to customers.

As at the time of filing this report, black marketers have resurfaced along major roads and streets, selling petrol above the official pump price. A gallon of petrol sold at N120 per litre as against the N86 per litre.

Residents expressed fears that the situation could worsen and affect socio-economic activities if nothing is done by government to address the situation.

Virtually all filling stations in the state capital have not been dispensing the product since the start of last week due to the drop in supply to the state.

Abeokuta, Ogun State

In Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, the situation remains the same for a week running.

Over 80% of fuel stations in the state capital still remain without fuel, a development which has left people stranded at filling stations most times for a product that is non existent

Some residents who thronged fuel stations in the metropolis as early as possible have resulted into finding comfort in their vehicles to take some nap while waiting for a time when the product would be made available

As a result of the short supply of the product, there are reports of the product being sold illegally above the official pump price.

PPMC Says Fuel Will Soon Be Available

fuelThe Pipelines and Products Marketing Company has asked the Nigerian populace to calm down as petroleum products will be available in the fuel stations soon.

The MD of PPMC, Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue said that about four vessels containing 30,000 tonnes of PMS arrived in the country on Sunday and the agency is doing all it can to ensure that the product is distributed efficiently.

Queues returned to the fuel stations in the last week and many motorists have been complaining about the seeming worsening situation in fuel supply.

Abia DPR Urges Marketers To Sell Fuel At Government Approved Price

DPRThe Department of Petroleum Regulation has issued an ultimatum to Independent Marketers in Aba to comply with the government’s directives of selling petrol at 86 Naira 50 Kobo or face the consequences.

While on monitoring to some petrol stations in Umuahia, Abia State capital on Wednesday, the Operation Controller in Aba, Mr Paschal Ezemmadu, hinted that the inability of the marketers to provide the officials with evidence of payment, which would enable them to trace inconsistency in the price at point of purchase, would no longer be condoled.

He was on the monitoring exercise with a team of the Department of State Security (DSS) and Pipeline and Product Marketing Company (PPMC).

According to Mr Ezemmadu, their job is to regulate prices and ensure compliance. He warned that any marketer that defaults, would be sanctioned and their pump price adjusted.

The DPR has provided the necessary avenue that includes filling coupons that would enable them trace those selling the PMS at the private depot above government price.

Meanwhile, some petrol stations had been sealed for selling above government approved pump price.

House Of Reps Begins Investigation Of NNPC’s Oil Swap Agreement

House-of-Representatives-NigeriaThe House of Representatives has started investigating the oil swap agreement by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Giving its presentation on Tuesday, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), represented by the Executive Secretary, NEITI, Ogbonnaya Oji,  told the ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives on Oil Swap Contracts, that “the Federal Government is estimated to have lost over 1.1 billion dollars in 2012 to crude oil offshore processing and swap arrangements”.

The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr Tunde Fowler, also informed the committee that the Federal Government had lost over 1.1 billion Naira revenue to the crude oil arrangement.

It was the opening day of the two-day investigative hearing into the crude oil swap deal of the NNPC.

Welcoming participants to the hearing, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, said the country’s economy called for a change.

Before the hearing began, the Chairman of the ad-hoc Committee on Oil Swap Contracts, Zakari Mohammed, outlined some of the issues for consideration.

The Assistant Comptroller General, Tariff and Trade, Sule Alu, also appeared before the committee.

The hearing held for over five hours, as the lawmakers and the agencies discuss the figures and other information provided.

The hearing is expected to continue on Wednesday when the NNPC, the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company and oil companies involved in the arrangement will appear before the committee.

PPMC To Prosecute Pipeline Vandals, Commence Truck Tracking

PPMC on Pipeline VandalsThe Managing Director of the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Mrs Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue, has warned that any oil pipeline vandal caught, will be prosecuted with their assets destroyed to serve as deterrence.

Mrs Nnamdi-Ogbue, who spoke to reporters when some pipeline vandals were apprehended on Christmas day, said that the pipelines are the only effective way to distribute petroleum products nationwide and must be allowed to function.

The Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, said that Nigeria cannot give in to the point where vandals and saboteurs become more powerful than the government.

“Oil pipelines in Nigeria serve two purposes: to distribute crude oil to the country’s three refineries for processing and to distribute refined petroleum products across the country for easy supply to consumers.

“Frequent pipeline vandalism has made these two functions ineffective for several years,” he said.

Tracking Petrol Distribution Trucks

Mr Kachikwu said that sabotage cannot be totally foreclosed given the technological know-how required to break the pipe and siphon oil.

“The target of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and PPMC is to repair the pipelines routes from Lagos to Port-Harcourt.

“This will make it possible to pump fuel all the way through Lagos-Ibadan and Ilorin to relieve the coastal cities and bridge the north and from Port-Harcourt through Makurdi and up to Yola”, he said.

While these are on, the PPMC boss said that real time tracking of petrol distribution trucks will commence fully by January 2016 which will totally eliminate diversion of petroleum products and the resultant scarcity of petrol.

DPR Dispenses Free Petrol In Abuja

DPR Dispenses Free FuelOfficials of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC) and operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), have distributed free fuel to motorists in the nations capital, Abuja, as punishment for hoarding petroleum products.



The monitoring team visited service stations around the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to ensure compliance with the official pump price of 87 Naira and to ensure marketers do not hoard the product.

Officials on Wednesday, said that the exercise was part of efforts to reduce the lingering fuel queues that had slowed down economic activities in the past weeks.

Since the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, ordered free distribution of petrol to motorists in any petrol station found to be hoarding petroleum products, some service stations have been penalised in Abuja.

A service station in Kubua, a satellite town in Abuja was caught in the act and the agencies dispensed petrol to motorists free of charge.

Apart from selling above the official pump price of 87 Naira, on Tuesday, government monitoring team also accused its management of hoarding the product.

Although, the officials said that they were instructed not to speak to reporters, eyewitnesses, who purchased fuel from the station, said it sold above pump price before it started hoarding the product.

Meanwhile, officials of the DPR said that such disciplinary measures would continue.

Queues have remained at different service stations in different states, despite several promises from the government to end the scarcity.

On Wednesday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation said the refinery in Kaduna had started a daily supply of 3.2 million litres of petrol, a volume it hopes will ease the current crisis of petrol scarcity.