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N1.4bn Fraud: Appeal Court strikes out Nadabo Energy MD’s appeal

The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, has struck out the appeal filed by a suspect, Abubakar Peters, Managing Director, Nadabo Energy Limited, who was charged with N1, 464, 961, 978. 24 (One Billion, Four Hundred and Sixty-four Million, Nine Hundred and Sixty- one Thousand, Nine Hundred and Seventy- eight Naira, Twenty-four Kobo) fraud for being incompetent.

Peters alongside his company, Nadabo Energy Limited, were arraigned on December 10, 2012 before Justice L. Balogun of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos for offences bordering on obtaining money by false pretences, forgery and uttering forged documents to the tune of N1, 464, 961, 978. 24.

They were alleged to have obtained the money from the Federal Government by falsely claiming that it represented the subsidy accruing to them. The defendants pleaded not guilty when the charge was read to them, thereby setting the stage for their trial. Since the trial commenced, the respondent has called four witnesses who have so far testified in the case. The fifth prosecution witness has been giving evidence since June 3, 2015.

However, the appellant filed a motion on notice dated February 22, 2016, seeking the order of the court to recall the four witnesses already discharged. Also, the appellant urged the court to order the prosecution to produce supplementary information in support of the charge, including all documents made, received or obtained by the EFCC.

The appellant, in the motion on notice, further sought an order directing the complainant to transfer the subject matter of the case to the Attorney-General of the Federation. The motion on notice was moved on May 24, 2016, but the trial court adjourned ruling to June 8, 2016. The court subsequently adjourned ruling on the motion on notice, the last being December 13, 2016.

However, on December 6 and 9, 2016, the appellant filed and served two notices of Appeal. The appellant also on December 19, 2016 filed and served the Record of Appeal.

However, the respondent urged the appellate court to strike out the two notices of appeal, as they were not based on any ruling delivered on December 5, 2016 by the trial court. The respondent also argued that the appeal was filed in anticipation of the ruling by the trial court. The respondent also argued that the appellants had already decided the motion for themselves by referring to the respondent as contemnor, when the trial judge was yet to deliver his ruling on their motion on notice dated February 22, 2016.

Consequently, the respondent urged the appellate court to order that the case be transferred to another judge by the Chief Judge of Lagos State so as to be given accelerated hearing by another judge, as it is also one of the prayers of the appellant. Both the appellant and the respondent adopted their respective briefs of arguments on February 15, 2016

In a unanimous decision delivered on Monday, February 26, 2018, the appellate court in a ruling delivered by Justice J.S. Ikegh, upheld the contention of the respondent that the appeal was incompetent and, therefore, struck it out.

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