By Paul Efiong
Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, on Tuesday dismissed an application filed by John Abebe seeking to strike out the four-count charge of forgery, fabricating evidence, using fabricated evidence and attempt to pervert the course of justice preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
One of the count reads: “That you, Dr. John Warimeme Abebe, on or about the 22nd day of June, 2010 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, knowingly forged BP Exploration Nigeria Limited’s letter dated 30th November,1995 to Inducon (Nigeria) Limited by inserting in page 2 of the said letter the following words: “Also note that the ‘Buy-Out Option’ only applies to the pre-production stage of the NPIA. The $4m buy-out is thus irrelevant from production of oil in any of our fields” and purported same to have been issued by BP Exploration Nigeria Limited and committed an offence contrary to Section 467 of the Criminal Code Cap C17, Law of Lagos State of Nigeria 2003.”
Another count reads: “That you, Dr. John Warimeme Abebe, on or about the 22nd day of June, 2010 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, knowingly used a fabricated evidence in Suit No.
FHC/L/CS/224/2010 Between Dr. John Abebe, Inducon Nigeria Limited and Statoil Nigeria Limited, before the Federal High Court, which evidence was admitted and marked exhibit BB in the said suit and committed an offence contrary to Section 120 (2) of the Criminal Code Cap C17, Law of Lagos State of Nigeria 2003.”
The defendant, who was arraigned on July 26 pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was read to him.
He was subsequently granted bail by the court on August 2.
At the resumed sitting, Wednesday, counsel to the defendant, Kanu Agabi, argued that judgments had been delivered on the same matter in favour of his client by a Federal HighCourt and also by the Court of Appeal, thereby leaving the matter pending before the Supreme Court.
He also challenged the jurisdiction of the Special Offences Court to hear the matter.
However, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that the charges before the Supreme Court were entirely different from what is before the High Court.
He, therefore, urged the court, to dismiss the application, saying it was raised to arrest the trial.
In a short ruling, Justice Dada dismissed the application and held that parties in the charges in the Supreme Court and High Court are different.
Consequently, prosecution counsel, Mr Oyedepo, called the first prosecution witness, Paul Piche, a former Managing Director, Statoil Nigeria Limited, who told the court that a consultancy agreement was signed between Inducon Nigeria Limited, owned by the defendant, and Statoil Nigeria Limited in 1991.
He said that the agreement was, however, terminated in 1997.
Giving further testimony, he said another NPIA agreement, which was entered into between Statoil and Inducon Nigeria Limited in 1995, was later amended and eventually terminated in 1999, which left Statoil with no further agreement with Inducon till 2010.
In her testimony, a second prosecution witness, Elizabeth Cross, an Assistant General Counsel, in-house Lawyer and Dispute Resolution Personnel for BP Exploration Limited, confirmed to the court that there were agreements entered into by Inducon Nigeria Limited and Statoil Nigeria Limited in 1993 and 1997.
She further told the court that Statoil Nigeria Limited requested from BP Exploration Limited, the original copy of the agreement letter tendered by the defendant, which was made available to Statoil from BP Exploration Limited’s archive system and was couriered to Statoil.
The case was adjourned to October 24 for continuation of trial.