The trial of the cases in courts are in low ebb now unlike the media glitz’ that greeted the parade of ‘big fishes’ among them in the wake of the arraignment of the oil marketers in court two years ago.Over N5billion taken from oil subsidy since 2012 was said to have been retrieved by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Special Fraud Unit of the Nigeria Police Force.Stakeholders have expressed concern over the snail speed prosecution of the alleged oil subsidy, saying the development represents a dangerous signal on the part of the Federal Government to free the nation’s oil and gas sector of corruption.Recently, there was a street protest in Lagos by some concerned Nigerians who felt the so-called arraignment of those involved in the mismanagement of the oil subsidy was just a fun-fare.The protesters, who vowed to continually do what they know how to do best, said the government is not demonstrating requisite will power to bring those involved in the mismanagement of the oil subsidy to book in earnest.But it appears the efforts of the protesters to get the marketers prosecuted in earnest may not come so soon going by the recent research conducted by a concerned group.A case study conducted by the Africa Network for Environment & Economic Justice, ANEEJ, which flagged Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ogo-Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer, Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele and Ontario Oil and Gas Limited, one of the companies currently being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as one of the suspects in the on-going trial of fuel subsidy corruption cases, has recommended that government should ensure the quick and speedy prosecution of all fuel subsidy culprits. The recommendation was among others issued at a press conference convened by ANEEJ to enlighten the public on the facts around Ontario Oil and Gas being currently prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Case NUMBER ID/115C/2012 which is still pending in court and has come up for hearing over four times without any headway.The study also revealed that prosecutors are increasingly getting frustrated in the prosecution of the oil subsidy cases.It said the investigation and prosecution of fuel subsidy corruption cases have not been too easy for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission given the kind of people involved in the cases. According to the study, in a single case, sometimes there are about five Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN, as defense counsel, while the EFCC does not have the resources to engage such services.The study revealed that the EFCC has also observed that the defense lawyers have so far been employing several delay tactics by way of frivolous motions and sometimes non-appearance of suspects in court during trial, so that the cases have dragged on for such a long time. Some of the suspects after being granted bail, it said, fail to appear in court afterward, while some even travel abroad. “For instance, Mr. Wagbatsoma has not written any statement or appeared before the agency even though he was listed as one of those to be arraigned by the EFCC.” the case study read in part.The study noted that ‘even though the EFCC and the Special Fraud Unit has retrieved more than N5 billion taken from oil subsidy since 2012, and while over 40 cases are now being prosecuted in court for the offences including several oil marketers and their companies, till date not one single individual or company has been convicted by the prosecuting agencies. According to the study, prosecutions have been hampered due to a number of issues including the presentation of inadequate evidence and procedural errors.Stakeholders in the nation’s oil and gas sector at a recent workshop in Abuja flayed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and its subsidiaries over their poor cooperation with the general public in the release of information relating to oil subsidy fraud and corruption investigation and prosecution since January 2012.A Legal practitioner, Barrister Femi Aborishade , expressed dissatisfaction over the slow pace prosecution of those behind oil subsidy fraud, adding that the development shows continuation of culture of impunity.He said beyond impunity, it shows members of the ruling class in Nigeria are not concerned about public resources to fundamentally fight poverty in the country.He said: To them, access to power is business. They invest in it to make economic gains.He said only a government that is committed to the people’s interests can fight all forms of corruptions, including oil thieves in Nigeria.Some stakeholders in the nation’s oil and gas sector charged political parties and presidential candidates contesting the March 2015 polls to explain to Nigerians what they would do to pending cases of suspected oil subsidy thieves and recovery of monies they allegedly stole.The study implored the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, and civil society organizations to engage in public interest litigation on behalf of Nigerians to ensure that those who illegally enriched themselves with public funds do not escape justice or go unpunished by the agencies saddled with the responsibility of doing so.The study advised the Federal Government to create a platform where Judges, EFCC prosecutors and the management team of ACAs and the Ministry of Justice can come together to work out how these cases can move faster.
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